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Say Cheese! How to take better pictures with your phone

by Todd Haselton | May 21, 2016May 21, 2016 2:00 pm PST

Sorry mom, but you don’t take very good pictures with your phone. You don’t have to be an expert, in fact, I think I still have a lot to learn when it comes to photography, something I’m still very much a noob with. But, you can improve the shots you snap with your smartphone relatively easily, just by following some of these guidelines.

1. Take your time!

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This is probably my biggest problem, and one that I always tell myself in order to achieve better photos. Just slow down and try to think about what you’re taking a picture of. Just because your phone can snap 200 pictures in a split second doesn’t mean you need to (though this can actually be beneficial, too). Think about what you want the picture to look like, and don’t be afraid to change your position – squat, get down on your stomach – prepare for the best shot, and you’ll find an immediate improvement in your photos.

2. Stop moving!

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Even with optical image stabilization (OIS) in smartphones, you’ll still add some blur to your pictures if you’re moving around. Instead of holding your phone with just one hand, try holding it with two, carefully keeping one edge rested on your palm. This will give you some added balance and, if you snap a few quick pics in a row, you should see much clearer pictures than shooting from the hip.

3. Take advantage of good natural light

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This is so obvious that I can’t believe most people don’t think about it. For whatever reason, I still see most folks relying on their smartphone flash instead of simply snapping a picture with better lighting. If you have a bright background (subjects standing in front of the mirror, for example) turn on HDR so that you can also capture some of the sky and to prevent your shot from looking too blown out. If you must rely on the flash, be sure you’re thinking about tips #1 and #2 as well.

4. Shoot in rapid fire

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I suggested in my second tip that you shouldn’t always rely on rapid fire, so don’t, but definitely take advantage of it in some situations. Early in my career, I learned that snapping 200 pictures of a gadget was much better than snapping 20. That’s because a huge percentage, often more than half, of my shots were too crappy to even publish. When you snap many pictures, especially in a row, you’re getting a larger selection to choose from, and also probably grabbing more steady shots in between the jolty ones. It sucks to sift through them all, but you’ll be happy with the images later.

5. Take shots from all angles!

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Another lesson I’ve learned: take pictures from multiple angles. Sometimes something you think might look weird at first looks great when you’re in post editing. I learned this on a trip down to Savannah, where I was snapping pictures of the famous fountain in Forsyth Park. Some of my favorite photos were pictures from different angles, from behind bushes or fences, that I have framed on my wall today.

6. The Rule of Thirds

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You’ve probably heard of this before – the idea is that you want to use the grid on your smartphone, a function that you can turn on in the camera settings. There’s a great guide on how to do that fully over on Digital-Photography-School, but the idea is to just frame your shot at the intersections in that 3 x 3 grid on your smartphone. It’s supposed to make your photo more pleasing to the eye by applying balance along the points of interest and is a proven method for helping to snap great shots.

Follow these tips, and you should see a huge improvement in your mobile photos.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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