7 tricks and tips to let you get the most out of your smartphone photography

Feb 14, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

7 tricks and tips to let you get the most out of your smartphone photography

Feb 14, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I use my phone’s camera far more than I would have ever expected a few years ago. Sure, they never really compete with large sensor cameras and interchangeable lenses, but they’ve come a long way. I always have it with me. It’s more than good enough for a lot of the snaps I want to grab while I’m out and about. It’s convenient. But, that convenience doesn’t have to come at the expense of sloppiness.

Composition and light are still important. Sure, phones have some limitations, but there’s ways around many of those, too. In this video, French photographer Serge Ramelli offers 7 tips to get better photography with your phone.

YouTube video

Some of the suggestions in the video are common to a lot of digital photography. Like the first one about avoiding busy and distracting scenes. This is true regardless of what you’re shooting with. Slightly underexposing skies is also common with mirrorless and DSLR cameras, too, to retain detail in the highlights. While others are definitely specific to mobile phones and other very small sensor cameras.

  • Compose the elements to communicate one simple message
  • For best results, underexpose your skies
  • For better night or sunset photography, use a tripod
  • Use a photo app that allows slow shutter speed to create long exposures
  • Retouch your photos using Snapseed
  • Use printed backdrops to simulate bokeh and shallow depth of field
  • Use the sun to create stunning portraits

I don’t really put my phone on a tripod unless I’m shooting video with it. Carrying around a full size tripod just seems a little cumbersome. If I’m going to do that, I might as well take a “real camera” out with me. But, something like the Manfrotto Pixi is perfect for a phone. I have a couple of those myself, and they’re what I use for quick videos with my phone.

There’s three camera apps I use with my phone. Now that Raw support has been added to iOS, Camera+ and 645 Pro are my two main camera apps. For the times when I really don’t want to have to think about it, Microsoft Pix works surprisingly well (certainly better than the default iOS camera app). There’s no manual controls with Microsoft Pix, but it does quite a good job of auto-exposing and blending exposures to fake an increased dynamic range.

Snapseed (Android) is my go-to option for editing the shots, too, although Lightroom Mobile has come a very long way in the last few months. If you’ve got a CC subscription and you’re shooting Raw, you may be better using that so you can sync it up to your desktop.

What mobile photography tips do you have to offer? Do you even use your phone for photos or just take a mirrorless or DSLR with you everywhere you go?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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12 responses to “7 tricks and tips to let you get the most out of your smartphone photography”

  1. Dunja Đuđić Avatar
    Dunja Đuđić

    Ana Lena ta-daaam! :)

  2. veryferry Avatar
    veryferry

    “use a tripod” kinda defies the use of a mobile phone for your photography if you ask me

    1. Kambis Avatar
      Kambis

      Why? They are just super lightweight cameras and together with a phone tripod they still weight much less than a DSLR and are easier to carry around. Also considering how poorly they perform in low light they actually require a tripod.

      1. veryferry Avatar
        veryferry

        I feel like a phone camera is handy because you carry it with you all the time. Im not carying a tripod with me all the time. The times I decide to carry a tripod I know im gonna do something serious, so I bring serious gear (i.e. not a mobile phone). But that’s just my personal thought…others might disagree

  3. Hector Macias Avatar
    Hector Macias

    Step 1 get a camera

    1. Kambis Avatar
      Kambis

      When there is a post about some expensive gear, I read gears don’t matter. When there is a post about photography with a phone, suddenly it matters. When someone shoots using a historic camera it is all great, but todays phones which produce much better pictures collect such negative reactions. If you are going to leave such a comment at least let me know why you think it is wrong to shoot with a phone.

      1. Police: StartChargingDrivers Avatar
        Police: StartChargingDrivers

        There are some amazing cell phone photographers out there, but they are very few.
        The problem with cell phone photography is not the equipment, but rather the huge percentage of terrible snapshots.
        Unfortunately the terrible snapshots outweigh the amazing work by a huge percentage, making it nearly impossible to take cell phone photography seriously.
        Some of those terrible snapshots are meant to be nothing more than snap shots…so they are fine the way they are.
        Other images in those terrible snapshots are attempts at serious photography….it is those that should get a camera and learn the proper techniques with a camera, and then return to cell phone photography with a better understanding of photography in general.

        1. Thomas Roll Avatar
          Thomas Roll

          “The problem with cell phone photography is not the equipment”

          But you just said in another comment that cellphones were only good for “snapshots”.

          1. Police: StartChargingDrivers Avatar
            Police: StartChargingDrivers

            In general yes.
            What are you, the f*(&ing daily arguer?
            Grow up and find something valuable to do.

          2. Thomas Roll Avatar
            Thomas Roll

            But you make it so easy. :)

  • Andrew Mckay Avatar
    Andrew Mckay

    with many manufacturers offering the ability to shot raw files in their top end models I would rather over expose my skys by 1 or 1.5 stops. I get better results recovering highlights than pushing the shadows too much in my editing. Underexposing probably better for jpeg

  • Joie Mojica Avatar
    Joie Mojica

    Use a roadeavour lens.