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App, Apple, Camera, iPhone, Photography, Tips

10 Tips for … Better photos with your phone

The best camera is the one you have with you, and all too often this means that you only have your phone to capture that beautiful scene or moment. However, by following some easy guidelines, you can achieve excellent results with the camera on board your phone, even though it might be a much smaller lens and sensor than a dedicated camera. Even night shots like this one of the Liffey and Four Courts in Dublin are possible with the right app and a very steady position.

  1. Clean the lens. Your phone kicks around in your pocket or bag, and picks up all kinds of dust and smudges. Before taking pictures, always give the lens a quick rub to clean it off – its amazing just how much this can improve the clarity of your shots.
  2. Move closer. Almost every shot will be improved by moving in closer and filling the frame with your subject. If you can, move closer in so more of your subject is filling the shot – all that wasted space around your child’s head probably doesn’t add anything to the shot.
  3. Don’t use the zoom. Phone cameras zooms simply shrink the dimensions of your photo rather than actually optically moving the scene closer. You end up with a photo which is made up of fewer pixels and which cannot be printed at full resolution. If your phone camera is over 5 megapixels you can get away with a bit of zoom but best to avoid using it if you can.
  4. Stop! Many people take shots with their phones while walking, and then wonder why the images are blurred and out of focus. So when you see that lovely shot, stop, compose your shot carefully, then very lightly tap your screen or squeeze the shutter button. On the iPhone, the shot is only taken as your finger comes off the screen which is useful to know.
  5. Use the shutter button. On iPhones since the iOS 5 update, the + volume button also acts as a camera shutter button, and it’s much more natural to use this than to jab the phone screen, which can introduce movement and blurring of your shot.
  6. Get some good camera apps. The default camera app on many phones is OK, but other apps can often exploit the capabilities of the camera in far more useful ways than the basic camera. I very rarely use the default camera app on my iPhone – see the list of apps in my post 10 Essential Phone Camera Apps for some of the best.
  7. Rest your phone on something. Holding the phone out at arms length is almost guaranteed to give a blurred shot, especially in lower light conditions. If at all possible, rest the phone on a fixed surface or post to make it rock steady as you take the shot – this will result in far sharper shots. You also tend to take a few more seconds doing this which means that your shots have more thought and this also often improves the final result.
  8. Use a tripod. OK, this is really an extension of the last tip, but you can now get small adapters which most phones will fit into which can connect to any standard tripod. And tripods come in all shapes and sizes – see my post here – so you don’t have to be lugging a huge and heavy piece of kit around with you all the time. Yes, you may not want to do this all the time, but if you do have some time to set up the shot, and a little tripod in your bag or pocket, using it will net you more clear and sharp images.
  9. Don’t obscure the camera lens. It is very easy for your finger to partially or fully obscure the phone camera lens, so always be sure that you know which way up your phone is when taking the shot, so you have a clear field of view for the lens.
  10. Critique your own shots. Developing your photographic skills and awareness, no matter what camera you use – phone, compact or full blown SLR, means becoming more sensitised to the defects and shortcomings of your images, then learning how to improve them in the future. So be critical of your photos, and don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from friends, and other better photographers, either online or in person. It’s a great way to develop your skills and see the quality of your shots improve over time.




About Joe Houghton

As a self confessed gadget and app lover, here are my personal musings and thoughts on useful, interesting or maybe just odd technology which caught my eye...


7 thoughts on “10 Tips for … Better photos with your phone

  1. Great tips, thanks!

    The obvious-once-you’ve-said-it cleaning the lens is something I would not have thought of, likewise moving closer – will definitely try all the tips.

    Posted by karenhenry | April 2, 2012, 3:20 pm
    • Glad you like them Karen šŸ™‚ I was out the other day and took a shot with the iPhone, saw that it looked a bit misty, gave it a good wipe on my jeans then re-shot the same picture – it was so much sharper! So it does work :). Cheers Joe

      Posted by Joe Houghton | April 2, 2012, 4:04 pm
  2. Good advice! I’d like to suggest one more tip — take the time to compose your photos. A phone camera is still a camera. When you compare your phone camera to a high quality dslr, your dynamic range may be less, the resolution less, the color saturation less, the depth of field less, the noise greater, etc. Composition is one dimension critical to a great photo where the phone camera is often on an equal footing with much more capable equipment!

    Posted by John Mullinax | April 6, 2012, 1:42 am
    • Good one John – you’re right, and it’s so easy to forget. And photography is a great way to really take the time to appreciate the beauty around you, and to see with new eyes. I always “see” differently when I have a camera in my hands…

      Posted by Joe Houghton | April 6, 2012, 12:44 pm


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