There are loads of things to learn about photographing with your phone, but we’re here in this case to talk phone camera basics. You know the deal…point, click, and capture. And, presto – you’re taking mind-boggling photos.

For real…it’s that easy.

phone camera basics

Joe Monk

We’ve seen the stuff that passes for photography on Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr. We’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade, photography world.

That’s why we know we need to get back to phone camera basics so that you, my friend, can blow that crap out of the water.

It sounds tough to do, but we assure you that it’s anything but. With just five tips on phone camera basics, we’ll have you ahead of the pack in no time!

Phone Camera Basics – 5 ‘must knows’

While here we’re going to give you five tips on phone camera basics, it’s important to remember to never stop learning. Let your drive for fantastic photos be your friend!

If you are confused by what you read in this post, maybe give our post on how to take good photos a read. It starts from the very beginning and gives you in depth explanations on how to do everything related to smartphone photography.

These tips are, according to the industry experts, the most relevant snippets of knowledge regarding phone camera basics to keep in mind. Whether you’re heading out to shoot right now or you’re between upgrading your phone for a better camera and investing in a professional camera, this is the post for you.

The Most Basic Phone Camera Basics

Do you know how to open your camera?

  • Are you using your phone’s camera or an app? If the former, a simple swipe up on any screen should open a menu with a camera logo. Simply click it to open the camera. If, on the other hand, you’re using an app, then you’ll have to find it on your phone. A simple search using the phone’s search function (In-Apps for Android and Spotlight for IOS) will do the trick. Or, you could create a photography folder where all your tools are kept together (pssst – this is a trick of the trade alert).

Do you know how to zoom?

  • Place two fingers together on the screen and pull them away from each other (vice-versa will unzoom). Don’t overdo it though, as zoom compromises the integrity of the photo! Just so you know, you shouldn’t really be using the zoom anyway…

Do you know how to focus?

  • Technology is dope. A simple tap on what you want to be in focus should do the trick. Once you get good enough, you can try to use the manual focus capabilities. We won’t go over that here though, as it’s a more advanced technique. We have however gone over it in the past, so if you’re interested in the technique give this a read.

Do you know how to turn on the flash?

  • Usually by opening your camera app the ability to adjust the flash is visible on the home screen. It should be located somewhere on the top depending on your phone. The symbol should look like a lightning strike. While this is a useful tool to have, it should be used sparingly. If you need help with lighting, and fairly inexpensive clip on LED light will solve all your problems.

Can you turn on your phone’s grid? Why would you want to?

  • So, your phone’s grid will definitely held you adhere to the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds may actually be the single most important photography rule to learn if you want to improve your smartphone photography. Essentially the rule states that if you break your photo into nine boxes, then your subject should sit on one of the lines running through the image. Take some of your best photos and employ the rule of thirds to see if your work adheres to the rule. Do you need a little more information because you’re unconvinced? Check this out…

Why turn on portrait mode? How do I do it?

  • You would utilize portrait mode if you’re looking to blur the background while enhancing the foreground. This is ideal for photographing people. Sometimes portrait mode can also be used when photographing animals or when trying to do macro photography without a macro photography lens. While we don’t recommend this technique, we do also push our readers to experiment!

The Tips

1. Why Use a Phone Over a Pro-Quality Camera

Which photo was taken with a Sony AR7 camera and which photo was taken with an iPhone 5C?

Struggling to decide? We aren’t surprised. Smartphone cameras or only getting better. While it’s true that they don’t compete with mirrorless or DSLR cameras in many ways, it is true that smartphones will eventually be able to do what the mirrorless or DSLR cameras of today can do.

If you’re interested in some more reading on the topic, we’ve done a pretty in depth discussion on the topic

Look…we know it seems like we’re pro-quality camera bashers, but we’re really not. In fact, we know there are times and places for the old-faithful. We’re just pointing out the value of the camera in your phone.

In the end, though, we realize that these cameras in our phones are getting unbelievably good. It would be irresponsible if we didn’t take advantage of learning about them and how to use them as often as possible.

On another hand, phone camera basics are also much simpler than the pro-quality camera basics.

Unless you’re making serious money from photography, why would you want to overcomplicate things?

2. Apps and Tools


Before we get into the basics of actually taking the photo, it’s important that we explain why you should be using your phone over a mirrorless or DSLR camera in the first place (even though we’ve discussed it before…).

The most obvious example of a reason why you should choose your phone, is that you could spend hundreds on an assortment of lenses, camera bags, camera straps, and the like…

Or, you could spend $100 total for a top-class clip-on camera lens and tripod for your phone that will effectively do the same things.

Moment - Wide Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
  • The Moment 18mm Wide Lens works with iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy and OnePlus Phones. Compatible with the new Iphone11 (cases coming to Amazon soon). This product includes a lens, lens cap, and microfiber bag.
  • This product REQUIRES you to purchase a Moment Case OR Battery Photo Case to attach the lens to your phone. Mounts over either lens on dual lens phones enabling nearly limitless creativity.
  • This Moment Wide lens captures 2x more picture with a multi-element glass design that provides edge to edge clarity. The most advanced lens we’ve ever made, the Wide18mm Lens captures smartphone photos and videos that are beautiful, crisp, and straight, with no fisheye distortion.
  • Moment makes the highest quality attachment lenses on the market. Made with aerospace grade metal and the same hand-polished glass used for high-end 4K film lenses.
  • We backup our products with a lifetime warranty, great customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee with free shipping and returns. Ask us how to get set up with a Moment gear guide.
RETICAM Smartphone Tripod Mount with Hand Grip - All Metal Heavy-Duty Hand Held Stabilizer and Tripod Mount for Smart Phones and Cameras - HG30, Aluminum, Red
  • Superb all-metal construction for both phone mount and grip: Strong , sturdy and extremely durable
  • Smartphone tripod mount (ASIN:B00P4VAHAI) is No. 1 rated on Amazon with a steel bolt locking mechanism to secure your cell phone
  • Grip has a soft rubber cover and a removable lanyard for extra security
  • Works with all smartphones up to 3.6" wide (including Apple iPhone 6 Plus even with case), as well as all cameras and camcorders
  • This listing is for the grip + smart phone adapter; search RetiCAM HG10 for the grip only.

Add in a couple of photo taking and editing apps and you’re well on your way to being a top rate smartphone photographer.

The apps, at least some of them, also simplify the photo-taking process for you. It becomes as easy as point, click, and edit – all in one place!

At the same time, it’s worth noting that you really should be taking advantage of every opportunity to edit on your PC instead of on your phone. While the latter is certainly faster and more convenient, the added control provided by Adobe Suites – Lightroom CC and Photoshop – are too good to not use.

Really, if you can spring the ten dollars a month for Adobe – hint you’ll have access to the mobile app where you can seamlessly transfer photos around – then buying it is a serious no brainer.

3. Photo Composition

phone camera basics

DIY Photography (Barry O’Carroll)

So you’ve pulled out your phone to photograph something and came to the alarming realization that you have no idea where to stand, what angle to attempt, how the lighting should be handled, or even how to take the damn photo…

Wow, you’re in trouble.

Of course, we kid. Some light reading will tell you everything you need to know!

So, the most important thing is to picture how you want your photo to turn out before you take it. By this we mean, use your imagination and then just try to replicate what you see. You’ll be amazed by the results.

4. What Should You Photograph?

Obviously, you want to want to capture that breathtaking landscape and bae during that romantic candle-lit dinner. Those are givens…

It’s the photo of the mundane, however, that is the most impressive if done correctly.

Do you ever wonder how someone can make a bike leaning against the side of a building look interesting in a photograph? It’s all about what’s included in the image – what creates the photo’s aesthetic.

Oh, and another thing. Just like you think about your photo’s composition, you should consider its surroundings and what you’d like to be included before taking the shot.

5. All About Editing

phone camera basics

DL Cade

Ditch those boring filters that come with your phone. Ditch those popular filters from Instagram. Download something new, something cutting-edge, and something that’ll have your followers scratching their heads.

By this we mean, good editing solves a lot of problems. If you’re taking mediocre photos, and you shouldn’t be because you’re all over tips one through four (but I digress), make them pop with both photo-taking and photo-editing apps.

A combination of the two will give you exponentially more control, allowing you to do exactly what it is you envision.

Also, do some experimenting to figure out what the best combination is for your photography style, then get out there and slay the game!

Last update on 2020-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API