It should be easy to take a picture, capture cool pictures, and do all kinds of basic photography on your phone.

Yes, we said it.

Right now you may find that hard to believe. But, stick with us through this guide and in the end, you’ll be taking both pretty pictures and cool pictures with ease. We guarantee it.

photography tips

Legal I-Can

We’re going to start photography 101, that is basic photography until you start to get the picture. Then we’ll be moving on to making your photos better. If you find what we’re saying to be too basic, then simply scroll down a little and you’re sure to find something more suited to your skill level.

Just so that you have a brief idea of what we’ll be covering before delving in, here’s an outline of topics and their perceived skill level:

  1. How to take photos on your phone – Mobile Photography 101
  2. Basic tools for photography on your phone – Mobile Photography 101
  3. Modes of photography for your phone – Mobile Photography 101
  4. What Makes a Photo Good versus Bad? – Basic Photography
  5. Tips to take good photos on your phone – Mobile Photography 101
  6. Apps to take good photos and make them great – Basic Photography

So, are you ready to take cool pictures and pretty pictures on your phone?

How to Take Cool Pictures on your Phone

Taking cool pictures on your mobile device is an art form, but one that it certainly learn-able if you have the right basic photography information.

You know, like what you should’ve learned in photography 101…

The problem in our case is that if you’re searching how to take cool pictures on your phone and how to take pretty pictures of my girlfriend then chances are you don’t have the necessary basic photography knowledge needed to jump right into bettering your photography.

Even if you got here a different way, we can’t be sure that your basic photography knowledge you have is correct. As a result, we’ve decided it’s best to start from scratch to ensure that everyone is working with the same basic knowledge.

We’re doing our own photography 101 and you’re invited!

Don’t worry, we’re going to start from the very beginning for you and then go step by step until we get you to where you should be.

Are you ready for some photography 101?

How to Take Pretty Pictures on your Phone?

So, you’ve moved on from the old trusty flip phone. Now you find yourself with this new fangled piece of technology and have absolutely not an inkling of an idea as to how to go about using it.

Right now you literally need to take a picture.

Well, as far as operating the camera goes we can help. Otherwise, we’re afraid to say you’re on your own. Or maybe it’s worth checking out how to use your smartphone.

We’ll start by pointing out that technology has made it so that taking cool – and good ones at that – is literally as easy as point and click.

Keep reading if you don’t believe us…

iPhone

photography tips

iMore

So first, open your phone. You can also get to the camera without opening your phone, but it’s best for you to learn where it is your Camera app exists (both which page and the location of the app on the page).

When you’re taking photos on your iPhone, you’re doing so using the Camera app.

The Camera app is easily accessible via the utility folder or by simply swiping up (from the home button to the top of the screen) and clicking on the camera icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

In either case, once you’ve clicked on the button you should have the app open and the screen should be showing you what the camera sees. If you see yourself then you should hit the button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It looks like a camera with two arrows inside making a circle.

Once you see what’s in front of you then all you have to do is hit the button in the bottom middle of the screen (not the ‘Home’ button) to complete the process.

Viola – you get the picture!

Android

photography tips

Android Central

So first, open your phone. You can also get to the camera without opening your phone, but it’s best for you to learn where it is your Camera app exists (both which page and the location of the app on the page).

When you’re taking photos on your Android, you’re doing so using the Camera app.

The app is fairly easy to locate – either use the search bar on the home screen or find the app with the camera logo. In either case, click on the app to open the screen you can see in the image above.

Note that different Android products have slightly different camera apps, but for our purposes here the minute differences won’t matter.

In either case, once you’ve clicked on the button you should have the app open and the screen should be showing you what the camera sees. If you see yourself then you should hit the button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It looks like an ‘o’ with two arrows around it making a square. 

Once you see what’s in front of you then all you have to do is hit the button in the bottom middle of the screen (not the ‘Home’ button) to complete the process.

Viola – you get the picture!

Pixel

photography tips

Android Police

So first, open your phone. You can also get to the camera without opening your phone, but it’s best for you to learn where it is your Camera app exists (both which page and the location of the app on the page).

When you’re taking photos on your Pixel, you’re doing so using the Camera app.

The app should be on the home screen unless it’s been moved for some reason. If you can’t find the app on the home screen then a simple search for “camera” in the search bar or using a voice command will locate it quite quickly too. The app logo will look like a camera.

In either case, once you’ve clicked on the button you should have the app open and the screen should be showing you what the camera sees. If you see yourself then you should hit the button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. It looks like an ‘o’ with two arrows around it making a circle. 

Once you see what’s in front of you then all you have to do is hit the button in the bottom middle of the screen (not the ‘Home’ button) to complete the process.

Viola – you get the picture!

Tools for Basic Photography on your Phone

basic photography

Greenbot

These tools are going to be available on every model of smartphone in some form or another. They may go by a different name on your particular phone, but we promise they’re there.

After all, it is how you take a picture…Cool pictures or pretty pictures it doesn’t matter – you get the picture because of these basic photography tools.

If you’re in the very beginning of your smartphone photography training – like photography 101 level of basic photography – then these can be invaluable tools to learn and master.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of these photography tips, then we’ll go ahead and move on to the harder stuff. At that point, you’ll be learning how to take better photos as opposed to just learning how to take cool pictures. Pretty cool, huh?

  • Camera Flip – This function allows you to switch between the phone’s front and back cameras. By doing a little research into your particular phone, you can find out which of the cameras is better (hint we’ve done it for you in the past and it’s almost always the back camera). The camera flip tool also lets you flip the camera around for taking selfies – if that’s your kind of thing.
  • Flash – While we tell our readers all the time about the dangers of flash when taking great photos on their smartphone, for the purposes of this post we’ll give you a hesitant ok to give it a go. The flash is as it sounds – a bright light with the job of illuminating the area being photographed. If you’re truly a beginner, then go ahead and use the flash. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in your smartphone photography career going somewhere then just invest in a small clip on lighting fixture.
  • Timer – Do you want to use your phone to take photos of your family at an intimate gathering, but don’t want anyone to not be in the photo? The timing feature allows you to get your phone in position and then get yourself in position in the photo. Pretty nifty, huh?
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) – The HDR of your image is a fancy way of discussing the properties of the photo in file form. It essentially means how much detail and harsher parts of the image are captured. While we’ve discussed using manual mode in the past, for the purposes of beginners it’s definitely best to leave the HDR set to “Auto.”
  • Zoom – Really try not to zoom. It’s a cool tool and if you’re using your photography as a method of sharing locations and moments with your friends and family then maybe zooming is excusable. If however, you’re passing yourself off as being legitimate as a smartphone photographer then it’s an absolute no-no. Get yourself a cool macro lens instead!

Modes of Photography for your Phone

So, maybe you didn’t know that your smartphone’s camera can do more than take just regular ole’ photos. Well, it can. And it can actually do a whole lot more.

Here we’ve only gone into detail on the major modes of photography for your phone. It’s worth noting however that there are more – many more. Depending on which kind of smartphone you have and how old it is there are potentially a number of awesome tools we haven’t even covered.

Just do some experimenting if you want to learn how to best utilize them. You now have the tools to do so!

  • Photo

The photo mode is exactly what you would expect – it’ll take a picture and do other basic photography things. It takes basic photos and stores them in the camera roll (or whatever brand specific app). Any photo taken in this mode will easily be uploadable onto any social media site and is likely to perform well on websites and the like too.

  • Portrait Mode

The portrait mode is ideal for photographing people – whether yourself or your friends and family is totally up to you! We will go ahead and mention again that it’s best to check your phone’s specific specs regarding whether the front or back camera is better (hint – it’s usually the back one). It’s important to note that some phones have this as selfie mode – portrait mode for iPhones though – available via the front camera. The phone then automatically edits for photos taken in regular photo mode as portraits.

  • Video

High-quality video mode is one of the new features being pushed by the smartphone companies. Video as a whole is also on the come up when it comes to smartphone photography (just ask Moment and their new Anamorphic lens…). The new cameras feature updated technology that allows videos to be crisper and stored in smaller file sizes. Running out of storage on your phone as a smartphone videographer is soon to be a thing of the past! Oh, and maybe you can find the best 4k camera too.

  • Pano

Don’t know what a panoramic is? No worries, you aren’t the first one to ask the question – this is photography 101 after all. In fact, the terms are searched over 22,000 times a month on Google alone! A panoramic is literally just a long pretty picture (we did simplify that a little…). To take one, just hit the ‘Take Photo’ button and move the camera across the scene you want to capture. Be sure to keep the phone level, so that you get a pretty picture at the end. Your phone should have some sort of guide to help you in this process. It should also be noted that panos do not fit onto Instagram, though they do a fantastic job of encapsulating full landscapes for your own personal purposes.

  • Slo-Mo

Are you an athlete looking to capture frame by frame footage to up your game? As a former collegiate golfer, I know that I was. The newer cameras do an unbelievable job when it comes to frames be second and clarity – to the point you’d think that you had a clip on lens attached! If you’re in need of footage, be sure to see what your phone can do before passing the job off to a videographer…

What Makes a Photo Good versus Bad?

pretty pictures

Cult of Mac

Maybe you came here looking for some basic photography tips and maybe you didn’t. Regardless, we’re going to give you Photography 101 as concisely as we can. Or, at this point, we’re giving you the philosophy behind it

These photography tips, tricks, and rules are tried and tested in the world of photography. They’re true regardless of whether you’re shooting with a smartphone, a DSLR, or a mirrorless camera.

Employ these simple and easy to use rules, tips, and tricks and watch those likes come in droves.

  • Rule of Thirds –

This is the most important photography tip you’ll ever receive and is lesson one in photography 101. Break your photos in a grid with nine total boxes. Make sure the subject of your photo, or any other objects of interest, sit on these lines. For some reason in doing this, you’re making your photos more balanced and the viewer with find your photos more aesthetically pleasing. This rule isn’t really for understanding, but more for utilizing…

basic photography

Photography Life

  • Blue/Golden Hour –

Have you ever wondered why all your photos during sunrise and sunset are absolutely fantastic when it comes to lighting? Literally, pretty pictures every time. It’s because of the blue/golden hour. The light isn’t too harsh, and your camera is able to easily do everything that it needs to do to succeed. Making an effort to take your photos an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset will ensure that the lighting in your photos is always moody and on point.

photography 101

The Photo Teacher

  • Background –

Do you think about what’s in the background of your photos before shooting them? Strategically using the sky or a blank wall can really add to a photo while a busy café or bustling street can really hurt. All we’re saying is, when it comes to your photo’s background just think before you shoot! A pretty picture or a cool picture doesn’t have to be an overcrowded one.

photography 101

Philipp Naderer

  • Vantage Point –

Where the photographer is in relation to the subject adds a lot to the feeling that a photo invokes. Imagine you’re viewing a photo of a man and the vantage point is below the man. How does he appear? We would argue, that he will appear more powerful. If, on the other hand, the same man is photographed on the beach and the vantage point is the cliffs looking down on him as he looks off into the distance then he appears in a completely different light. Think, “what feeling do I want this photo to have,” before shooting to take vantage point into account. Vantage point takes a cool picture to a mind blowing one!

cool pictures

ronsho

  • Leading Lines –

A road stretching off into the distance or the ledge of a building pointing out into the sky draws the viewers eye through your image. This is important – basic photography 101 here, and you can use this phenomenon to your advantage! The way in which the eye moves throughout a photo is one of the most important parts of photography. If you’re interested in leading lines – and you should be there are numerous kinds each with its own philosophies and uses – then some light reading on the subject may be for you.

photography 101

Strong Photography

  • Symmetry and Patterns –

Whether man made or natural symmetries and patterns add a lot to photos when it comes to tone. A building may look cool but it looks exponentially cooler with some graffiti on its walls. If you aren’t one for street art, the same reasoning applies for wall crawling plants and most modern architecture as well. Just find something that you like, and keep on shooting cool pictures!

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How does your eye travel through a photo? It seems like an odd question to ask yourself, but the manner in which the eye is naturally drawn is imperative to a great photo. • • • Start to take stock of how your photos are structured and plan an intended movement of the eye before taking the shot. You'll start to notice a difference in your photos immediately. • • • #mobile_phoneography #outofthephone #mobilemagazine #mafia_mobile #artmobile #icapturemobile #resourcemag #shootermag #iamatraveler #urbanexploring #bevisuallyinspired #justgoshoot #lifeofadventure #youmobile #wearegrryo #mobileshotz_ #likesmagazine #theappwhisperer #mobiphoto #mobitog #pixelpanda #mobile_phonography #exceptional_pictures #streetphotography #justgoshoot #smartphonephotography #mobilephotograpy #welivetoexplore #got_greatshots #urbanexplorer #iphonephotoawards

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  • What’s Framing your Shot? –

When snapping that poignant portrait or legendary landscape what’s framing your shot? Using something around the border of your image helps to keep the eye focused on the main event. Try using something natural – trees or mountains – or urban – buildings – as they tend to be the best framing opportunities.

How’s that for some photography tips – photography 101 styles!

Photography Tips to take Cool Pictures on your Phone

So, if you’ve made it this far then you’re well on your way to taking cool pictures with your phone.

You have the tools thanks to our photography 101 course, now we just have to work on that attitude. Oh, if you need some other photography courses, then check these ones out.

Most of photography, whether with a smartphone or with a DSLR/mirrorless, is simply having the desire to get out and take the shots that you want to take. Nay, the ones you need to take.

By this we mean, if you have a vision then go and make that vision a reality.

Of course, this sounds easier than it is, but if you’re invested in smartphone photography and hope to find success in the industry then this desire is a must.

It sounds corny, but he or she who takes the most photos wins. Essentially, by taking loads of photos you increase the likelihood of one of them turning out to be the cool picture or the pretty picture that brings your big break.

So, what’re you waiting for. Go shoot (or read about apps to take good photos on your phone and make them great first)!

Apps to take good photos on your phone and make them great

basic photography

Gotta Be Mobile

So, here’s the deal. If you want to take good photos on your phone and then edit them into masterpieces then you’re probably going to need an app for taking photos and an app for editing photos in addition to our photography tips.

Having both of these kinds of apps in addition to our photography tips will give you all the control you could ever need!

There are some apps that do both – take the photo and edit it. These apps are great for those who are trying to quickly post their work and aren’t hugely worried about hardcore critiques.

If you are, however, worried about someone zooming in on your photo or seriously questioning the editing process then it may be worth going in the direction of a more legit editing app. You may even find that editing on your PC is superior to editing on your phone anyways!

But without further a-do we’ll look into a couple options for all your photo taking and editing needs

Exactly what you’ll need based on what you’re using

First, you need to decide if you want to edit on your phone or PC. Free photography tips though always choose your PC and always choose Adobe.

Then you need to decide which tools are for you.

And finally, you just have to experiment with them and learn everything they can do.

Really, it’s that easy.

What you Need for Snapping Photos on your Phone: VSCO

Don’t confuse VSCO with VSCO Cams, the new and improved adaptation is all photography and all business.

So, they use lenses that you activate before taking your shot so that its like your phone has a clip on lens. Pretty cool, huh?

They still feature the old-timey and grainy pre-sets we know and love but with some new tools to go along with them. For example, their new sharpening tool is one of the best we’ve ever used (and we’ve used some sharpening tools…).

The download of VSCO is free and you can do some without purchasing. On the other hand, if you truly want to unlock the power of the app then you’ll have to spend a little cash (like one to five dollars). It’s certainly worth fiddling around with the app in its free form to see if you’re enthralled before hitting that buy button.

It’s probably worth mentioning, though you should know already, that we’ve discussed this topic at length before.

Must-Have for Editing on PC: Adobe Suite

At $9.99 a month for access to Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and 20 GB of cloud storage really is a steal. You definitely should take advantage…

While this seems moderately expensive, the cost is definitely worth it as you master the software. The control available via Adobe is unrivaled. Don’t edit with anything other than Abode unless you absolutely have to. If you do, then you’re putting yourself behind!

It’s worth noting if you pay for Adobe on your PC, then you can automatically seamlessly transfer photos to and from the new Adobe Lightroom CC mobile app. This essentially gives you the best of all worlds.

The Best Option for Editing Phone: Afterlight 2

You probably expected to see something like the Adobe Lightroom CC mobile app, VSCO Cam, or Mextures here. But alas, as far as we’re concerned Afterlight 2 is the way to go.

The one-time payment of $1.99 gives you tools for color shifting, double exposure, dust effects, and loads of other typical photo editing tools.

Afterlight 2 will give you all the things you could possibly need as a beginner plus a few bonus tools. Plus, those bonus tools will help you experiment as you move forward as a smartphone photographer. It’s the ideal app to try before moving on to Adobe.

Top Value: Snapseed

Well, it’s free. So, Snapseed is perfect for those who’re on a budget but still want their photos to stand out from the crowd. If you get good with Snapseed then you almost don’t need a paid editing tool (Adobe is still ideal though!).

With over fifteen different extremely useful tools, the app provides much more control than Instagram’s own tools. Oh, and it does a reasonable job doing so.

If you’re in the market for photography tips about a new tool that’s almost sure to make your Instagram feed stand out then Snapseed is probably the way to go.