Mobile photography isn’t hard. It should be easy to do cool photography on your mobile 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 shooting quality mobile phone photos in no time. We guarantee it.

mobile photography 101

Legal I-Can

We’re going to start smartphone photography 101, so 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 we’ll cover and their perceived skill level:

  1. How to take smartphone photos – Mobile Photography 101
  2. Basic tools for smartphone photography – Mobile Photography 101
  3. Modes of photography for your smartphone – Mobile Photography 101
  4. Photography composition techniques – 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

Table of Contents

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #1 – The Introduction

smartphone Focus

TapSmart

Taking great photos on your mobile device is an art form, but one that is undoubtedly learn-able if you have the necessary photography knowledge.

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 smartphone” in Google, 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.

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #2 – The Absolute Basics

Smartphone Photography basics

Android Authority

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 just 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 easy to take high-quality photos – it’s literally as easy as point and click.

Keep reading if you don’t believe us.

The Basics of iPhone Photography-

mobile photography 101

iMore

So first, open your phone. You can also get to the camera without unlocking 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!

The Basics of Android Photography –

photography tips

Android Central

So first, open your phone. You can also get to the camera without unlocking 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 relatively 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!

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #3 – Basic Smartphone Photography

basic photography

Greenbot

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

It may sound patronizing to explain all that. Still, if you’re at 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 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 pictures on your mobile phone. Pretty cool, huh?

Mobile Phone Photography Feature #1 – 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 phone 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.

Mobile Phone Photography Feature #2 – 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 photographed area. 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.

Mobile Phone Photography Feature #3 – 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 picture? The timing feature allows you to get your phone in position and then get yourself in place in the photo. Pretty nifty, huh?

Mobile Phone Photography Feature #4 – High Dynamic Range (HDR)

The HDR of your image is a fancy way of discussing the properties of the picture in file form. It essentially means how much detail and harsher parts of the image get captured. While we’ve harped on the importance of using manual mode in the past, for beginners, it’s best to leave the HDR set to “Auto.” Manual controls are worth learning though.

Mobile Phone Photography Feature #5 – Zoom

Really try not to zoom. It’s a nifty 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 a legitimate smartphone photographer, then it’s an absolute no-no. Get yourself a macro or a telephoto lens instead!

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #4 – Photography Modes on your Smartphone

Smartphone Photography modes

FoneArena

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 do a whole lot more.

Here we’ve only gone into detail on the significant 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 several powerful tools we haven’t even covered.

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

How to Use My Smartphone Camera Tip #1 – What is Camera Mode?

The photo mode is precisely what you would expect – it’ll take a picture and do other basic photography things. It takes your 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. It’s also likely to perform well on websites and the like too.

How to Use My Smartphone Camera Tip #2 – What is 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.

How to Use My Smartphone Camera Tip #3 – What is Video Mode?

High-quality video mode is one of the new features pushed by 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 phone 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.

How to Use My Smartphone Camera Tip #4 – What is Panoramic Mode?

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 just a long stretched 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 with 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. Try using panoramics vertically too – it’s a fun and rather useful experimental style.

How to Use My Smartphone Camera Tip #5 – What is Slo-Mo Mode?

Are you an athlete looking to capture frame by frame? Do you need Slo-Mo video 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.

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #5 –  Composition Techniques

These photography composition techniques are pleasing to the eye, every time. 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.

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #1 – Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Photography Life

The Rule of Thirds is the essential 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 will find your photos more aesthetically pleasing. This rule isn’t really for understanding, but more for utilizing.

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #2 – Blue/Golden Hour

Blue and Golden Hour compared

The Photo Teacher

Have you ever wondered why all your photos during sunrise and sunset have optimal lighting? It’s because of the blue/golden hour. The light isn’t too harsh, and your camera can 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.

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #3 – Beware of a Busy Background

how to take good photos on your smartphone

Philipp Naderer

Do you think about what’s in the background of your photos before shooting them? Strategically using the sky or a blank wall can add to a photo while a busy café or bustling street can hurt. All we’re saying is when it comes to your photo’s background, just think before you shoot! A great photo is rarely an overcrowded one.

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #4 – Change Vantage Points

smartphone photography vantage point

ronsho

Where the photographer is in relation to the subject adds a lot to the feeling that a photo invokes. Imagine you’re viewing a picture 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, we photograph the same man 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 turns a quality picture to a mind-blowing one!

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #5 – Be Leary of Leading Lines

Leading Lines Explained

Strong Photography

A road stretching off into the distance or the ledge of a building pointing out into the sky draws the viewer’s eye through your image. The movement of the eye is critically important – basic photography 101 here, and you can use this phenomenon to your advantage!

How the eye moves throughout a photo is one of the most essential 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.

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #6 – Symmetry and Patterns

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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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Whether human-made or natural symmetries and patterns add a lot to photos when it comes to tone. A building may look cool, but it seems exponentially more interesting 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 it!

Smartphone Photography Composition Tip #7 – 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.

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #7 – The Attitude

phone camera Moment lens filter

FStoppers

So, if you’ve made it this far then, you’re well on your way to taking great mobile phone photographs. But if you want to investigate more thorough smartphone photography courses, then check these out.

Most of photography, whether with a smartphone or with a DSLR/mirrorless, is merely 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. Your vision could macro photography, long-exposure photography, or anything in between. The important thing is to visualize it and make it 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. By taking loads of photos, you increase the likelihood of one of them bringing your big break.

So, what’re you waiting for – go shoot!

Mobile Photography 101 Lesson #10 – Photo Editing Apps

basic photography

Gotta Be Mobile

Taking cool pictures is only half the battle; photo editing is a huge part of being a content creator. It can be done on your cell phone or CPU, but be wary of how you want your content to be perceived.

A general rule of thumb is that if you want to print your photos, then you should edit them on a computer. If they’re just for social media, however, editing on a phone is sufficient.  Read about how, in most cases, editing on your PC is superior to editing on your phone.

Photo-Editing Tip #1 – Exactly the app you’ll need based on what you’re using and shooting

smartphone photo editing

Passion Passport

First, you need to decide if you want to edit on your phone or PC. Free photography tip though, always choose your PC and Adobe first. Learn from Adobe – probably Photoshop – and then when you’re comfortable, you can move on to other editing apps.

Once you’re experienced with photo and video editing, then you can decide which tools you need versus which you don’t.

And finally, you can experiment with the tools and learn everything they can do.

It’s that easy.

Photo-Editing Tip #2 – What you Need for Snapping Photos on your Phone: VSCO

VSCO

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 it’s 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 undoubtedly 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.

Photo-Editing Tip #3 – Must-Have for Photo Editing on PC: Adobe Suite

Adobe Suite photo editing

Adobe

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 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.

Photo-Editing Tip #4 – The Best Option for Photo Editing on a Phone: Afterlight 2

Afterlight 2

Cole’s Classroom

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.

Photo-Editing Tip #5 – Top Photo Editing Value: Snapseed

Snapseed

TechRepublic

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 handy tools, the app provides much more control than Instagram’s 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.