The smartphone camera has caused us to rethink how we take photographs. By comparison to traditional DSLR cameras, our smartphones are easier to carry around as they are not as bulky. With the influx of photo sharing apps such as Instagram or WhatsApp, smartphone cameras offer the flexibility of viewing and sharing pictures at anytime and anywhere.

Smartphone cameras have changed drastically in the last few years. The latest smartphone models offer great features that take crystal clear pictures with high resolution.

Nevertheless, having a great camera phone is only half of the equation. You must know how to harness the different camera features of your phone to snap a great picture. Fortunately, you don’t have to attend expensive photography courses for that. This blog will provide you with the best photography hacks for your smartphone.

Read on to find out more about different camera apps, how to use natural light and the HDR feature on your smartphone camera.

Tips to improve your photography experience with a smartphone

Here are some handy tips that can enhance the quality of the photography on your smartphone.

  •   Know the settings on your phone camera

The only way to improve at something is to know more about it. Spending time checking out every feature on your camera app is better than relying on its default mode. 

  •   Download other camera apps

You don’t have to just rely on the pre-installed app on your phone. There are scores of other camera apps available on Google Play store for both Android and iOS users. You can download an app based on your requirements—manual controls, selfie focus or live Photoshop. 

  •   Keep the flash usage to a minimum

Current phone cameras are capable of taking good photos in low-light. Using a flash can often ruin the quality of a picture. Hence, you should only use it when there is no other source of light. In fact many professional photographers intentionally shoot photos in the dark as it gives them an opportunity to play with the shadows and light-scale. 

  •   Learn when and how to use a natural source of light

Natural sources of light such as the sun are great for taking portrait pictures. Use the light source to illuminate your subject rather than pointing towards your camera. You can experiment with light sources to get effects such as silhouettes.

  •   Avoid shooting in the sun

Mobile phone cameras become blinded by the bright light on a sunny day. Hence you get dark, unfocused images. Try avoiding snapping under direct sunlight or take pictures in the shade. 

  •   Abide by the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a simple photography technique that divides your camera view into nine sections or grids. The rule dictates that the subject should be at any intersection of the grid lines. This gives sharper and clearer images. All phones have a grid option that can be enabled. If your phone doesn’t have the option, download an app that does. 

  •   Experiment with HDR

High dynamic range or HDR mode combines different light exposures to form a better quality image. HDR works best in landscapes where there is a wide range of illumination such as landscapes, city scenes, gardens and parks. The range of illumination enhances the details in the picture.

Some phones have an auto HDR feature that is enabled to detect the change in lighting. Others have it as a manual control. 

  •   Familiarise yourself with the manual mode

While the manual mode might seem intimidating for beginners, the easiest way to master it is by experimentation. There are many advantages of taking pictures in the manual mode such as better control and better exposure. The manual mode also lets you experiment with the shutter speed, size of the camera aperture and light sensitivity setting to enable you to take great pictures. 

  •   Use focus peaking when you can

Focus peaking enhances your well-focused areas against a bright background for a sharper image. This is the basis of the popular ‘bokeh’ mode where the background seems blurred against a clearer subject. Newer phone models have the feature of focus peaking pre-installed in their settings. 

  •   Always wipe the lens before taking a picture

Always wipe your lens clean before taking pictures—ideally with a micro-fibre cloth. You can’t salvage a picture that has been taken with a smudged lens! 

  •   Download a good photo-editor

There is more than one way to get a good picture. If your camera features are not up to your expectations, you can install a good photo editor app and use it to enhance the pictures. These apps offer a wide range of features from filters, auto-fix options, white balance and healing tools. 

  •   Add depth to your images

Adding depth to your images is easy and can enhance their quality. All you have to do is include things like roads, painted lines and buildings running diagonally in the background. You can also tilt the phone to make them appear diagonal. 

  •   Keep practicing

Even with state-of-the-art camera features, it will take some time and a lot of practice to take great pictures. It’s important to keep taking pictures and reading up on the technical aspects of photography to improve your skills.

A career in photography

Even with the latest technology, phones cannot replace conventional lens cameras. These remain the most versatile imaging tools. If photography is something you enjoy and you want to pursue a career in the field, you should consider joining a beginner’s photography course.

With a degree in photography, you can pursue a high-paying career in many industries including fashion, interior design, architecture, journalism and tourism.

There are many institutions worldwide that offer photography courses including London. A good option is the HNC/HND photography course from the London College of Contemporary Arts. The course provides a solid foundation of a wide range of disciplines in the subject enabling you to pursue a career in any aspect of photography. To find out more about the art courses, click here.


 The article was written by Sweha Hazari and edited by Emma Chadwick.