Guide to Taking Photos on a Smartphone

Almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and almost everyone who has one uses the built-in camera to take photos. It’s easy to just whip out your phone, open the camera app, and press the button on the screen, but the photos don’t always turn out. In this post, I will give some tips for taking photos when using a smartphone. Keep in mind that I have an iPhone and am therefore basing my advice off of using one, but the tips should be universal for any brand of smartphone.

Focus on the person or object of interest
This one may seem obvious, but it’s also very important. Tap on your phone’s screen where the person or object is to focus on it. On iPhones in particular, a yellow box will appear where you have tapped, signifying that the camera is focusing on that area. Sometimes a photo is taken so quickly with the assumption that the camera is in focus, only for the photo to be reviewed later and the people or objects in it are blurry. Therefore, I would recommend double-checking that the photo will turn out by tapping on the screen.

Don’t turn your back to the light
Although it is tempting to position the person or people in the photo facing away from the sun so they don’t have to squint, this will only make them appear darker (and thus harder to see in the photo). If it is impossible for the person or people to face the sun comfortably, try to find a shadier area for them to stand in (but be aware of the possibility of a darker photo). The same applies for taking indoor photos: if you are taking photos during the daytime, have the person or people face the window (if the room has one). The natural light coming in from outside will not only brighten the photo, but also spread evenly across the subjects’ faces to avoid one side being covered with a shadow.

Take a burst of photos
It’s harder to capture action on a smartphone than a DSLR camera, but phone cameras these days are greatly improving. If you are trying to snap a photo during fast-paced activity, like a dog running, for example, hold down the camera button as the subject of the photo goes by. You can then individually review the photos later and choose the best one(s).

Don’t use flash all the time
This is something I often see many people doing. While flash can be useful in most low-light situations, it isn’t always the best feature. When it comes to people, flash often washes them out, turns their eyes red, and creates harsh shadows behind them. However, if you are taking a photo of a person with a light source behind them, like a window indoors for example, flash should be used to lighten up the subject. When taking a photo of another light, like a Christmas tree, for example, flash should never be used. The brightness of the flash will wash out any color and brightness that the other lights have, making it difficult or even impossible to see them. Flash also should not be used when shooting into a reflective surface, such as a mirror.

Check the background
This tip goes for photography on any device. Check behind the main person or object in your photo to avoid any awkward additions to your photos such as strangers, garbage, etc. Also, be sure to avoid object mergers (example: a tree trunk behind a person, making it look like the tree is coming out of the person’s head) and tone mergers (example: a person’s shirt blending in with the background, making it difficult to see where the person’s body is). If you check the background and notice an unwanted addition that can’t be moved, reposition the subject of your photo and check again before taking photos.

I hope these tips can help you improve your smartphone photos. Photos taken on your smartphone don’t need to look professional, but putting a little extra thought into the composition of each photo goes a long way.

3 Comments on “Guide to Taking Photos on a Smartphone

  1. Thanks, Julia! I’m not much of a photographer, but I do like to take photos on my iPhone, so these tips are appreciated!

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