5 Simple Tips for Improving Your Smartphone Photos

Recently I was inspired to think about my best tips for smartphone photography. I thought about some ideas about how to snap great photos, even when the only camera on you is the one in your phone. After all, I really love my new DSLR, but I don’t always have it with me. Most of us usually have our smartphones close by, though, in our pockets or purses. (Except for my mom – she’s still rockin’ her flip phone! And writing checks at the grocery store, too. She actually told a cashier the other day, “I know, I’m a dinosaur!” Ha! Love you, Mom!!).

So while I’m not a huge expert on photography or anything, I have read a lot and taken classes and practiced with photographer friends, too, so here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that might help my fellow beginner photographers out there, too!

1. Look for Light! ~ Make sure you stand where your subject is facing the light.

Here is the first example of what not to do! I took this shot at night with the bright lights of the carousel behind my little Homer:

And then this one is on the carousel, with the lights directly shining on his face:

Much better!

With sun, it’s even more dramatic ~~
Selfie with sun behind me:

Selfie with sun in front of me:

This is not a hard and fast rule, of course. At dusk or on cloudy days, it’s a lot simpler, because the light is more even. The huge contrasts on a bright sunny day can make photography more difficult, but you can always make it work! The point is to look for nice light and don’t be afraid to move a few feet or find another location that has good light. Good, pretty light on your subject– that’s the goal!

2. Look for Shadows! And mostly stay out of them. Again, not a hard and fast rule. In fact, shadows can add some lovely aspects to your photos. But one thing you never want is to block the good light with shadows from your body, or your phone!

One big culprit of splotchy, high contrast photos is standing under trees. The odd, uneven shadows from the leaves create too much contrast and you end up with undesirable shots. What you are looking for (usually) is some continuity. All one amount of light. For example, splotchy tree shadows on my kid, vs. lovely even sun on both him and our dog, Ashton…

I’ve seen gorgeous photos from more advanced photographers that have great lighting underneath trees, but I think for beginners, it’s good to stick with as even lighting as possible, until we learn even better skills.

3. Change angles ~ Get low, get high, get on the floor, lie down on your back… Change it up!

My friend, Tina, took this photo of me, photographing the trees!

This is the photo I took, at that angle. I think it turned out pretty good!

Capture some sweet lash photos by standing above your kids and aiming the shot down. Like so:

Get on the floor for some cool perspectives, too. I got on the floor and shot up a few inches to get this sweet kitty’s portrait:

Note: most people do not look flattering if you shoot from below, save that for cats and trees. Just experiment!

4. Go Left! ~ Or right. Or up or down! A lot of times, pictures look amazing when your subject is off center. There’s a whole rule of thirds concept in photography that’s really helpful, if you want to read more about it. But basically just try out letting your child or pet or flowers be on the right, left, top, or bottom of the shot. See what you come up with! Here, I captured my nephew on the right side of the shot, and I love how it turned out (he is so adorable!):

5. Don’t ask them to smile! The best photos I get are the candid ones when I just let my kid do what he’s doing and capture him in action. The very best smiles are the genuine ones. If you know your subjects well (like your family), you know what kinds of things they find funny. So if you’re really trying to get a posed smiling photo, you’ve got to make them laugh. For children it’s as easy as saying very seriously, “Do. Not. Laugh.” Cue the laughter! Or, for the 3-6 year old crowd, usually just saying, “Poop!” very suddenly will crack them up. My child loves it when I start getting annoyed and say, “Can you just stop goofing off already??” He can’t help cracking up. That’s exactly what was going on in this photo:

If you’re trying to get animals to look at you, make a weird sound, rather than calling their name a thousand times. And if you want babies to look up at you, try singing! When you are capturing a portrait of someone’s face, look for the tiny dots of light in their eyes called catch lights. It really brings out the best in a portrait!

But definitely don’t always feel like you need them to look right at the lens. Snap a photo of them doing whatever they’re doing. Then put your camera in your pocket and join in on the fun!

Here’s an infographic from Aura Frames to help summarize a few quick tips:

If any of these help you, or you have more ideas you’d like to add, please let me know in the comments!! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy snapping!


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