5 Ways to Improve your Smartphone Photography

5 Ways to Improve your Smartphone Photography by John Haymore

Smartphone photography is an obsession these days amongst social media enthusiasts. If you’re snapping photos with your smartphone, eventually you’ll want to share them with others, so why not keep in mind a few basic tips and tricks to improving your smartphone photography skills?

1. Crop your photos afterwards, and don’t digitally zoom

The digital zoom function on smartphones drastically decreases the quality of a photo. It’s good practice to ignore that function and simply get closer to your subject. Use your proximity to the subject as zooming in and out. If moving closer to the subject is not possible, post crop your photo afterwards. Here’s why: With digital zoom, the camera is sampling the subject and then estimating what the image should look like zoomed in. This quickly degrades the image. When you crop the image after you have taken the photo, you’re sampling actual pixel information that was recorded. With an average of 8-megapixels in resolution, smartphone photos can be cropped quite a bit without losing quality and retain detail for posting online.

2. Edit your photos. Don’t use filters

Be unique and original. You’ll stand out from the millions using pre-made filters by simply not using them. Every app these days has dozens of filters that look the same as the next app you’ll use. All of these “washes” are over used. Some mobile photo editing apps are SnapSeed (my personal fav), Photoshop Express and even iPhoto. These all have powerful adjustment tools that are easy and quick to use and will help your photos look great, while maintaining the uniqueness of the setting you shot them in. This also allows you to create and develop your own style, which will set you apart in the long run and you’ll be able to sport the #nofilter tag, letting others know of your originality

3. Get up close and intimate

With a fixed lens, and the close proximity of a smartphones intended use, the camera sensors really excel when you bring them in near your subject. They pick up more detail and with a wide depth of field, they’re able to capture a the range of your composition in focus. Another pro to shooting up close is limiting light sources hitting the lens. This makes for a more evenly lit photo, instead of having bright areas of white that are over-exposed or dark shadows being cast in front of subjects. Macro photography shots are exquisite because they focus our attention the key subject and capture small details of importance. After all, “it’s all in the details”.

4. Clean your lens before shooting

Wondering why your photos turn out hazy, dark, or speckled? There’s nothing more lint and dust ridden than your pocket or hand bag. For a lens, it’s the equivalent of looking into a sand storm without eye protection. An easy solution is to quickly wipe your lens clean with a soft cloth before each use, and use lens cleaner once in a while for a deeper clean. The human eye has a hard time seeing fine particles living on your lens, but your camera will pick up those details, distracting your viewer from really seeing the clarity of your image.


5. Composition is King


Learning some basic rules of photography and composition will go a long way. Take the time to familiarize yourself with guidelines and keep them in mind next time you’re pointing your camera. Composition is one of the most important things that makes for attractive photos. Naturally, the human eye prefers images that have a particular sense of arrangement, while dismissing images that are disorderly. Listed below are only a few basic rules.

  • The “Rule of Thirds” is a basic principle of framing subjects in a more pleasing way. This is done by dividing the scene into nine equal squares. Elements of interest should land on the intersecting grid. Most smartphones have overlays on your screen to assist you in framing a balanced composition.

  • Leading lines. People are drawn into photos by lines, whether consciously or subconsciously. Geometric or implied lines lead viewers into an image’s focal point. If there is no implied lines, generally something else must take it’s place to guide the viewer where to look.

  • Background. Don’t get so caught up in the foreground subject that you don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the background. If background elements detract from your image, change angles or use a shallow depth of field so that the background becomes blurred and non-descript.

  • Simplification. Simplistic images are generally more appealing to look at than overly complicated images. Get rid of distracting elements and recompose the photo.

It’s your turn to take these tips and apply them to your photography. Tag us and let us know what tip you used or what your favorite photography trick is.

Happy shooting!  -John

Check out John Haymore's Instagram @john.haymore to see his portfolio of landscape photography!