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5 Ways to Take Better Smartphone Photos

When you think about smartphone photography what comes to mind? My guess is you probably think about Instagram, photo filters, bad selfies and any number of other keywords that describe this new wave of photography.


Today, I’m going to share a few tips on how you can improve your smartphone photography and start capturing interesting photographs wherever you are with whatever you have in your pocket. If you like this post you might also want to check out this DPS eBook specifically written for improving your iPhone photography.

Oh and no just because Apple improved their camera in the 5s doesn’t mean that they’ve created a device that will make you a better photographer – you’ll just get the same boring images – unless you learn how to become a better photographer.

Take Your Time and Treat it Like a DSLR

Smartphone photos on Flickr, Facebook and Instagram get a bad reputation for being terrible because well, 95% of them are terrible. One of the biggest reasons that this is the case is because 95% of the photos on these sites are taken not as photographs, but as a way of sharing moments – they’re snapshots.


People aren’t thinking about capturing a photograph – they’re thinking about how cool that thing that happened in front of them is. If you want to truly impress people with your smartphone photographs you have to first and foremost start treating your smartphone more like a camera and less like a phone.

In the photo above I noticed that the sun setting behind me was reflecting off the mirror at the other end of the bar. I positioned my beer and spent a few minutes taking different shots, both in portrait and landscape orientation, as the sun quickly passed its way below the horizon.

Think With Filters in Mind

The great thing about smartphone photography is the ease of which you have to process your captured image. While it might not be true that every photograph looks “better” with a filter, it is certainly true that filters can add interest to an otherwise boring photo. That said you shouldn’t simply think “oh well I’ll just add a filter to it to make it awesome” instead think “that would look really cool with this filter!” and then shoot your photo accordingly.


When I saw these two hikers sit down in front of me on a recent hike I knew right away that it’d make for a great “old time” family portrait style photo. I framed the shot and instantly went in that direction when I process the image – there was no doubt in my mind as to how I wanted the image to look from the moment I captured it.

Get Into Strange & Uncomfortable Positions

Smartphones are light, easy to maneuver and have a large screen making it possible to compose your image in awkward positions. Use this to your advantage and don’t be afraid of looking like someone who’s had a few too many hallucinogenic drugs in public. If you’re taking a photo people will understand won’t they?

So get down on your knees, on your back or hang upside down and have fun capturing photos that you would otherwise be unlikely to get with a larger heavier device.

Use Third Party Lenses

In most cases the third party lenses are best used for specialty situations like fisheye or macro photography that the built in cameras just aren’t capable of doing. With the iPhone I use the Olloclip 3 in 1 attachment and absolutely love the macro lens (read my full review here).

Dragonfly Macro

The above photograph was captured using an iPhone 4S with the Olloclip Macro attachment and to be honest the quality of this photograph even stunned me when I finally got it onto my computer. One of the key points to keep in mind here is that when you are using this lens you are required to be about 12-15 millimeters away from your subject to achieve focus – that’s incredibly close to a an insect that typically is fairly skittish.

Use Third Party Camera Apps

Yes the smartphones come with built in functionality, but in most cases they are fairly basic and while they will work well enough if you’re looking to capture a snapshot to go beyond that there are certainly better options out there. Many of the good quality camera apps on the market offer improved stability control, better filter options, and the ability to pick a focus and exposure point separately allowing for better control over the final image. Seeing as there are so many good apps out there rather than listing one that I recommend how about you leave your favorites in the comments below!

Have Fun and Share

Okay so ultimately the best part of smartphone photography is how easy it is to share your creations with the world. So now that you’ve learned how to take better smartphone photos how about sharing some of your favorites below – let us know which phone and apps you’re using to capture the images!

Learn more about taking photos with iPhones with our iPhone PHotography eBook.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

John Davenport
John Davenport

is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today!

John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.

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