12 Tips for Taking Better Smartphone Photos

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We often see travel photographers on Instagram who take a lot of jaw-dropping photos using only their smartphones. We wonder in awe how they’re able to pull it off, feeling sorry for ourselves as our phone’s Gallery is filled with mostly blurry images. The thought of resorting to the more expensive and sophisticated DSLR camera scares us, though.

But don’t despair. You can step up your travel photography game and produce photos worthy of your Instagram and Pinterest followers’ attention—with your handy smartphone in tow. Here are 12 tips that can help you take better travel photos with your mobile phone:

#1 – Use Accessories for Mobile Photography

Having a smartphone with high-quality camera specs and using third-party camera apps are a great combination for producing stunning travel photos. But if you’re serious about taking your smartphone photography to the next level, consider equipping your phone with mobile photography gear that can expand its shooting capabilities, comparable to that of a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. (Image: Kaique)

Some of the essential accessories for smartphone cameras include monopods and gorillapods for support and image stabilization, external lenses (some of which allow users to take macro and wide-angle shots) for expanding a smartphone camera’s shooting range, and mountable lighting equipment for nighttime and low-light shooting. For people who are fond of taking selfies, a wireless remote shutter release comes in handy.

You can find a wide range of smartphone camera accessories compatible with various phone models on online photography retailers such as Adorama.

#2 – Never Use Your Phone’s Built-in Flash

If there’s one thing you must always turn off when you’re snapping pictures with your smartphone, it has got to be the flash. Why? The harsh lighting of a smartphone’s flash often results in photos with motion blur, strange skin colors, and demon-like eyes—these things definitely don’t make for a flattering photo.

When you’re shooting in the dark, try these alternatives to your smartphone camera’s built-in flash:

● Look for a decent light source. If you’re in a bar, look for a neon sign. It may not be as bright as you want, but it can give you an artsy Instagram-worthy shot. At a party? Wait for the strobe lights or spotlights to land on your subject.
● Use your phone’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature. The HDR takes three photos (rather than just one) with different exposures, puts them all together, and highlights the outstanding parts of each shot. Just make sure that your phone is steady when you’re shooting on HDR mode.
● Increase your camera’s ISO and exposure.
● Use night photography apps.
● Use an external flash.

#3 – Always Clean Your Lens

If it’s your habit to place your smartphone in your pocket, it’s fine. But if you use it often for taking pictures, make sure to clean the lens regularly. If you don’t, your images may come out hazy and blurry. It doesn’t hurt to wipe your camera lens with any soft cloth like a shirt or handkerchief.

#4 – Use Natural Lighting

Smartphones can’t produce sharp images in low light, so it’s best if you take advantage of the natural light. If you’re taking pictures of a person (or even yourself), pay attention to how the light hits the face. If it’s too exposed or it has shadows, tilt the face a little for a better shot.

You can shoot during the golden hours using your smartphone, too. As the sun sets, see different colors unfold as the light of day changes into the dark of night. Take advantage of it or you’ll definitely miss half of your mobile phone photography life.

#5 – Crop Pictures Instead of Zooming in

When taking photos using your smartphone, make sure not to zoom in on the subject because it decreases the quality of the image. Instead, just shoot and then crop out the unnecessary elements so that the portion you want to emphasize remains. If you want a sharper image, get close to the subject physically so that you can highlight its details better.

#6 – Follow the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a very helpful photography composition technique, and you can use it even when taking interesting photos with your smartphone. Simply use your camera’s grid feature and align the subject with the intersecting points.

#7 – Use Your Phone’s Panorama Feature

Never underestimate the power of your smartphone’s Panorama feature. It may take a while to master it, but it will surely be worth it when you see the results. Use different panoramic techniques to capture the breathtaking views on your trip. (Image: Adrianna)

#8 – Rethink Cliché Shots

Don’t just settle for so-so cliché shots. Get your imagination and creativity working when you take travel photos! Want to take photos of people crossing the street? Why don’t you shoot from a high angle to provide a different perspective, like a bird’s eye view of the street? You can also try to shoot from the ground and capture the serene beauty of the sky. Think outside the box and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

#9 – Shoot in Burst Mode

Want to take better action shots? Shoot in Burst mode and change things up (like angles and framing) little by little. This will give you a lot of choices for your Instagram feed, Facebook page, and travel blog.

#10 – Focus on the Details

You may be shooting landscapes, portraits, and even selfies, but don’t forget to highlight the details, too. By focusing on the small details, you can give your viewers a better grasp of the sights that you’re experiencing. It can be the building’s facade, texture, food, colors, or patterns.

#11 – Keep an Eye Out for Leading Lines

While you still need to follow traditional photography composition rules, it doesn’t hurt to break them once in a while. Keep an eye out for leading lines and use them to “lead” the viewers’ eyes to your subject. All it takes is precise framing, and you’ll definitely nail it!

#12 – Edit Your Shots

To achieve professional-quality photos, edit them using photo editing apps that you can install on your smartphone. Don’t just filter your photos—adjust also the brightness, saturation, and contrast. If you want, you can also add graininess to add a vintage vibe shot to your shot.

A smartphone camera can do so much more than just taking selfies and photos of random things. With the right accessories and apps, correctly executed techniques, and a keen eye for detail, you can take high-quality images that can match those produced by the more powerful, pricier DSLRs.

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