How to Take Awesome Pictures with Your Phone

By Joshua Payberah; Digital Branding Institute

Yes, we’re all about video, but knowing how and why good photographs are key to your success in digital content marketing is also important. And we want you to succeed. Because we like you. And this is a really useful article.

Phone cameras have come a long way, but they are not perfect. This is where you come in. The following tips will show you how to take awesome pictures with your phone.

You might be asking yourself “why should I care about taking pictures with my phone?” According to data from Skyword, a Boston company specializing in content marketing, articles with pictures get 94 percent more total views than articles without.

If you want your customers and website visitors to see your content, you should try to include many high-quality pictures.

Including pictures in your press releases can even result in more views.

how_images_affect_press_materials.jpg

Infographic by MDG Advertising

Unfortunately, DSLR cameras are expensive and can take some time to figure out. The smartphone has the DSLR and other “real cameras” beat in these two areas.

Chances are you already have a smartphone and you’ve already used the camera app. That’s great! Now it’s just a matter of learning a few tricks and practicing. Here are a few tips to help you take awesome pictures with your phone:

1. Use gridlines

Gridlines help balance your shot when taking pictures with your phone. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the quality of your mobile shots.

Turning on gridlines will place lines on your screen based on the rule of thirds, a composition principle which states a photograph should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. 

Rivertree_thirds_md.gif

According to the rule of thirds, if you line up your subject along the lines or at an intersection your shot will seem more balanced and pleasing to the eye. This is essential when using a smartphone since there is no optical viewfinder.

Here’s how to activate gridlines on iPhone cameras:

  • Go to “settings”

  • Select “photos & camera”

  • Find “grid” and turn it on

And here’s how to activate gridlines on Samsung Galaxy (Android) phone cameras:

  • Open the camera app

  • Go to “settings”

  • Scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”

2. Get closer

When you use your smartphone camera’s digital zoom, you lose a lot of fine detail. Instead, try taking just a few steps closer in the direction of your subject and see if your picture doesn’t improve.

Image Source: digital photography school

Image Source: digital photography school

You’d be amazed by how getting just a little closer to the subject can make all the difference in the world in terms of picture quality.

Image Source: digital photography school

Image Source: digital photography school

3. Lose the filters

Filters were cool once upon a time, but these days they are seen as gimmicky. Rather than using the same pre-set filters used by countless teens around the world, try your hand at editing.

Mobile apps like SnapSeed, Photoshop Express, and iPhoto are all excellent for fine-tuning your photos without compromising their integrity.

4. Clean the lens

Your phone’s camera doesn’t have a lens cap to protect it from all the lint in your pockets or fingerprint smudges. This build up of gunk on your camera’s lens can lead to hazy images that no amount of post-production editing can fix.

I recommend buying a lens cloth and some cleaner. Even wiping the lens with your t-shirt is better than nothing.

5. Try taking pictures with your phone from weird angles

Taking pictures from weird angles can result in some of the most memorable photos. This is all about seeing from another perspective and to do this will require some creativity.

Image Source: Anthony Vitale

Image Source: Anthony Vitale

Think about bird’s eye view/ the overhead — to capture that shot one would need to position themselves above the subject. To do this you can try taking pictures from rooftops, or even ladders.

Image Source: iPhone Photography School

Image Source: iPhone Photography School

What about taking a reverse bird’s-eye? — to capture this shot you’ll have to lie on your back.

Image Source: Michael Kestin

Image Source: Michael Kestin

Think about the perspective of a child or a dog — to capture this shot you’ll want to crouch or lie down on the ground.

I know a journalist whose signature shot is to get behind someone giving a speech to capture the faces of the audience. He was one of many journalists to cover the 2016 presidential election, but because of his signature style of taking pictures, I can recognize his work even without reading a byline.

Image Source: Alan Mittelstaedt

Image Source: Alan Mittelstaedt

6. Forget the flash

If you want to take good pictures with your phone, you should forget about the flash.

The light used is a small LED and this, combined with the fact that it’s not even an inch away from the lens, makes for blurry photos, strangely lit subjects (seriously, the flash makes people look like they have jaundice) and red devil eyes.

So what do you do if it’s dark? Well find another source of light, but do not switch on the flash unless it’s to capture the elusive Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster.

Image Source: Patrick Janelle

Image Source: Patrick Janelle

For alternative sources of light, you might have to wait for the right opportunity and try to work with your environment. For instance, if you’re walking the streets, you might wait for a passing car’s headlights, or a street lamp to illuminate your subject. If you’re in a dark club, you can try to sidle up to the well-lit bar.

Natural light is almost always better than artificial, so practice good time management skills so you can take pictures with your phone while you still have daylight.

7. Turn your phone on its side

The web is a horizontal medium. We consume content horizontally, not vertically. As a content creator, you should aim to produce horizontal pictures that take up the entire screen and not just a tiny slice.

8. Use the volume button

Turning your smartphone on its side has an added benefit — you can use the “volume up” button as the shutter. This is a benefit because using the standard shutter button will often throw your perfect picture off balance.

By turning the phone on its side and using the volume button as the shutter, you will be forced to use both hands. This will increase stability and reduce shaking.

In Conclusion:

The key to photography, like any art, is to keep learning and practicing.

Good pictures are vital to your content strategy.

While DSLRs and other “real cameras” are nice, they are not always the most affordable nor convenient pieces of equipment. It is up to you to take truly awesome pictures with the equipment you have — your phone.

Hi Shaiyanne.

Web Developer · Shopify / Squarespace Expert · Social Media Manager · Content Creator · SEO Professional · Brand Marketing Specialist · Based in Los Angeles & Honolulu