Eight tips for taking great cell phone photos!

Eight tips for taking great cell phone photos!

By Nanci Dixon
Having been a professional food and architectural photographer for 40 years, I have put away my 8×10, 4×5, and 35 mm film and digital cameras in favor of a cell phone camera.

Today’s cell phone cameras are amazing. With large file sizes and editing tools, you can take impressive pictures and preserve great memories.  

Here are some tips to make your photos even better.

1. Take some time to compose the scene. Design-wise, having your subject off center can be much more interesting. Divide the space in thirds rather than in half. For landscapes, position the horizon about two-thirds down or up in the scene. For photos of a landmark or person, place them left or right of center. Really look at the scene: Would a low angle looking up be more interesting? Is there a reflection that catches your eye? Would straight down on the subject be better?

2. Get closer. Many cell phone cameras allow you to zoom in to make the subject bigger prior to taking the photo. However, that image is just being digitally cropped, possibly deleting some valuable data. It’s better if you can get as close as possible to start with. 

3. Editing tools can lighten or darken the image afterwards, but it’s much better to get a good exposure prior to taking the photo. Use the slider on the camera to lighten or darken. A photo that is too light has nothing to actually darken, and one that is too dark will only gray up as it is lightened later. 

4. Exposure meters are designed to average everything out to 18% gray, so a very dark scene will look lighter gray and an all-white snow scene will look rather dirty gray. You can test this by taking a close-up photo of a sheet of white paper and then shoot something black close up: The paper will be gray and the black item will also be gray. Aim for a balance of light and dark in the scene. If that’s not possible, use the exposure sliders before you shoot.

5. Use the cell phone’s focus tool by tapping on the area you wish to focus. This is particularly helpful when you want to have something in focus that is close. Experiment by tapping something very close to you and then tapping in the background. The focus should shift.

6. If you like to take photos of your favorite meal, use natural light. Turn the plate or dish until you get the most detail and the best lighting on your subject. Or walk around the subject until the light looks best.

7. Delete, delete, delete. A very good practice is to review your photos soon after you do a sequence of images. Keep only the ones you really want to save. Photos take up a lot of room on your phone, as well as on any cloud account you may be using for storage.

8. There are a number of great shooting and editing apps on your cell phone. Snapseed, Hipstamatic, CameraSharp, Photoshop Fix, PhotoWizard, Camera Plus, FishEye and PhotoForge are just a few. Remember to save a copy of your photo rather than overwrite if there is a chance you might want to go back to the original.

Happy shooting!

Nanci and her husband are full-time RVers, traveling in a 40′ motorhome. They spend their winters being park hosts in the Southwest, and love to boondock. Recently they added 1000 watts of solar power and a large AGM battery bank to their RV. Nanci retired as a food photographer at General Mills. One of her goals is to visit all of the National Parks.

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2 thoughts on “Eight tips for taking great cell phone photos!

  1. Sam Lunt

    But doesn’t turning your camera horizontally take a better picture? I see lots of YouTube videos with this little vertical slot of video that I assume could be stretched out into a panorama view if the camera was turned lengthwise side to side.

    1. TechiePhil

      Sam, exactly right! I’m a retired photo and video journalist and it bugs the heck out of me to see video shot in the vertical (portrait) mode. Normal cameras, both still cameras and video cameras, are made to shoot in horizontal (landscape) mode. You have to make an effort to turn them to shoot in portrait mode. For some situations, vertical is better for still photos (like actual portraits!), but until TV screens come set up vertically, landscape mode will make full use of the real estate. In most cases photos and video will be enhanced by turning the camera to landscape orientation.

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