As a professional photographer, when shooting weddings, portraits and events, obviously my weapon of choice is a DSLR. On an average day, however, just like everyone else, I’m always taking photos on my phone.
I love this quick and easy outlet for my photography thirst, so much so I’ve even started hosting workshops on mobile photography in Hong Kong. Here I share with you some insider tips for awesome mobile phone photography.
Mobile Photography Tips: Best Mobile Phones for Taking Good Photos
To Take good photos, we need a mobile phone with great camera features, below are a list of mobile phones which can capture high quality photos:
Who Should Read These Mobile Photography Tips?
Anyone who loves photography and has a smartphone with a camera and is planning to take some amazing photos with it would find this article useful.
Great gatherings and parties, a lovely Sunday on the beach, or even when you just happen to see a cool sports car on the street, photography is everywhere. Nowadays, everyone has a mobile phone and every phone has a camera! It is always great if you can freeze all these great moments in a great photo, right?
How to Take Good Photos with Your Phone (9 Top Tips)
1. Clean the lens
Yep, it’s pretty obvious, but so many potentially great photos taken with mobile phones are ruined because someone forgot to clean the lens. Your phone is bumping around in your bag or pocket all day, picking up dirt, grime and greasy fingerprints.
Do yourself a favor and give your lens a wipe before you set out on a shoot. A soft lens cloth is best, like the sort you get for specs, but a t-shirt will also do.
I have been using the Nikon 8072 Microfiber Cleaning Cloth for many years and I am very happy with the hook idea after losing around 20+ of loose camera cleaning cloth...
2. Have a clear subject
Ask yourself, “What exactly am I taking a photo of and what do I want my viewers to see?"
It might be a person, a piece of fruit or even just a wall, but you need to know what it is. Then you need to make sure it’s in focus without an explanation. So often I see photos in my workshops and I have to ask the students “What is it?”
Most phones will focus on a clear subject automatically, while with others, such as iPhones, you can specify the area to be focused on by tapping the screen where your subject appears for an ultra sharp focus.
3. Don’t Zoom
As written in my other article “7 Most Common Mistakes in Mobile Photography”, the digital zooming function on mobile phone cameras is, just still not so good yet.
For sure we are looking forward to seeing how future technology will change this problem. Actually, the newest model from Huawei, the P40 Pro, has a very advanced processor and sensor.
Whenever possible, use 'leg zoom' which means getting closer to your subject by using your legs! And in doing so, you get to work out a bit as well!
If you can’t move any closer to the subject, I suggest you take a photo of the subject with surroundings from a distance and just crop it into the size you prefer with Adobe photoshop or any editing software.
Thanks to the rapid development of camera technology, there are some great mini tele lenses suitable for mobile phones, just like we can purchase different lenses for portraits and street photography. If you are really looking for capturing something from a far distance just remember the digital zoom in your phone's camera will not give you super sharp images!!
The top mobile lenses I highly recommend are:
Here are examples of the digital Zoom feature on the Huawei P40 Pro which I find quite acceptable for a mobile phone!
Equivalent to 280mm zoom:
Equivalent to 327mm Zoom:
4. Play with light
Smartphone photography is tricky during low light, but you can brighten things up to a certain extent with editing apps afterwards. That said, you should always be aware of the light in your scene.
Go out and shoot in the “golden hours” at sunrise and sunset. The light is more even at these times, making mobile photography much easier. Also, don’t be afraid to play with light. Look for shadows and reflections that can show an otherwise overlooked subject in a new light (‘cuse the pun)
One of my favorite lighting products which I carry in my bag for mobile photography is the Phottix M200R RGB Light (PH81419).
I love that the Phottix M200R is powerful, portable and it can even serve as a phone charger!
If you are on a budget and want some color effect, consider getting color filters.
Some of my photography students and colleagues like using color filters and they are very happy with them. I haven’t tried them yet but since the price is very reasonable, I do believe you can give them a try.
5. Change perspectives
If you’re taking photos in a city like Hong Kong, chances are everything you shoot has been shot a trillion times before. If you want to create photos that are going to be more impactful for your social media such as instagram, then you probably want something different.
The fact that you are reading this guide tells me that you are looking for something different and more creative. To shoot something original and interesting, try taking your photos from different and unusual perspectives.
Get high (responsibly), lie down (at your own peril), and try as many different angles as you can. Sometimes you may want to get some cool camera accessories like this little mobile tripod so you can try taking the images with different perspectives and exposures too.
At the end of the day, mobile photography is all about experimentation, having fun and enjoying the creative process.
6. Rule of thirds
The “rule of thirds” is a very interesting rule you need to know about photography composition. You might have noticed that a grid comes over your image when you use the “Adjust” function in Instagram.
This grid is splitting your photo into nine squares, three vertical and three horizontal. When taking a photo on your phone, most mobile phones also allow you to turn on the grid function. Try to think of this grid and position important elements of the image where the vertical and horizontal lines meet.
The off-center composition makes for a much more pleasing shot because we are making the viewer's eyes 'work' a bit. If ALL your photos are centered all the time, then it becomes extremely boring. You can experiment to find the best composition by positioning the same object in different positions and taking multiple photos.
7. Fill the frame
Whether you're holding your phone horizontally or vertically, think about that grid of nine squares again and try to fill your frame. Get closer to your subject if it's too far away or crop later. A photo should be a feast for the eyes, so use the space you have wisely.
The idea is to put as many interesting elements in your frame so the viewer has more interest in the image.
8. Create and explore
It sounds cheesy, but the only limitations in mobile photography is your imagination. Alright…, and your phone storage, of course! Snap away at anything and everything that catches your eye, take multiple shots of your subject, try new techniques and experiment with editing apps.
You may well take 100 photos in a day and find only 10 of them are good. But 10 good photos is a day well spent if you ask me.
For example in this photo, we can clearly see the Rule of Thirds where the man occupies 1/3 of the frame. We can also see a frame filled with good elements, from the variety and presentation of the meat to the fact that he is also not wearing a shirt!
What's a silhouette? It's when the light behind the subject is brighter than the light in front of the subject, thus creating a shadowy outline of the subject. I am always looking for opportunities like this during golden hour or sunsets because the effect can create very interesting and unique images. For example in Bali, there are areas of the beach which have black sand, and during sunset, the sand actually created a wonderful mirror-like reflection.
The key to silhouettes is to make sure your exposure is set for the background, which most mobile phone camera do automatically!
Mobile Photography Tips: Bonus Tips and Information
- Bring along a portable power bank (or maybe bring along a portable light and power bank like Phottix M200R RGB Light (PH81419) If you love to shoot as much as I do, it’s such a shame if you see something beautiful but run out of juice!
- Dual backup your photos on your cloud/ pc/ external hard drive… one of my students backed up all her photos on iCloud and then she forgot the password, so she cried for almost a week. When you do your backup to iCloud or a PC, also back up with an external drive.
- Try to get a water resistant phone. Quite often when the weather is not that nice, it’s a great time to take photos because the clouds and rain are the best additives for moody photos!
- Did you know that you can use the volume buttons on your headphones to trigger the phone camera's shutter? Try it out!!!
- The Snapseed app is a very good, powerful and free tool that I use to edit my photos on my phone.
- The so called 'Portrait Mode' can also be used to photograph food or products, so don't limit yourself to just portraits!
Mobile Photography Tips: Final Words
As always, please remember that I am sharing with you what I love, what I do and what I feel is important. The best advice I can give you is to actually go out and create images that make you happy, regardless of what anyone else thinks!hat’s the most important mobile photography tips I could think of when it comes to taking good photos with your phone.
Let’s just bring out our cell phone and take some great photos! Please show us some love and follow us on social media to stay connected with more of our exciting projects! And remember to show me some of your great photos by following and tagging me on instagram! You are the reason I keep writing blogs!
A big thanks to Phottix for the professional lighting equipment provided to Ali G Studios.
All photos are © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G Studios
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