10 tips to take great photos on your phone

By Photobox on 19 March 2024

Unlock the full potential of your smartphone’s camera with our top 10 tips to capture breathtaking photos with your phone. From mastering stability for sharp shots to playing with natural light and creative composition, this simple guide is your key to taking your smartphone photography to the next level.

In the dynamic world of photography, smartphones have emerged as powerful tools, continually evolving with each passing year. As countless photographers have said before, “The best camera is the one you have with you,” and in today’s age, that camera is often nestled snugly in your pocket, ready to capture life’s moments at a moment’s notice.

Whether you wield an iPhone or an Android, the camera in your smartphone holds immense potential to take amazing snaps – from landscapes to life’s little moments. To unlock its full prowess, here are ten beginner-friendly smartphone photography tips that will elevate your snapshots to new heights.

1. Shoot steady

Your phone camera needs to be as steady as possible for sharp photos. This is especially true in low-light conditions. Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep both hands on your phone and then tuck your elbows into your body. This will keep your camera nice and still, resulting in sharp photos. Some people even hold their breath to keep things extra steady!

Of course, the best way to keep your smartphone camera steady is to use a tripod. Consider investing in a smartphone-specific tripod – they come in all shapes and sizes, with many being small enough to fit in your pocket. Some can also be wrapped around objects such as tree branches or lampposts, making them great for shooting group selfies when you’re out and about.

Bonus smartphone photography tip: Shooting with your smartphone camera on a tripod will also allow you to start experimenting with creating beautiful timelapse shots.

2. Level up your photos with easy editing apps

Even the average photograph can be transformed into a masterpiece with the help of the latest mobile photography editing apps. Here are some of our favourite photo editing apps to help take better photos:

PicsArt and Snapseed for an unlimited array of filters and effects. Find flattering presets for your portraits or select grainy film-like looks for your cityscapes and beach snaps.

Adobe Lightroom offers a free mobile version of its powerful desktop image editing software, delivering professional-grade functionality. Smooth out blemishes or clone out background distractions entirely – you’ll be amazed how quickly and easily you can learn to beautify your images.

Instagram remains a classic platform for editing and sharing your favourite photos. It boasts more filters than ever, but you can also add fun stickers and emojis to your posts to express yourself. Follow us on Instagram, as we often share handy tips on making the best out of your photos.

3. Play with natural light

Fun fact: the word photography literally means painting with light in Latin, and this is what we should be doing whether we’re shooting with a smartphone or a professional camera. Great light can add shape, atmosphere and depth to your images and emphasise the mood you are trying to convey.

For flattering portraits, try positioning your subject in a shaded spot, where the diffused light will allow them to look their best without squinting direct sunlight. Have your subject stand between your camera and the light source for a cinematic look. This will create a rim or halo effect around them and add real character to your images.

Top Smartphone photography tip: For family photos on the beach or travel snaps in a new city, make the most of the golden hours just after sunrise and before sunset. This soft, golden light makes everything and everyone look dreamy and magical.

4. Experiment with your exposure

The beauty of modern smartphone cameras is that you can trust them to take care of the technical settings, leaving you to point, shoot and share. It’s fun, fast and creative. But if you like experimenting, try playing with your exposure settings. When taking a photo, swipe up or down on your phone screen to increase or decrease your exposure (i.e. brightness) and create different looks.

Top city photography tip: when taking photos in a city, try lowering the exposure to emphasise the contrast between light and shadow. This can introduce geometric shapes to your frames – perfect for turning family portrait sessions into professional-looking shoots.

5. Get creative with the rule of thirds

Great photography comes down to great composition, and you can try a few tricks to make things easier. Whether you shoot with an iPhone or Android smartphone camera, you can go into your camera settings and turn on the “grid”. This will overlay four lines on your phone screen. The “rule of thirds” states that, for the most appealing images, you should position your subject at one of the points where the lines intersect. Yes, X literally marks the spot!

Smartphone photography hack: Turning the grid when taking photos with your phone will also help you keep the horizon level, instantly making your photos look more composed.

6. Avoid using the zoom

Smartphone cameras have many strengths, but their digital zoom function can sometimes be a little lacking. It may be tempting to zoom in to get closer to your subject, but as your camera simply crops in and resizes your image, you will find your photos get fuzzy, and the quality drops significantly. Instead, switch to your smartphone’s telephoto lens (if it has one) or zoom in the old-fashioned way: move closer to your subject.

7. Invest in add-on lenses

Many smartphone cameras boast more than one lens: typically a “normal” lens, a wide-angle lens, and then a telephoto lens to get in closer. But for those with just one lens on our cameras, it can be fun to experiment with attachable add-on lenses. For example, an attachable macro lens will allow you to get right up close to tiny subjects such as bugs and plants, whereas an ultra-wide fish-eye lens will let you take dramatic cityscapes and landscapes or cool pictures of your friends/family that look like rock band album covers. You can find selection packs of lenses, so why not pick up a few to play around with next time you feel creative?

8. Get some selfie assistance

Selfies are fun and easy when it’s just you and a friend, but things get a little more challenging when trying to fit the whole squad in. For those bigger group shot selfies, a tripod is a perfect companion to prop up your camera and tap on your phone camera’s self-timer. This way, you can get into position and make sure everyone’s in the frame – including you!

Smartphone photography accessory tip: before investing in a remote shutter, check if your phone camera has a voice-activated shutter option.

9. Use your rear-facing camera

While using your front-facing lens when shooting selfies feels far more natural and intuitive, it’s worth using the rear-facing camera lens for pretty much everything else. This is because, regardless of your smartphone’s make or model, the rear-facing camera will almost always offer superior image quality. For example, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s front-facing camera gives 12MP, whilst the primary rear-facing camera delivers a staggering 48MP. Keep this in mind, especially if you plan to print your images. Remember, the higher the megapixels, the bigger you will be able to print your images.

10. Print your snaps

Many of the world’s greatest photographers agree that printing your photos is the best way to bring them to life. Use our new mobile photo transfer feature to quickly transfer your favourite images from your phone to your desktop. Then, you are free to get creative and immortalise your most treasured memories with stunning wall prints and photo books. It’s intuitive, fast, and super fun!

The most important thing to remember is that smartphone photography is no different to traditional forms of photography. Just remember to keep having fun and experimenting. The more you shoot with your phone, the more creative ideas you will have, and the better your phone snaps will become. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start taking great phone photos!

Don’t forget to check out our game-changing new photo transfer app to quickly ping your favourite photos from your phone to your desktop to start printing them today.