Gear lust is a real thing my friend! And the funny part it, it is not just limited to photographers. Almost all technology geeks love to get the latest and greatest shiny things. From amateurs to professionals, photographer get a gleam in their eyes when a new model of a camera or a new faster lens gets teased into the market. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many occasions when a good professional camera is absolutely required for the shot but there are so many great and creative photographers out there who work just with an iPhone or a smart phone with a good camera. I take most of my professional photography shots on my DSLR (a Canon 5d mk iii) but when I am out and about with my family or running errands and something catches my creative eye, I definitely use my iPhone to take the shot. It’s way lighter and easier to keep with me.

Rajasthan hills during morning safari - Karthika Gupta

I often get asked what camera I shoot on and what lens I love and I’m always happy to answer but I preface this by saying that the best camera is the one you have in your hand. That being said, there are some basic things to be aware of when using your phone for your photos.

#1 Clean your lens

This is the simplest tip ever and yet I find it necessary to share because phones seem to attract a lot of dirt, dust and finger smudges especially around the camera lens. So before you take the shot make sure you clean your phone camera lens. Otherwise, you’ll get smudgy images.

Hiking in Black Hills State park with kids - Karthika Gupta

Dirt, dust and smog can cover the lens of your phone and make your images muddy and blurry – especially when you are out and about.

#2 Pay attention to light

Look for good light. There really isn’t anything as bad light. Light at different times of the day is just that – different. You just need to decide what kind of light works for you. Soft diffused light from close to a window is more even than harsh mid-day sun that causes harsh shadows around your subject. I’ve learned over the years that if the light doesn’t work for the image I am trying to capture, the image won’t work at least with a phone where flash doesn’t look great.

Dramatic lighting of a horse in his stall - Karthika Gupta

The light and the amazing subject caught my eye and I loved the play of light inside the dark stall. A little editing using my favorite app – Snapseed brought out the highlights a bit and darkened the shadows with a little contrast.

Occasionally, I’ll take a photo in bad light if my kids are doing something particularly cute but those images end up in a sentimental folder not shared with anyone else. They’re fun photos and I personally love them but they’re not great images.

#3 Watch your composition

One of the most difficult aspects of photography is creating compelling compositions. Taking the time to think about how to frame an image takes a lot of practice and effort. Ask yourself how you want the scene to look before you take the shot – do you want it to be a far away shot, or get in closer, do you want to fill the frame? or do you want to focus on one aspect of the image. The good thing is that with a phone  you have instantaneous feedback of how your composition looks without having to think about settings.

Horse inside a barn stall with dramatic backligh Karthika Gupta

From inside the barn – backlight

Horse view from outside the barn

From outside the barn in full light!

If you’re struggling with image composition, practice the same shot a few different ways – this helps in understanding compositions rules as well. And remember rules are meant to be broken from time to time so go ahead and experiment with what feels right for you.

#4 Perfect basic editing

You’ve taken a photo in nice light. You made sure the composition looks good. Now what to do to edit your photos. Almost all professional photographers do edit their photos even the ones shot on a smart phone. The good news is that there are many apps – free and paid – that can help you take a good image and make it great with some minor adjustments. At a bare minimum play around with exposure (how bright or dark the image is), temperature (how warm or cold the image is) and contrast (adding a little bit of  umph to the dark and bright areas of the image). There are tons of great editing apps out there – some of cheap and some are a few dollars each. Just pick one that suites your budget.

Downtown Chicago on a cloudy day view of Lake Michigan - Karthika Gupta

I use Snapseed and adjust exposure, temperature and contrast at a bare minimum to my iPhone images.

Small town America Main Street Photo - Karthika Gupta

A vintage film camera look

Pink sky at the barn edited Karthika Gupta


If you’re itching to get more serious about photography or just trying to up level your vacation photos, take a bit of time to work on improving your phone photos before buying a camera. Learning to think about light, composition and basic editing will transfer over when you make the jump to a bigger more expensive DSLR camera.

If you found this mobile phone photography tutorial useful, feel free to pin this post.

How to take better mobile phone photos

  1. Angie says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am definitely not a photographer and can use all the help I can get. These are such great tips and I really need to put them into practice. I can’t wait to see what else other gems you have hidden in your blog!

  2. Lola says:

    This is so helpful thank you!

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