Getting the Most Out of Your Phone's Camera

Smartphone photography is easier than you might think as long as you know the limits of your gear and learn how to think like a photographer. Knowing all there is to know about your tools helps you decide when to use them and when they might not be the best choice for the job. Between your composition, tools and editing, you can make some really great images with just your smartphone.


Composition is one of the best skills you can have as a photographer. Learning takes time and sometimes the rules are meant to be broken, but knowing some basics in composition is a good starting place.

The rule of thirds is one of the most basic and useful rules in photography. Essentially, you divide the frame into thirds, horizontally and vertically, and you put your subject on one of the lines or intersections. After you do this, the next rule is to give head or nose room, which means you are not cutting off the top of the subject's head or part of his or her face with the frame of the image. Using these two rules also lets you lead the viewer toward a secondary subject or enables you to give the illusion of movement.

Shooting Tools

There are tools within your camera that can dramatically improve your photography. Once you get the hang of using these tools, you’ll see a big leap forward in how easy and good your photography can get.

Smartphones including the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4 and LG G series are starting to incorporate vibration compensation tools directly into the sensor. Unless you are using an app that gives you greater control over the settings of your picture, the phone is going to adjust your settings to what it believes is best for the scene. Oftentimes this includes lowering the shutter speed to let more light hit the camera. If you or your subject are moving, the reduced shutter speed is going to introduce motion blur. But if you can stabilize the sensor, it will help limit how much of your movement is transferred into the shot.

High dynamic range (HDR) is another feature that helps you get a good picture in tricky lighting. Dynamic range is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a photo that the sensor can see. HDR takes multiple pictures in quick succession to expose for the highlights and the shadows, and then merges them together. The downside is that because these pictures aren’t taken at exactly the same time, some motion blur may be introduced into the final photo. The blending also happens in camera, so you can’t take many pictures close together since the processor will be busy bringing the photos together.


One of the downsides to using a smartphone over a dedicated camera is you don't have the option to have RAW images. With RAW images you can manipulate the photo after the fact in a non-destructive fashion. This doesn’t mean you can’t do any editing with JPEG images, but you should be careful with what you do and how you save the image. Adding filters oftentimes means you are saving over the original photo, and these changes are difficult, if not impossible, to undo. Whenever possible, save an original copy of the photo as well as a manipulated one.

You also need to know the difference between a digital zoom and cropping. Optical zooms are rare in smartphones, so most of the zoom is done digitally. Cropping zooms in on the photo after you have taken it, and a digital zoom is a photo of a crop. You can't get the surrounding area back in a digitally zoomed image, so whenever possible, crop your photo after you’ve already taken it.


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

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