How to take award-winning smartphone photos

By Geoff Harris

6 Top Tips for Better Smartphone Photos

With several exciting new phones and phone upgrades released already this year (the iPhone 6s in particular), it's a good time to be brushing up on your smartphone photography skills.

While there are many transferrable skills from conventional photography, smartphone photography throws up particular challenges and opportunities that need to be considered.

1) Don't pretend your phone is something it isn't

Better Smartphone Photos
Your smartphone camera, however good, is never going to an outclass an SLR with a quality lens – not for the time being at least.

So if you need big, detailed, high resolution landscape images to print large or enter into competitions, a smartphone is maybe not the best choice.

Instead, think of what photographic situations your smartphone camera is more suited to. For example, discrete street photography, quick portraits, quirky creative work and so on. The great thing about your smartphone is that you always have it with you, making it ideal for documentary work in particular.

2) Don't forget composition

Better Smartphone Photos

The rules of composition don't fly out of the window just because you are using a smartphone. Remember the rule of thirds – where you place the subject towards the edge of the frame rather than bag in the centre – and try to avoid clutter and distractions in the background.

Don't cut off limbs or have trees and poles sprouting from people's heads, either. Another great tip with a smartphone is to try different shooting angles; above, below, from the side, rather than just shooting everything from eye level.

3) Light matters

Better Smartphone Photos

Even though there are lot of apps that can recreate SLR effects on smartphones (or you can add extra lenses), you are limited when it comes to reducing depth of field or changing focal length.

To compensate for having fewer of these options, make the most of great light when it comes your way. Conversely, turn the extended depth of field you tend to get with smartphones to your advantage; this is useful when photographing landscapes or architecture, for example.

4) Keep your eyes open

Better Smartphone Photos
Even though you tend to have your smartphone with you all the time, great photos won't walk right up to you, so keep your eyes peeled and be prepared to hang around until the right subjects and compositional elements come together. This is particularly important in street photography. You can get some great juxtapositions if you are patient.

5) Try and get some engagement going

Better Smartphone Photos

While quick, stolen snaps are ok, you often get much more meaningful portraits of people if you go up and engage with them before asking to take their photo.

Don't be shy: the worst they can do is to refuse, but if you get them on your side, you will end up with much better images. Or, get the obvious portraits out of the way and then hang around. They will forget you are there, which is when you often get the best pictures – this is particularly the case with people at work.

6) Don't over-process smartphone images

Better Smartphone Photos
While it may be tempting to throw everything but the kitchen sink at a smartphone image, don't forget that these tend to be quite small images (in terms of resolution), so excessive editing and digital manipulation can leave you with noisy, deteriorating pictures that won't print well at all. Less is more

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

Stay updated

Receive free updates by email including special offers and new courses.

You can unsubscribe at any time


Related posts

Our best selling courses

Awards & Accreditations

  • Royal Horticultural Society - Approved Centre 2023-2024
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • CPD Accredited (provider 50276)
  • Digital Education Awards 2023 Winner for Digital Health and Wellbeing Learning Product of the Year
  • Digital Education Awards 2023 Winner for Adult Home Learning Product of the Year