Learning how to take good photos on your phone requires understanding some basic principles of composition and lighting, and honing your own instincts as a photographer. You just need to follow a few simple rules.
Step 1: Use natural light
Lighting is the foundation of a good photo. Understanding how to use light is the first and most important rule of getting great photos using only your phone.
Avoid using your flash in favor of natural light, which creates photos that are richer and brighter.
A flash can flatten out your photo and wash out your subject. If you can’t shoot outdoors, take photos near windows or in well-lit rooms. Even at night, it’s preferable to find sources of ambient light, like street lamps and store windows. Also, there is a number of ways to capture stunning photos in low light. Keeping low light can make you able to capture photos with different aspects.
Step 2: Don’t overexpose your images
You can brighten up a photo that’s too dark with editing tools, but there’s nothing that can fix a photo that’s overexposed.
Prevent overexposure by adjusting the lighting on your screen: tap and slide your finger up or down to adjust exposure.
Another way to prevent overexposure is by tapping your finger on the brightest part of the frame (in the case above, it would be the windows) to adjust the lighting before snapping your photo.
Step 3: Shoot at the right time
There’s a reason photographers love golden hour. This time of day, when the sun is low on the horizon, makes every photo more beautiful. It’s nature’s Instagram filter.
If you’re shooting at midday, clouds are your friend. It’s hard to get a good shot under direct sunlight, which can be harsh in photos.
Clouds diffuse the light from the sun and create a softer, more flattering effect.
Step 4: Follow the rule of thirds
Composition refers to the arrangement of a photo: the shapes, textures, colors and other elements that make up your images.
The rule of thirds is one of the most well-known composition principles, and refers to a simple method of balancing your image. It divides an image into a 3×3 grid, and aligns the subjects or objects in a photo along the grid lines to create balance.
For instance, you can center your photo:
But you can also achieve a pleasing effect with “balanced asymmetry”, where the subject is off-center but balanced out by another object. In this case, the flowers are arranged in the lower-right area of the photo, and are balanced by the sun in the top-left corner.
Pro tip: Turn on the gridlines for your phone camera in settings, and use them to practice aligning your photos.
Step 5: Consider your viewpoint
When you take a photo on your phone, you probably hold it up around eye level and snap, right? That’s what everyone else does, too. Resist this natural tendency if you want to take interesting, unexpected photos.
Taking photos from a different vantage point will provide fresh perspectives, even when it comes to a familiar place or subject. Try shooting from above or below, crouching low to the ground, or scaling a wall (if you’re feeling ambitious).
Don’t break your leg in pursuit of the perfect shot, but challenge yourself to see things from a new perspective.
Step 6: Frame your subject
Leaving space around the focal point of your photo can add more visual interest than zooming in. Sometimes you get a surprising detail that makes the photo even better, like the moon high in the sky of this photo:
Unlike a camera with an adjustable lens, your phone camera “zooms in” by shrinking your field of view. In effect, you are just pre-cropping your image. This can limit your options for editing later, and you might miss interesting details, so avoid doing it.
Instead, just tap your photo subject or focal point to focus the camera.
If you want to give yourself even more options, you can buy an external lens that fits on to your phone.
Step 7: Draw the viewer’s eye
In photography, “leading lines” are lines that run through your image that draw the eye and add depth. These might be roads, buildings, or natural elements like trees and waves.
Keep an eye out for leading lines and use them to add motion or purpose to your photo.