Huawei P30 Pro taking a photo

Smartphones can take amazing photos, but a good image also requires skill. There is no way to learn photography in a day, but you can follow simple guidelines to significantly improve results. Today we are here to give you 5 smartphone photography tips that won’t fail.

Smartphones can take amazing photos, but a good image also requires skill.

Edgar Cervantes

Keep composition in mind: Rule of thirds

Rule of thirds sample.

Good composition trumps everything; it can turn a mundane snapshot into a photography masterpiece. This part of producing an image is crucial, which is why a proficient photographer can take a stunning picture even with the cheapest smartphone cameras.

Good composition trumps everything; it can turn a mundane snapshot into a photography masterpiece.

Edgar Cervantes

Learning the rules of composition is not as simple as reading an article here, but we can give you a head start by teaching you the rule of thirds. This is the most basic and popular rule of composition, but if applied correctly it can make your image substantially more aesthetically pleasing.

The rule of thirds is simple: draw two equally distanced imaginary lines horizontally, then do the same vertically. This will create a 3 x 3 grid. All you need to do is make sure your main subject or focus point is in one of the cross sections.

There will likely be an option to turn on this grid in your camera settings. Most smartphones have it, and it is a great visual tool for applying the rule of thirds.

Pro tip: though this composition rule is a favorite and has a great chance at success, it’s also easy to mess it up. People commonly leave too much dead space around in favor of placing the subject in one of the cross sections.


Kill the flash

smartphone flashlight

Unless strategically located and carefully measured, a flash will usually ruin an image. It can create harsh highlights, deep blacks, and squinty eyes, making people look like deer in headlights. I strongly suggest you avoid using flash unless it is pitch dark and you really need the light.

A flash can create harsh highlights, deep blacks, and squinty eyes, making people look like deer in headlights.

Edgar Cervantes

Smartphones have gotten very good at capturing under low-light situations, so in many cases you may not even be losing much in terms of exposure.


Night Mode and HDR are your friends

Night Mode being displayed on a smartphone camera app.

While we are on the topic of low-light photography, a new technique has been making the rounds in the smartphone market. The name differs depending on the manufacturer. Google calls it Night Sight, Samsung names it Bright Night, Huawei refers to it as Night Mode, and OnePlus titles it Nightscape.

If your phone has one of these, or an alternative, you can use it to enhance photos taken under extremely low light. It works similar to an HDR photo, shooting a series of images under different exposure levels. It then merges these and pulls detail from all pictures to create an enhanced final image.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Night Mode on Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Night Mode off Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Night Mode on
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Night Mode off

HDR stands for “high dynamic range”. It is a technique used by photographers to balance light levels in a scene It is commonly used in situations in which there are significant differences of exposure within a single frame. You have probably seen HDR mode in your smartphone. You should turn it on when you want to capture more detail in the shadows and highlights.

I would also recommend you learn how to make an HDR photo manually. While a phone’s HDR mode improves shots, machine hasn’t beaten man when it comes to producing a quality HDR photo.

Asus Zenfone 6 HDR on Asus Zenfone 6 HDR off Asus Zenfone 6 HDR on
Asus Zenfone 6 HDR off

To use, or not to use Burst Mode?

Burst photos as seen on a Samsung phone.

Edgar Cervantes

I am not a fan of “spraying and praying”. You should be able to compose an image without having to shoot a bunch of photos and hope that one will turn out good. Most times people end up with dozens of nearly identical images. This doesn’t mean you should avoid Burst Mode, as it is a great tool to use under certain circumstances. You just need to learn when to use it. If you are taking a photo of flowers (like the one above), what are the chances of the scene changing much from frame to frame? The wind would have to be pretty strong.

Burst Mode will help when you are shooting some form of action or unpredictable subject. It is especially helpful when photographing sports, wild life, or any moving object. In such cases, the scene changes significantly very rapidly, and your chances of capturing a better image are higher if you take as many photos as possible, in the shortest time possible.


Edit your photos!

Snapseed app on a smartphone.

A camera will rarely capture an image the way you want it. You have to help it.

Edgar Cervantes

A camera will rarely capture an image the way you want it. You have to help it. It’s surprising how much a simple edit can improve an image. We are not talking about complex Photoshop enhancements and montages, but you should at least correct white balance, fix exposure, crop, remove imperfections, and enhance colors. This can be done using plenty of mobile apps, but Snapseed is a great one. I am also a huge fan of Lightroom CC, but that one requires a monthly subscription.


Keep these 5 tips in mind when shooting with your smartphone and you should see improved results immediately. But of course, there is a lot more to Photography than this quick article. To learn more about the subject check out our links below.

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