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How To Take Good Pictures With Your Cell Phone Camera

Updated on October 9, 2015

Why Cell Phone Cameras?

Almost everyone nowadays owns a cell phone, and most of those have cameras built in, so lots of people are now using these to take photos. The problem is that these cameras are not very good, but if you minimize their limitations, you can create some memorable pictures! In this lens, I will tell you easy things you can do to improve your pictures, on a cell phone camera!

Know the Limits

What can these cameras do? The Cons?

First, you need to know some basic information about your camera. Does it take a long time to focus? If so, then it wouldn't be suitable to shoot fast moving objects, as the subject could be already moving by the time it focuses. Also, what is the shutter lag and/or max shutter speed? This can also affect your photos because with a slow shutter speed, fast moving objects will be blurry.

For example, my phone's camera is very slow at focusing, and has lots of shutter lag. Therefore, I generally shoot landscape with it, where those two aspects won't affect me as much. On the other hand, cameras in the newer phones of the iPhone series have low shutter lag, and in general can shoot moving objects better. This would be better for wildlife photography then something like my phone's camera.

Pretty much every cell phone camera suffers from low light performance, so you should try to shoot with lots of light when you use these cameras. When in low light, the camera raises the ISO, which is the sensitivity of the camera. When the ISO is higher, noise in the pictures goes up too. Noise is like a grain in your pictures. Sometimes it is preferable to make a special image, but generally the lower the noise the better.

The Pros of Cell Phone Cameras

What is good about them?

I already covered the limits of the cameras (cons to these cameras), now I will cover the pros about Cell Phone Cameras.

First off, your cell phone is always with you when you leave the house, so you won't find a good photo opportunity and say "Oh no, I forgot my camera at home", you'll just whip out your phone and snap some pictures.

Second, these cameras are portable and compact. They don't weigh much, and you won't need to bring extra equipment when you go out, because your camera is in your cell phone.

Third, they are generally very simple. Just like a Point and Shoot, all you do is focus and press the capture button. Done. Just like that.

Fourth, they aren't expensive. If you already have a cell phone, and you use your camera on that, then you save money from buying a new Point and Shoot or other camera. Also, some phones nowadays can match low end cameras in photo quality.

Keep it clean!

Since cell phones are brought everywhere, from the restaurant, to the dinner table, to the beach, anywhere you go, they go. Because of that, they generally get pretty dirty. That's why cleaning off your camera glass can help your image quality. When I look at my phone camera, there is some oils, and some other crusty stuff on it that I can't even name. Just do this every once in a while, or when you see that your camera is dirty! These phone cameras need some care just like "real" ones!

Photos I took myself with a Cell Phone Camera

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.
Shot with borrowed iPhone 5.

More Light!

When shooting your photos, try to get as much light has possible, because in low light, cell phone cameras create not so good images, and they always have tons of "noise".

Indoors, this could mean adding maybe an extra light or just turning on an existing light, or even just opening the blinds on a sunny day

Outdoors, there isn't much you can do about low light. You could wait until the brighter parts of the day, but if it is an animal, that won't work. Sometimes, you may have to just live in the moment, and remember it.

iPhone Photo Tricks From My Favourite Photography Channel

A bit of Post Processing

Photoshop, Pixlr, etc.

A bit of post processing can sometimes help your pictures, even take it to the next level! That being said, don't overdo it. Pictures that are over post processed can look fake and phony.

Somethings you can do are:

1) Remove objects (like bird wings, poles, random people) from your picture.

2) Crop it to make it smaller or to make it a rectangle/square.

3) Increase saturation for colours (careful, don't overdo it)

These are just a small sample of things you can do!

For your mobile phone, you can use one of the free Photoshop Apps. But nowadays you can move photos to your computer very easily. There are many different editors you can choose from, but some of them are very expensive,like Photoshop. That means that it's way better if you want to create a nice photo, to do it while your capturing the photo.


Know your basic composition rules

Now this tip is more so not improving the camera itself, but improving your skill with it. The rules of composition are general rules that apply to photos that generally make them better. Creating a memorable photo is more about your skill, then the camera you take it with.

A few rules are:

1) The rule of thirds (imagining there are lines every third of your photo, some cameras have a grid for this in the settings)

2) Leading lines. A bit harder to pull off, but essentially you use existing lines in the photo to lead whoever is looking at your photo's eyes towards the main focus point, or through the whole photo.

3) Background. Basic, but important. Sometimes you want to make sure that there is nothing in the background to distract from your subject, but also sometimes you need the background to make your awesome photo.

Click here for more of the most important composition rules

What's Noise?

You keep reading about noise. You may wonder what noise actually is. It is basically digital grain that makes your photos look bad.

Basic Photography Settings

You should know the terms people use to describe certain aspects of the camera settings. Most cell phones don't allow you to adjust all of these settings, but you should know them regardless.

My camera setting descriptions are summarized, not a full paragraph on a simple thing!

These are the basic settings:

ISO: Sensitivity to light on your camera. Higher ISO= Brighter and more noise. Lower ISO= Darker, but less noise.

Aperture: Affects FOV. Lower aperture, bigger hole for light to enter, background blurred while the foreground is in focus. Higher aperture, smaller hole for light to enter, everything in focus.

White Balance: A setting that adjusts the colour temperature. Makes it so that there isn't too much of any colour.

Shutter Speed: The amount of time the camera collects light. Faster shutter speed=less light, but stops action. Slower shutter speed=more light, blurs action. Shutter speed is related to ISO because faster shutter speed, higher ISO. Lower shutter speed, lower ISO.

Camera Settings!


Cell Phone cameras have come a long way since they captured super bad quality photos. They even surprise me sometimes. With some skill, you'll be able to capture images rivalling ones shot with Point and Shoots or even DSLRs!

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