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Taking pictures with your phone, capturing images that people will appreciate and love.

Updated on September 10, 2013

First and foremost

Below are some tips and suggestions on how to effectively take stunning pictures with your cell phone by applying simple techniques that can make even the best of novice individuals out there look like a professional.

However we must not forget that capturing an image and remembering that moment in a photo is of utmost importance. So although there are many techniques that can be applied and used over time the best thing to remember is to always have fun with it and to capture the image no matter what. Don't complicate things and remember taking a picture and capturing the moment is the most important thing, you don't want to miss that moment. These techniques and suggestions are only here to help individuals improve their phonetography skills. With that said ....

Clean the lens

Most people over look this aspect when taking pictures with their cell phones but it's a process that can make the difference between a bad picture and a great picture and it's a process that I make sure I apply when taking pictures. Cell phones are repeatedly handled roughly, being tossed in our pockets, purses, dropped on the floor, and probably the biggest problem that can obstruct the lens from taking quality pictures are our fingerprints which are easily imprinted on the lens themselves when reaching for our cell phones to make that all important call. I have developed a habit of carrying a small micro fiber cloth everywhere I go just for the purpose of cleaning the phone lens, the cloth that come with eyeglasses or sunglasses when you first purchase them is great for this use specifically and does that job.

Lighting when taking pictures is important

I see it happen too often, pictures being ruined because of bad lighting. Either a lack of lighting or too much light can destroy a perfectly good picture. There are a few things to remember when taking lighting into account, 1) keep the light behind your back and take the picture while the subject is facing the light 2) Don't take a picture while lighting is behind the subject and facing you, doing so will completely distort the image. Just remembering these two tips alone can tremendously improve the image quality on your pictures.

The lighting at this park was perfect and I used a third party application to edit the image, and blurred the background a little.
The lighting at this park was perfect and I used a third party application to edit the image, and blurred the background a little. | Source

Tip: It's best to take your time when taking a picture with your cell phone, keep a steady hand any slight movement by your hand can alter or blur images.

OC Fair, I took this photo with the sun behind my back pointing towards the area of the subject in front of me providing perfect lighting. I then edited the image with a 3rd party app from my phone.
OC Fair, I took this photo with the sun behind my back pointing towards the area of the subject in front of me providing perfect lighting. I then edited the image with a 3rd party app from my phone. | Source

Tip: know when to use the built in flash, I see many people using their flash on their cell phones when it is not needed at all. Using the flash unnecessarily has a tendency to making images look unnatural offsetting such things as tone, brightness, and color.

Utilizing the features on your cell phone camera

Remember the flip phones of the old days ? well I do, I owned a few and thought to myself how cool I was to own one. Those cell phones were all equipped with a built in camera of course which I thought was awesome.

However the cell phones of old don't really compare to the newer cell phones these days. They almost sound prehistoric when comparing the old to the new. These days cell phones are equipped with built in cameras with tons and tons of features such us, the ability to capture an image while taking HD video, the ability to take HD video, ability to capture an image at a much faster rate, less shutter lag, the ability to incorporate audio into a picture, the ability to turn on the GPS feature on the phone and tag an image of it's location, face detection, better zoom capability and much more !

One feature I find useful and love using is the ability to use the horizontal and vertical grid lines on the camera, most newer phones should have them and can be easily turned on from the settings menu. The grid is used to apply the rule of 3rds, in the photography world it's critical and essential for capturing the perfect shot. Basically the rule of 3rds is a technique where the grid lines are used to frame a subject, by centering the subject of the picture along the one of the intersecting lines along the grid. Doing so will give the subject a frame around it and compositionally will look more appealing to viewers. When taking pictures of a landscape it's best to pick a subject, align it where 2 lines on the grid intersect and use the surrounding environment on the landscape to frame the subject. I strongly suggest not placing the subject in the middle of the picture for it doesn't make for an interesting looking image and compositionally it looks pretty plain and boring.

Same rule applies when taking portrait pictures, however when shooting a subject always remember the focal point will be their eyes. So always remember to place the subjects eyes along where 2 lines intersect on the grid.

The rule of 3rds is a simple and useful technique to taking a better picture but I must emphasize that it doesn't need to be applied all the time or even at all. The important thing when capturing an image is to have fun with it, be creative, and take more than one shot so that you have multiple images to choose from when you don't like one. It's hard to always remember to use and have in mind the rule of 3rds when taking pictures, especially when you get lost in the moment and there is too much excitement. However you can set your camera settings on your phone so that every time you open the camera app, the grid is automatically already on.

As you can see the subject which is the lighthouse is placed where 2 lines on the upper right corner of the grid intersects creating a natural frame utilizing the surrounding environment.
As you can see the subject which is the lighthouse is placed where 2 lines on the upper right corner of the grid intersects creating a natural frame utilizing the surrounding environment. | Source

Using 3rd party apps

The best thing about taking pictures with a cell phone is that the editing, applying filters, adding text, applying effects, all can be done straight from your phone using 3rd party apps which can be downloading from your phone's app store. With the booming cell phone market and the thriving app development business, many developers have taken advantage of the demand for popular 3rd party apps. Among the most popular are photography apps to help assist with image editing straight from your phone. I personally have many myself, using these photography apps are a lot of fun and they add a different look to original saved images. One I highly recommend is PicShop. It's an application that has editing capability, cropping , resizing, rotating, white balance, hue and it also consists of tons of filters, frames, and extras such as adding text and speech to images. I usually like to capture an image and then If I like, edit and apply whatever I need to apply on PicShop for that distinguished look.

Below is a video recommendation of some other 3rd party photography apps that I really like using when taking pictures with my cell phone.

Have fun regardless the situation !

The best pictures are often shot when one is having fun with it all, it's hold true for myself. I'm an avid hiker and mountain biker, there have been many moments where I completely forgot about applying these techniques and just went for the shot. It's during those moments when remarkable shots are produced. Lucky for us all, cell phones these days are well equipped with technological advances that allow ourselves to bring out the best photographer out in each and everyone of us. The world is a beautiful place with tons of beautiful things to see and experience so don't hesitate to shoot that next shot, try to apply these simple techniques but always remember to have fun and cherish that moment as well.

Some of the gadgets below I own personally and have used to take better pictures while enjoying the experience of using my cell phone to capture images.

Belkin Camera Stand with Remote for Apple iPhone 4s

Joby GP1-D1EN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod

XCSource Phone Camera Lens 12X + Tripod + Case for Samsung Galaxy S4 SIV GT-i9500 DC321

Snugg S Lens 3 in 1 Adaptive Photo Lens for the iPhone 5 / 5S featuring a Fish-eye, macro and super-wide option. Easy to Attach Lens


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    • Lyricalvibes profile imageAUTHOR

      Reza Vergara 

      5 years ago from Orange County, CA.

      Thanks Heather ! Yes, my son is usually my subject and I use him for practice a lot lol. I use to have a Canon 50D but I traded it in for a Sony 5nex since it was a lot smaller and more convenient for me to carry around, but I miss having a DSLR and I regret trading my 50D. I think my next camera will be a Nikon D300 for I have read good reviews about it. Your hubs are great, filled with plenty of recipes that I will try for myself and share with friends. They're coming out with new attachable lens for cell phones! I am too excited and cant wait !

    • Heather Says profile image

      Heather Rode 

      5 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona

      Nice hub. You cover a lot here! The picture of your child is a nice addition too! I do a lot of food blogging and I'm constantly using my iPhone 4S. I have a Sony DSLR too, but it's easier to just grab my phone from my back pocket as I'm baking and running around the kitchen.


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