How to Take Amazing Smartphone Photos

How to Take Amazing Smartphone Photos

Every day we open up Instagram and find ourselves staring at beautiful photography. Some of you may have noticed a disclaimer in the bio sections of the top content curators on the platform. “iPhone only”. These two words are very powerful to the top performers on Instagram, specifically those who are in real life professional photographers. For anyone not considered “professional” it is indicative of your secret talent, a talent coveted by many. What might you ask is that talent? Well taking beautiful photographs using only your smartphone of course. (Before we continue with this post we would like to reveal that we are in no way, shape or form professional photographers. We’ve had zero training and are completely self-taught via trial and error.) DSLR cameras are expensive and a bit overwhelming for a novice photog. Your cell phone is a gadget that you use every day and rarely leave home without, making it a wonderful tool to learn the ropes with.

So how are people achieving professional looking photos with such a simple device? We’re going to break it down.

What you’ll need: Smart Phone, VSCO app, Manual app, Selfie Stick (not for selfies)

The Basics: There are some basics you will want to make habit before you start beefing up your photo skills. First make sure your grids are turned to “on” in your camera app. On an iPhone simply launch the settings app from the home screen of your iPhone or iPad. Tap on photos and camera and tap the switch next to grid to turn it on. You will use this tool when setting up your shot. Second spend some time brushing up on the “rule of thirds”. The rule of thirds is perhaps the most well-known ‘rule’ of photographic composition. This article from Digital Photography School does a great job breaking it down. Finally be mindful. We are obsessed with lines, yes lines. Making sure all of our horizons are as straight as possible and never slanted has become a borderline obsession. Don’t just focus on your background, pay attention to your foreground and mid-ground as well. All three should be straight! When all three are straight the eye automatically perceives perfection and makes your photo that much better.

The Secret Sauce (What app is the best app?): Ok so you have your basics down. Now what? There are literally thousands of photo editing apps out on the market these days. This makes choosing the right one pretty overwhelming. While Instagram has recently upped its photo editing options within the platform we still find ourselves needing something with a bit more power. Trust us when we say that we’ve used and tried almost every photo editing app out there. None have come close to beating VSCO. The app is free and comes with complimentary filters. Aside from being extremely intuitive, the user is able to purchase additional filters at a very low cost. On the back end the actual photo editing tools are extremely powerful, allowing you to adjust exposure, composition, grain, saturation and so much more. Honestly all of those words used to give us huge knots in our stomach but after playing within the app a few times we quickly learned what they meant and how they altered our original photo. We could go on and on about this app and why we love it so much. If you download only one app make sure it’s this one.

Step it Up a Notch: Some additional tools we’ve added to our arsenal are the app Manual and a Selfie Stick.  

Ok so let’s start with the selfie stick. No we are not using it to take awesome photos of ourselves at The Bean. We are actually using it when trying to up our angle game. There are times when a subject is just out of reach and we know the shot would be that much better if we were closer. A selfie stick allows you to obtain shots that you normally wouldn’t have access to unless you were using your zoom (which we all know dilutes your image). It also allows for more creative compositions bending in way the human arm can’t.

Finally, the Manual app basically turns the camera on your phone into a mini DSLR camera. This powerful app gives you full control over your image. Manual is super easy to use and allows you to adjust shutter, ISO, white balance, focus, and exposure compensation. In a single tap you can also view aperture settings, making Manual a straight-forward and user friendly photography tool. It’s only $1.99 so it won’t break the bank. Check out this article from iMore that breaks down all the best manual camera app available in the app store.


Summing it up: All in all smartphones have made discovering and learning photography much simpler. We don’t in any way consider ourselves pros but if we can use the tools the actual pros are using we’ll be that much closer. Hopefully this post was helpful in getting you started. Feel free to comment with any questions and we’ll make sure to get back to you!

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