13 Easy Ways to Take Better Photos with Your Phone

Jessica Peterson

You don’t need a DSLR to take great travel photos, portraits, or everyday snaps. Apply these easy ways to take better photos with the camera you carry with you everywhere — your phone!

All photos below were taken on my iPhone 4s. You may recognize them from my Instagram feed.

Don’t Use Filters on Food

Ann-Arbor-stuffed-peppers-V

It looks fake. We all know what color apples are supposed to be. Don’t turn them blue.

Turn Architecture Black and White

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If you like the composition of your picture, but the lighting is bad, turn it black and white or apply a cool filter. Architecture and strong shapes stand out even more in monochrome.

Apply the Rule of Thirds

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Divide your frame in to three sections and put your subject in the far left or far right section. Now you’re shooting like a pro!

Find Symmetry

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This is the opposite of the Rule of Thirds. Instead find subjects that are perfectly symmetrical, then aim at the middle. The human eye can detect even a millimeter of deviation from center, so hold your phone steady and pay attention to the edges of your frame to be sure your subject is centered.

Find Reflections

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This is another easy way to create symmetry in a composition. Giving the subject and the reflection half of the frame each makes for an engaging photo.

Add Whitespace

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Whitespace is the negative or empty space in a composition. As well as being visually arresting, it makes your subject stand out even more. Apply the Rule of Thirds with whitespace and voila! gorgeous images every time.

Look for Repetition

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Another photographer’s tip is to find a subject with repeating objects of three or more. The more you do this, the more your eye will be trained to look for repetition every time you take a picture.

Use Blur to Create Depth of Field

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What phone cameras lack, filters make up for. Use the “Tilt Shift” filter in Instagram to blur everything but your subject. This makes it look like you shot with a DSLR!

Create a Sense of Place

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Put your viewer in your shoes to make them feel like they’re where you are (or make them want to go there). This requires you have a foreground object like your cappuccino, your hand, or your feet propped up on a chair. You can focus on either the foreground or the background.

>> READ NEXT:  Behind the Scenes of My Documentary Film

Rotate Your Phone

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Easy, right? Turn your phone 30 degrees or so to add interest to your photo (or just rotate in Instagram). This takes your photo from ordinary to interesting in no time.

Play with Light

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When the sun is low in the sky or peeking between palm trees, I like to take full advantage of sunbeams and add them to my composition. My iPhone seems to magnify the intensity of sun beams even more than my DSLR. Just don’t stare too long!

Create Thoughtful Collages

PI-thai-food-collage

Choose three to four simple and sharp images with similar color and create a collage in Pic Stitch. Apply an Instagram filter to give the entire image a continuous look and feel.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

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Less is more when it comes to photography. I admit I am often the biggest offender at this, but at least try to vary your photos — some detailed, some simple. When framing up a composition, ask yourself what the subject is? If you can’t tell, zoom in or crop out unnecessary details. Pay attention to the photographs that you’re most drawn to. You’ll likely find they are instantly impacting because the subject is clearly presented without clutter.

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I’d love to hear from you. Share your tips below!

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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11 Comments

  1. Marie King
    October 20, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Great tips! I’ll have to keep these in mind!

    http://www.marieaway.com

  2. Vicky
    October 21, 2014 at 3:15 am

    I love iPhoneography! Great tips!!

  3. Natalie Horner
    Natalie HornerReply
    October 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks for following our new blog! Love this post – really helpful x
    http://www.lifesmantelpiece.com

  4. Carolann
    CarolannReply
    October 31, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Hi there! Thanks for following me! I love your blog! I am a new blogger and I often find myself torn between carrying around my big camera and settling for phone pictures. These tips are great – hopefully I can use some of them to take some better pictures! Have you ever tried VSCOcam? I just started playing around with it and really like their filters.

    thetwoyearhoneymoon.com

    • Global Girl Travels
      October 31, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      I need to spend more time with VSCOCAM. I didn’t find it easy to use in the first 30 seconds, so I quickly abandoned it. I kind of don’t mind Instagram’s new tools though…

  5. E Catherine
    E CatherineReply
    November 4, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I’ve heard the Rule of Thirds so many times before but I can’t get the hang of it at all. Is it possible to do with most photo’s or is it only really effective when you’ve got on solid subject and whitespace as the rest?

    – E

    • Global Girl Travels
      November 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

      You can apply the Rule of Thirds in most any composition, but it makes for the most contrast when there is whitespace in the frame.

  6. Wayne Seto
    May 30, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Great post. I ditched my DSJR and point and shoot in favour of my smartphone to travel lighter. Great tips. Thanks!

    http://www.taowestventures.com

    • Global Girl Travels
      May 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks, Wayne. Oh man, I still can let go of my Canon, but the iPhone 6 Plus does a decent job.

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