Tips for Taking Better Smartphone Pictures

By practicing a few tips, you can achieve excellent photo results with a smartphone camera.By practicing a few tips, you can achieve excellent photo results with a smartphone camera.

By: Matt Howell & Amy Leffingwell—

Your friends are posting fabulous pictures on social media, but how are they getting them? Maybe some of these pics were taken with fancy equipment, but if you know what you’re doing, you can get some high-quality results from the default camera app on your iPhone or Android device. Here are a few tips to maximize your skills and take better pictures.

Find a steady support.

For good photos, a steady hand is crucial. Be sure to use BOTH hands to steady the shot. You can buy mobile tripods if you want to get the best results, but it’s just another thing to carry around. Try using a table, a fencepost or anything else that’s grounded to steady your phone. The self-timer is also helpful. Leave your phone up on a shelf or a mantle so you don’t have to stand behind it.

Change the focus.

Whether you use an iPhone or an Android device, you can tap the screen anywhere to change the focus of the shot. This will also change the exposure level to match the spot you’ve selected, so it’s a handy way of making sure the lighting won’t be too dim or bright.

Use the shutter button.

Trying to hold your phone in place and then tap a shutter button in the middle of the screen can be tricky, and that shaky hand movement can result in a blurry photo. Instead, try using either of the physical volume buttons to snap your picture.

Take photos in bursts.

We’re not all one-take wonders, so why would we expect a perfect shot when we only take one? Better your odds by using the built-in burst mode. Take several photos at once and then choose the best one later. Don’t forget to delete the less desirable ones since photos eat up a lot of space on your phone.

Keep your lens clean.

This is a no brainer – if there are specs of dust or dirt on your lens you definitely won’t get a good shot. You don’t need anything special to clean it – a lint-free cloth, a cotton swab and distilled water, or really using anything but a body part should do the trick. Sometimes people think they need to purchase a brand new phone because their pictures don’t look as good as they used to. In many cases, it’s just a dirty or smeared lens.

Use the Rule of Thirds.

With the rule of thirds, a great photo composition is child’s play. The rule of thirds is a simplified implementation of the golden ratio. You might be inclined to place the subject in the center of the frame. As unnatural as it may feel at first, use the rule of thirds instead. The thinking behind the rule of thirds is to break the frame into three equal sections, both horizontally and vertically. Some smartphone cameras have a setting that will place these lines there for you to see as you take the picture. The points where these lines intersect are where you should place points of interest in the frame. You’ll be amazed at the difference!

Example photo using the rule of thirds. The gridlines help with composing your photo. The grid pattern can be turned on and off on your phone.

Example photo using the rule of thirds. The gridlines help with composing your photo. The grid pattern can be turned on and off on your phone.

Photograph from above.

If you want to take selfies or portrait photos of other people, you should keep the smartphone slightly higher when you take the pictures, so that the subject looks a bit upwards when you take the photo. This avoids the annoying double-chin effect and unwanted contours. 

Get the right light.

Natural lighting will almost always produce a better shot with realistic color than a photo taken with a camera flash, especially for portrait shots. If it’s cloudy or you’re taking a shot inside, look for strong artificial lights or ways to reflect what little natural light there is. Things like a large piece of white posterboard or a sunshade for your car dashboard can help illuminate your subject.

Have fun!

Play around with different features on your phone. Try experimenting with different light sources (other than your flash which doesn’t always give you good results). Try panoramas or filters. Before you know it, your photos will be social media ready.

Finally, remember you don’t have to post every shot. If it’s blurry, don’t post it. If your subject is making an unattractive face, don’t post it. No one likes to see themselves online in an unattractive pose. Be mindful of your subject and ask yourself, “if this was a photo of me, would I want it online for all to see?”

Want to learn even more?

Sample’s of Matt’s smartphone photos are below. (He shot these using an iPhone 7.)

About Matt Howell

Matt Howell is Vice President of Farmhouse Creative, Owner of Howell’s DJ Service and is a amateur photographer. Check out his photography at

About Amy Leffingwell

Amy Leffingwell is Project Manager at Farmhouse Creative. She has worked in professional sales, media consulting and has extensive experience in creative writing and editing. She is also very involved with Muncie Civic Theatre as a performer and volunteer.