There are a lot of simple tips that can easily make your phone photography look better. Here are four tips that can help you get better mobile phone photos.

Become a tripod for low light photos

iPhone 6 food example.
I rested my elbows on the table to take a photo of this plate of food. iPhone 6. I’m purposely mixing in examples of old phone images to show you that you don’t always need the latest, greatest phone to take decent photos.

People often take blurry photos when they move their phones. In another Mobile Mondays article, we discussed how you could gently squeeze the volume button to minimize camera movement. Better than tapping the phone and making it vibrate, right? Of course, it is!

When we’re taking photos in low light, it’s even more imperative that we keep the camera still. How can we do this? By transforming ourselves into a tripod! While holding your camera, lean against a wall. Brace your elbows on the table. You can even rest your phone on a table! Posts, walls, doorway jambs, windows …. rest the phone against these or position yourself so you minimize movement!

Photograph with your phone using HDR

iPhone HDR ghost town
HDR photo of ghost town using an iPhone SE 2020

Use your phone’s HDR mode if your scene is dark, it’s backlit, or you have some shadows across the image. It also looks great for big landscape photos. Here, you can capture a little more detail, especially in the sky. 

When you use HDR Mode, your phone takes three photos. Then it combines them instantly into one photo without you having to do anything else. This helps the phone handle a broad dynamic range, often making the resulting image look more like what you see.

Use the self-timer for sharper shots

Screenshot of timer on phone.
Most camera apps on your phone have timers. Use it to minimize the chance of blurry photos!

This technique, like using a volume button or “becoming a tripod” for low light photos, seeks to minimize shake. Using the camera’s timer can do this. In fact, this is a technique that has been used by night photographers for many years, so why not borrow from those who best know how to keep a camera from shaking?

Simply rest the camera on something. Whether leaning it against something, using a small tripod or selfie stick, or resting it facing out of a purse, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it doesn’t shift. Then set the timer in your camera app. On some, it’s the clock feature in the Camera app. You don’t need to be in the photo to use this either, although you can be! Either way, your camera will be nice and still. And unlike a DSLR, there’s no shutter opening and closing. There are no moving parts. Therefore, there’s less chance of vibrations ruining your photo!

Using Portrait Mode for people … and more!

B&W portrait selfie with iPhone SE 2020.
Not only Portrait Mode but using black and white too. Selfie, iPhone SE 2020.

Some phones, such as newer iPhones, have Portrait Mode. This blurs the background of your photos, allowing your subject to stand out. This is often done with more expensive lenses and cameras. However, many newer phones can do this with computational photography. 

Some newer phones take this a step further. This feature can be used when it’s not a person. Blurring the background can be great for other subjects as well, such as flowers and more.

Learn what options you have with your phone

I would encourage you to poke around on your camera app. Experiment with some of the other functions. I really enjoy creating time-lapse videos or slow-motion videos. You can really have quite a lot of fun — and create great images or videos — with something that is “just a phone.” Enjoy!