Smartphone Photography 101: Tips & Tricks for Beginners & The Best Apps to Use

Smartphone Photography Tips & Tricks for Beginners

Not too long ago, if you wanted professional quality photographs you would need to purchase an expensive camera and accessories. To learn how to utilize your new, bulky camera weighing down your neck on its neck strap, you would need to take a class or read a photography book.

Lucky for us, today many smartphones are now equipped with powerful cameras that can take just as quality photos and videos as the professionals can produce. With the slim, lightweight design of smartphones, you can take your photography hobby with you anywhere without the heavy weight and bulk of older cameras. So when a stunning scene appears before you without warning, you can whip out your smartphone and capture that once in a lifetime shot almost instantly.

Not only have smartphone cameras drastically improved in the past decade, but photo editing apps with enhancement capabilities have emerged, allowing you to take your editing process on the road. Start with these photography tips and the best apps available to edit your pics.


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Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography, you wouldn’t be able to take a photo without it. Strong lighting, like on a clear, sunny day at noon, produces harsh shadows and strong contrast. A cloudy day will soften your shadows or you may barely see any at all. For example, you will often see portrait photographers using lighting equipment to create soft diffuse light that won’t create strong shadows on their subjects’ faces.

Many photographers’ favorite time of day to shoot is sunrise and sunset. At these times, the sun’s rays are low against the horizon and pass through more of the atmosphere, giving you the dazzling pink, purple, and orange colors in the sky. Remember: tapping on your phone in dark or light areas will adjust the focus and brightness of your photo.

When taking photographs indoors, keep in mind that different light bulbs will produce lighting with varying color temperature scales. This may cause your photo to appear very yellow or blue. You can always use a photo editing app later to correct your coloring issues using a white balance feature, but don’t be afraid to play with color when you’re shooting because some amazing photos can come out of it.

Close-ups and Zooming

Smartphone cameras have amazing technology that allows you to get extremely close to objects and capture obscure details that would otherwise be overlooked. Professional photographers would traditionally require a macro lens to achieve photos with magnification. You will be able to get similar results, simply by getting close to your subject and tapping to center your area of focus.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Beware of your smartphone’s zoom function. This option may seem quite tempting to get “closer” to an object, but generally, this function will only crop your photo. Zoom in too far and your image will become pixelated and low quality. In this instance, a traditional camera with a zoom lens is capable of taking higher quality photos from afar.

Landscapes and Framing

Composition is essential to any photo or painting. Let’s discuss the law of thirds. In professional photography, a canvas is divided into 9 equal parts. Using these invisible guidelines to place horizon lines and vertical subjects creates a more appealing visual. For example, when you place the horizon line in the center of your photo, the onlookers eye isn’t sure whether to view the top or bottom first. Moving the horizon line to either the top third or bottom third creates a focal point for the viewer’s eye to start at.

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You can also use objects in your scene to create framing in your photo. Placing a tree or edge of a building on one side of your photo can help create the intended focal point. Photographing a scene just outside of a window frame, doorway, or small opening can make a shot more interesting.


Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Creating depth isn’t always easy, but it can bring an otherwise flat photo to life. There are multiple ways to bring depth into your shots. You can try changing your standard viewpoints, like getting low to the ground or shooting from a high viewpoint. Use objects in your foreground to give a sense of how far away and epic your background scapes are. Another option would be to utilize a blurring brush in a photo editing app to blur out your background and bring the subject to the forefront.

Related article: Free Stock Photo Sites For Designers


Photo Editing Apps

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

What comes next? Photo editing, of course. There are many tools out there, from free online editors to free photo editing apps available designed specifically for your iOS and Android smartphone. Here are some of the best that we’d recommend downloading now:


PhotoDirector is a free photo editing and adjustment app. This app includes many of the standard photo editing options you want, like straightening, cropping, tone adjustment and a wide selection of filters to bump up your snapshot. It also includes some great features like “content aware removal”, which lets you easily get rid of a photobomber in the background or telephone wires overhead without changing the dynamic of your shot. You can even use a “skin smoother” tool to smooth out skin flaws in a portrait.


Snapseed is a free photo editing app designed by Google. It features an array of 29 detailed editing options including RAW editing, color and white balance, contrast, vignettes and filters, healing brush, mark ups and tuning. You can easily undo and redo your edits. The app also offers you optional insights and tips to better use the app and advance your photography skills.

Adobe Photoshop Express 

Adobe Photoshop has been an industry standard for decades. The free Adobe Photoshop Express app brings some of their editing options straight to your phone. While not as powerful as the software for your computer, users can still make fine-tuned image adjustments, add filters and frames, straighten and crop images, add text, create collages, and apply blur.


VSCO is another free app for iOS and Android phones. Like Snapseed, they also offer many tips, tricks, and tutorials to improve your photography game. VSCO provides basic to advanced editing tools and will give you access over 170 presets in their library. Some of these must be purchased through the app. You can also join their community, post content and view work made by other creatives around the world.


Stay Charged

Whether you’re out in the field using your phone’s camera or editing image, you may find this will drain your battery quicker than everyday use. It’s never a bad idea to carry a portable battery charger to keep your phone alive all day long, so you don’t miss out on that special shot or lose any work you’ve done editing!


3 thoughts on “Smartphone Photography 101: Tips & Tricks for Beginners & The Best Apps to Use

  1. Easy as Joey – all done with an iPhone and usually one take if I leave my bumbling and
    mistakes in.

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