Ten Quick Tips for Phone Photos

Tue 20th, Sep, 2011

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G’day girls!

Hey, answers coming soon to yesterdays’ questions, sorry to those of you that can’t comment right now and emailed me too…I got ‘em.

I had a few about phone photography and seeing as I was down there this morning before coffee with lg snapping away with my phone, I thought I’d tell you what I do with my phone…and the journey I’ve been on taking photos with it…

from Shar Y

OMG! How I want to be there! So beautiful. Your photos are great and I know several folks have asked but how do you get such great photos out of your iphone? I have never gotten such great shots from mine. Please share!!!

from Laura via email

Hi Sarah or should I say gday, errrm I can’t comment on your blog right now but I would love to know how you get the phone pictures to look like that, I live on the coast too and often have my phone with me but my phone photos do NOT look like yours, some tips on how you do it would be AWESOME right now!!!!!!!!!



Before I got my iphone I had a Nokia phone with a pretty good camera on it…apparently…but I never really used it much because it had such a bad lag on it from clicking the shutter to the picture making it to the phone that it irritated the willies out of me…talk about a way to make you not inspired to shoot with a phone…

Since I moved into the world of Apple though, a whole new world of photography opened up to me…my photos in the beginning with it were pretty dire…now I am right in the swing of it and loving the results…

First of all the best thing about phone photos over fancy DSLR shots is quite purely and simply, ease, accessibility and weight… in my world with 3 kiddos and generally being busy a lot of the time, I don’t have time, although I must say I certainly have the inclination, to get out my big camera, start fiddling around with what lens to use, start playing around with the settings, yadda, yadda, yadda..it’s heavy and bulky and means that I have to have an ugly camera bag with me…

Phone cameras change all that…and having that little baby in my pocket has taken me on another journey with photography, one I certainly did not see coming or expect and one I am enjoying immensely…

…phone photography for me means freedom and capturing moments with my family and things about Australia that I am inspired by that otherwise I would miss…

It was tricky at first to get a good shot though…



Here’s what I have learnt over the last few months….the BC Top Ten Tips to Phone Photos ;-)



Hold the phone like you would a camera…when I first got my iphone and discovered the camera I was holding it with just one hand and almost gliding it around…now I hold the ‘camera’ in two hands and with my right hand I ‘click’ the shutter as you would a regular camera…

I also imagine my camera screen as the viewfinder on my big camera…when I first started iphoneology I was kinda holding the phone out in front of me at a ridiculous angle and doing some strange straight-armed, head back movement, robot style…now I hold the phone in front of me with both hands and ‘look’ through the screen to what I am taking a photo of as I would with the other camera rather than kinda looking past the phone…I hope that makes sense?



Don’t z0om in with the zoom on the camera, zoom in with your feet – if you want to take something close up actually walk up to it, get close and click…my iphone loses heaps of quality even with a tiny bit of zooming and it becomes really grainy and pizelated….so I never move the zoom in…moving from a telephoto lens on a Canon 50D to no zoom on a phone is a big difference…and has been great for teaching me about light and my composition comfort zone has been seriously jolted…ahem, still learning here!





Shoot the same thing a few times….the great thing about digital photography is it allows for a lot of attempts and a lot of mistakes…add to that benefit, the speed and ease of a camera phone and you have the opportunity to take a few shots so one of them will be good…you can just take multiple shots of the same thing and one of them will be vastly better than the others..

…I love shooting at the beach with my phone, as you might have gathered and I will sit, with a coffee or on a walk and take a bundle of shots…upload ‘em when I get home and poof delete them right off…too easy…

..but don’t delete those shots you think are no good when you are out and about..often when you get home the things you think looked rubbish on your phone screen actually turn into interesting things on your computer monitor…the first time I got sun flare on my iphone I was on the ferry to the city and shooting like mad with my iphone…checking the images I was a bit disappointed on the quality…they looked really over-exposed, too bright and patchy…when I got them uploaded to the computer later I realised that the elusive fingers of God were all over my pictures…super happy BCer



Light…light with camera phones is important…the lower the light the more grainy and bad quality it becomes…unless you are taking photos of the sun and the sea :-) keep the light behind you and your subject well lit…

….but don’t lose those dark and night time opportunities…shoot with your phone at night and dusk and see what comes up too…I am doing this all the time lately…and learning a lot along the way…I love shooting the sky at night…results have been a real mixed bag but are inspiring me to get out there with my real camera and have a go like a big girl…






Check out the resolution and and picture quality settings…and set them on high



Keep the camera as still as you can…the jitters will make your picture grainy…look for something to lean your arm/hand/camera on…this makes a big difference to camera jitters and my phone photos…keep your hand there for a second after you ‘click’ too just to make sure, in case your phone has a big shutter lag….



Move around and get in different positions…the thing I love about my phone is that it is small and easy and you can get get down low and dirty with it or you can point it up and high really easily…you can move right on in to a shell or a flower and you can get it into awkward places and positions that a regular camera it would be more tricky with…so move it in bundles of different angles…it doesn’t cost a penny…

..and actually move the angle of the phone as you take the picture…I have experiemented with this a lot with the horizon and the sea…haven’t posted any of the images yet ‘cos it actually looks like I was drunk when I took the photos, ahem maybe there was the odd Limoncello involved in some of them actually..but the shots are really interesting in my own personal photo-taking journey






Clean the lens…duh!  I didn’t do this for ages, I don’t do it enough now still…my phone is in my bag, in my pocket, floating about in the car and ultimately has grubby little kiddo fingers all over it….cleaning it makes a difference to the resulting shot…




9.  Process!

All of my phone pictures are processed…I think that is the beauty of phonology…you have the ability to whip that baby out and capture something amazing you see, even though the quality and look might not be what you wanted…and then wham bam thank you mam, technology and a lil bit of foofing gives you a pretty nice shot…



I usually use Windows Live to tweak the contrast, light and saturation etc…it’s normally the light that makes the big difference…I turn the highlights and brightness and often exposure right up…a real photographer would probs shudder at my processing, but the look I like, and hey that’s who I’m doing this for, is overly bright photos…I also nearly always turn the temperature down…I like my photos on the err of blue….and you would never have guessed but I like ‘em pretty white too… ;-)   you can also do this with an app if you have an iphone…when I first got mine I went on a serious iphone frenzy and got a lot of phone camera apps…but really none have them have honestly floated my boat that much…nowadays I just take the photo with the regular phone camera and do the foofing later…there are a few apps for processing too..but I find it fiddly and too small to try and see what’s going on on the small screen of my phone, I much prefer getting them uploaded and doing it on the big screen…





Clutter…don’t have too much going on in your photo…one of the reasons, in my humble little opinion, some of my phone photos are still fairly good even though they are pretty grainy and not even in the same league in sharpness and quality as my DSLR camera shots is that there is not too much going on in the photos…this allows you to get away with a lot…keeping one main subject and a scene where you want all/most of it in focus are best…as you can see in the photo below, the quality is average to poor and pretty grainy…but hey I LOVE the pink sunflare, I love the clouds, I love the sea and baby I captured it…bingo…and that’s what photography is all about for me ;-)

That’s how I take photos with my iphone, hope these ten tips for phone photography might help you too…main thing though…just shoot ‘em up baby ;-)

See you tomorrow.







Beach Cottage Sweet Blogging E Course


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35 Responses to “Ten Quick Tips for Phone Photos”

  1. Melinda says:

    Sarah THANKYOU so much for taking the time with all these phone photo tips!

    I too am loving my iphone for its portability and ease and am enjoying experimenting with how best to get a good shot.

    You have given such a great summary and I’ll be thinking of you when I next whip it out. Your tip on keeping the subject simple is great and I probably need to keep that in mind a bit more – for the great shot vs a quick capturing of the moment.

    will also put a bit more effort into processing. Have been having a lot of fun with some phone apps but will try some post processing and see what turns up

    many thanks and have a great day xx

  2. lg says:

    You should set up a flicker group thingy where people can upload their iphoto attempts to share! Call it iloveiphotos.

    lg xxx

  3. Great tips, I need to try and experiment a little more with my phone camera :)

  4. Love the tips. I always used to carry a little point and shoot with me to take some impromptu photo’s but I think I am going to try my Iphone more often. I love your pics. And you have the absolute best subject at hand to photograph, what is not to love about the sea.

  5. Kira says:

    Oh, I want to paint them all! I love the light, the sea, the sky, the color of the sand… everything!

  6. Pearl Maple says:

    Great post, recently changed over to a smart phone and learing all the new tricks

  7. Heaven says:

    Sarah face it, you have a magic touch. Everything you do comes out awesome!! These pictures are stunning!


  8. Shar Y says:

    Oh, thanks for taking the time to give us this info. I cannot wait to put it to use. Awesome tips, especially keeping scene clutter free.

    Thanks so much, and I agree with the above “magic touch” comment. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it!

  9. Awesome. Just awesome. Your tip: “move your feet” alone makes a world of difference. I tend to use my i-phone for facebook since it is so easy and you’ve just helped so much.

  10. Kristen says:

    Thanks for sharing the tips! I’m re-inspired to shoot with my iPhone!

  11. Susan says:

    Great tips! I have a DSLR (a Nikon D90), but I love taking pictures with my iphone, because I have it with me everywhere; I don’t think of taking my DSLR with me everywhere. I actually just told my husband that I want a Nikon point & shoot camera, so that I can throw that in my bag, or put it in my pocket, so that I will take way more photos than I currently do. I love the DSLR, but miss the flexibility of having something with me 24/7 that will have more functionality than the iphone.

  12. Thank you for the iphone photo tips. I have been wanting a fancy and expensive Nikon camera for long time now because I thought that was the only way I would get any wonderful photographs. It is so great to see that I can use my iphone to create pictures that are just as lovely.


  13. Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much for putting this together – your photos are always so beautiful! When you mention in #5 to set resolution and and picture quality settings on high, is that an adjustment you can do on the iphone?? If so, can you specify how to get to that setting? Thanks!

    • sarah says:

      you are welcome :-)

      no it is not on the iphone, I just wrote that for other phones…to my knowledge the iphone is just as is…but other phones, .like my son’s you can change the resolution etc…

  14. Barefoot Liz says:

    I had no idea I could change the resolution and such on my phone! Going to try that and see if my pics come out better. Thanks for great tips!

  15. Barefoot Liz says:

    I forgot to ask…. Once you have the photo’s on your computer, what do you use to edit them? Do you have a Mac and just use iPhoto?

  16. Deanne says:

    I think I need to put an iphone on my wish list now!

  17. Jos says:

    So true about not holding it at arms length like some nerd. My other lah does – and it looks so dorky – drives me bananas. Holding it like a camera so much better and ohh so civilised! Love instagraming them too – hours of fun!

  18. Jos says:

    Opps meant to say half – but lah could be the word for his iphoto technique!

  19. Thanks Sarah, i love to read anything you write about photography. I know you did one before with more info on the processing side. How do I find that post? Fiona

  20. alison says:

    Thanks for the clear, grass roots, down to earth info.


  21. Tamera Beardsley says:

    Sarah, I wanted to thank you so for sharing your iphoto tips…. your photos are always so stunning….I have already implemented a few of your tips!

    Still so enjoying your Sweet Blogging e course…..your presentation of material is such a pleasure to read rather than a ‘have to get through it’ vibe…….thank you for sharing your talents!!

  22. What great tips…I need to print these out! Thanks! ♥

  23. Great pictures you made with your iPhone! I’ve been considering getting one. I think you just convinced me! THANKS Sarah!

  24. Nicola says:

    Great tips for my iphone camera, thanks! I have just found your blog, and wow, I love your cottage and all your diy stuff. I have just started doing up our little cottage in England, and am loving it, it is great to get some ideas though, I shall definitely be back!

  25. Brenda says:

    Love your website and decor. I connected to you and I’ll tweet you also.

  26. bridget says:

    I have a i phone too and my photos do NOT look like yours! (gggrrrrr)

    Then again I live 11,000 miles away from gorgeous Aussie beaches (wait til I get there in March!) ..and the light quality is so different.

    But that’s no excuse…in these tips, you’ve highlighted exactly what I’ve been doing wrong.So, thanks Sarah…I shall practice in these.dark, foggy English days – and perhaps when I get to the beaches, I’ll be able to take some beautiful photos too.

  27. Camilla says:

    A lot of good tips. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Now, to get a good camera phone and some sandy, light beaches. Here, it is all gloomy winter at the moment. :)

  28. Clare says:

    Thank you for these tips Sarah! I had no idea I cold adjust the poto quality on my iPhone……going to aves play with it now!!! :)

    • sarah says:

      my pleasure Clare – once you have a play with a few things, the processing and the taking things get dramatically better with not much effort! just how I like it lol!

  29. MDN says:

    These photos, esp. the last 2, are exquisite! Also esp. enjoyed the one earlier where Barls is focusing on the shot being taken (too cute); plus, the one from the 12/2 website of the city homes. (Latter sorta like New Orleans, but more colorful!) How joyful! Am so enjoying these pics being posted. It’s almost like being there and sharing the experiences! WOW! Truly think you should frame and display some in your abode…

    Taking photos guide/10 recs are enlightening – bring up things otherwise not considered. They must be helpful; but my 2006 Motorola phone cam isn’t nearly in league to take similar pics as the iPhone. I have one of BB King playing Lucille (from 16th row, no less) & at best, it’s only a glowing silhouette – unless one was there, the viewer can’t ID the subject. One day, hope to get an iPhone, too. (Impressive!)

    Naive ? – you mention the natural pink flares, but also processing on your computer: is the pink in the second to last pic (beach) computer enhanced…or just how pink are the skies down under? Regardless, it’s stunning. TKUVM & keepum coming, pls.