5 steps to take better pictures with your phone

Today I will give you several simple advices on how to produce better photos using your phone only. I am going to give you names of editing apps I’m using and which I think, are one of the best out there (would love to hear more names if you’re using anything else and can recommend it), and will try to give you some ideas about how to take your phone pictures to another level. After reading this post, I hope you will be able to improve your phone photography for whatever purposes you’re using it right now.

For years, I’d dragged my DSLR with me, wherever I went. Shooting ladybugs, sunsets, or my kids and then posting it to any social media was a time consuming process. And I couldn’t do it till I got home, threw it on my computer, edited it. Sometimes it took me up to a week (from the time the photos were taken) to post them online or share with my family overseas. When I got my first iPhone I was as happy as a little kid who got the dream toy.

From that day taking photos of random things, of my entire life and the way I see it has gotten so much easier!

The same day I created Instagram account and started trashing my Facebook friends feed with all kinds of pictures on daily basics, and in real time of the event happening. The coolest thing ever. 😉

I was using Instagram filters on every single picture because I though they are cool and make my photos more artistic, but that didn’t last long, as very quickly I’d realized they are not so cool, and they don’t add any artistic value to my photos 😉 Simple.

So I invested some time into researching good editing apps. The few I’ve found have given me some great tools to boost my creativity.

Having a good phone doesn’t mean that you will be able to take good photos; Like owning a DSLR doesn’t make you a professional photographer. The whole process needs a little more than that. So if you want to get more likes and comments on your Facebook photos or more followers on Instagram, or simply get better photos for your scrapbooking projects, try to implement those easy steps.

Step 1. Know your phone’s camera abilities and options ( AND GIVE THEM A TRY. NOT ONCE OR TWICE, BUT UNTIL YOU GET IT)

For example, for a long time I’d known I had the option to take panoramic photos. I tried it once, and it didn’t work well for me. So I simply didn’t give this option a second chance and did not use it for almost a year, until very recently, when I joined my husband on an ant hunting field trip, and sometime in the middle of it I got soooo bored I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I started taking panoramic photos. AND I LOVED IT!!! This option is so cool, and it can add such an interesting twist to your photos!

I don’t have the option but on most of the newest updates and phone models you can make time laps videos (check some great examples here). If you have it you should definitely check it out.

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As we know, to post to Instagram you need square photos, or additional software that will fit your not square photos into a square without loosing any details from the original photo. Check out my Instagram to see what I’m talking about.

Also remember that there is an option to shot landscape/portrait or square photos on your phone. If you want to post photos straight to Instagram then you have the option to shoot square photos and don’t have to deal with having to adjust the photo in Instagram. I used to do that for a long time. I simply was taking a square photos, and it made my Instagramming experience more pleasurable, faster and less frustrating.

Another very handy thing is to know that by tapping the screen with your finger during taking photos will automatically adjust the brightness of the photo to the object you’re tapping into. Here are examples:

I tapped on the sky to my daughter’s left, and the camera automatically made the picture dark, adjusting the exposure so the sky is nice and visible.

how to improve your phone photos

The next photo was taken within the same minute, in the same spot, I just tapped on one of my kids. Both photos are not edited in any other way. They are straight from my phone.

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The first method, tapping on a sky or on any very bright space in the picture allows you to take silhouettes. It’s a good trick to know.

Step 2. Invest (time and few cents), into good editing apps

Simply forget about Instagram filters or any filters in that matter. Try to implement your own style into each photo you take by editing them yourself, the way you want them to look. Take control over the entire creating process. Sometimes it takes some time to figure it out, but all the photo editing apps are super easy and intuitive to use. Most editing apps come with basic filters (you can always purchase more), and those filters are better from what Instagram offers, but still try to use the manual editing options: brightness, contrast, temperature, sharpness, etc.

After more then a year of using free editing apps and constantly changing them because they didn’t have what I really needed, I finally found what I was looking for:

1. Afterlight – this is the main app I use for all my photos. I got it for $0.99 and it came with a set of frames, basic textures and filters. You can get more options within each set but I really don’t recommend buying more filters. The textures are pretty handy and the frames can add an extra twist to your photos, as well as one of the frames automatically adjust your landscape/portrait/panoramic photo so it fits into a square without having to crop it.

Since I started using Instagram I never really liked the square thing. I tried several apps that would help me to fit my original photo size (or close to the original, as all my photos are cropped to 7×5), into a square. Many of them while having this feature didn’t have all the other options the Afterlight has, and I had to use up to 4 apps to get the final result. How frustrating. Now I use 1 and I’m done 🙂

Here is a screen shot of my Instagram feed in which I use this option on almost every single photo I post.

Instagram Feed

2. Studio Design – this app will take your photos to a different level. It will let you create beautiful designs using your photos and mixing them with interesting and easy to use graphics. You can create something from scratch or simply use templates based on the topics like: #nature, #quotes, #selfie, #summer, #outdoors, and more. You can change the font, you can change the font color or opacity. You can adjust it’s size, add interesting lines, frames, shapes, text… You set your own limits with this app.

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take better photos with phone

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pictures created with studio design

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3. Snapseed – I have it. I rarely use it. I use it so-not-often that when recently asked by a friend who is a photographer herself, if I’ve ever used snapseed, I answered: I have no idea what that is… Funny, HAHA. So, yes, it is a great app that has most of the things Afterlight has. It has more, or I should say different kind/style of textures, and some different editing options. It is not as intuitive to use as the other app, though, and that makes it not as attractive, but it’s free 🙂

Step 3. Learn basic editing (and stop using filters)

Yes, editing phone photos is easy, and it doesn’t require very complicated softwares, years of practicing and learning new techniques, or any complicated knowledge about composition and light. Of course it helps to know something, but in the age of digital photos it’s not a big deal if we take hundreds of photos that suck just to get the one worth sharing. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you can do it anywhere and at anytime.

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how to take better photos with your phone

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Step 4. Don’t stop with the first (and only), picture you take

I am never happy with my first picture I take. I snap one, then I look at it, and then think of a different picture of the same thing, just from a different perspective, using the light in a different way, moving the object in a different position, etc. Try to do the same. Don’t just snap and walk away. Don’t just take blurry photos of your kids and then be unhappy that nobody follows you on Instagram or like your picture on Facebook. Don’t say, you can’t do it or don’t know how to do it, because now you know, so get out there and put all the things you’ve read here into practice.

This is an excellent example of how many photos I took of this ladybug just to post one single photo on Instagram and Facebook. And this is just a very small example of how many pictures I took of her.

how to improve your phone pictures

This is the one I decided to go with:

photo 1


Flash does bad things to your photos. Forget about it. Turn it off. Turn it off!!! Act like it doesn’t exist. Remember about tapping the screen on your phone in order to adjust the brightness? Well, this simply can do the trick in low light situations. Flash will take the depth from your photo. Turn your low light photos into black and white. They will be beautiful and artistic.

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photos created with Studio_1

Now go out there and try it yourself!



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Ewa, your Family Photographer

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5 Responses

  1. Thanks! You are using a totally different set of apps than me and I am curious to try yours (need a boring ant hunting trip to figure things out 🙂 )
    Snapseed is a very powerful editor, especially with the recent update which introduces even more precise image manipulation. The other thing is how efficient it is on a smallish iPhone screens… I haven’t used Afterglow and can’t compare those two, but Snapseed is a great app worth of spending some time figuring it out. As for how intuitive it is – well, each of us has its own intuition, but besides that, Sanpseed gears towards a more serious user who would use it with more of intention than intuition. 🙂

  2. Iryna, I totally agree with the “intentional” editing versus “intuitional”. I got snapseed precisely for that purpose because there were some options like “selective adjust” that I wanted to have! this option is not really useful for someone who want to do just basic editing. The Afterlight also has an option to layer two pictures together and I think this is a great option to have. I think, Afterlight is more universal then Snapseed and give broader options in editing within only one app. And yes, I saw the option of making basic editing in Instagram itself but haven’t tried, and probably won’t 😉

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