5 Easy Tips to Improve your Mobile Photography

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5 Easy Tips to Improve your Mobile Photography

Improve your Mobile Photography

Improve your Mobile Photography


You don’t have to have a huge DSLR camera to get good images. True, your mobile phone is not a replacement for a good quality DSLR, but if you don’t have one, or want to shoot less conspicuously, it is a good alternative. Your phone may be in many respects, as good as, or better than, a point and shoot digital camera.


There are a few benefits to shooting with your phone besides its being small and light. The main one being the easy access that your mobile photos have to the internet and social media platforms. I’ve only been on Instagram for about a year, but it’s really the only social media network that I enjoy using. In addition to Instagram, shooting with your phone gives you instant access to posting your photos to Facebook, Google +, Twitter, and many others. If you have it configured properly, your phone can also back up your images immediately to an online storage site.

I’ve included this set of photos of a recent walk through a stilt fishing village built over the water the near my apartment in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. All photos were shot with my Nexus 5 phone and edited with Snapseed.

5 Tips to Improve your Mobile Photography

Just because you don’t have a fancy DSLR, you don’t have a reason to slack on your photography. Even if you’re an amateur, that’s no excuse for posting bad photos on Facebook! Remember, the best images come from individuals that know and use their device well, so learn how your phone camera operates. For more tips, follow these basic guidelines.

5) Know your Phone

It’s the photographer, not the camera that creates the image. As I said, don’t underestimate the importance of understanding how your phone’s camera works. The best photographers are the ones who know how to operate their camera to the best of its ability, not always the ones with the best artistic skill. Understand what all the features do, and the proper situation to use each. Also know that it’s better to crop an image in post processing than it is to zoom while shooting.

4) Compose Thoughtfully

Composition is arguably the most important element of photography and one we should always strive to improve. It’s the main thing you’ve got to be thinking about when you hold your camera up to a scene. Good composure is second nature to great photographers, so it may not even be something they think about. For us mortals, it should be something we focus more attention to. Is your subject interesting? Does it tell the observer something? Is your frame filled up? Have you given thought to the leading lines around the photograph? Is there an eye grabbing subject in the foreground? Is your background compelling?

3) Shoot at the Right Time of Day

Shooting at the right time of day can make a world of difference. Go out specifically at what photographers call the blue hour. This is time period before and after sunrise and sunset. Just after sunrise and before sunset you will have outstanding soft light to work with. This will improve the color and mood of your images. Shooting directly at the sun can be fun, but make sure you don’t miss the wonderful illumination in the opposite direction. Be patient. Just after sunset, you’re likely to get even deeper, more dramatic colors in the sky and clouds.

2) Shoot Someplace Interesting

This is the most obvious thing for me. I always want to be interesting. If someone is going to take their time to look at my work, I want them to gain something from that time spent. I want my images to be as compelling as possible. For my purposes in photography, I want to share a culture or what makes an individual place special. If you think your location is ordinary, try to change your perspective and see what makes that place interesting. Capture it in a way that makes it interesting for others.

1) Edit Your Photos!

Don’t overlook this relatively simple process. It is a necessary component of photography of all types: digital and analogue, DSLR and phone camera. I use the app from Snapseed to edit my photos right on my phone. Pixlr Express is another popular mobile photography editing app. Simply adjusting the brightness, ambiance, contrast, saturation, shadows, and warmth can make a huge difference in the mood and impact of your image.

But what about your phone quality?

Have a crap phone? Don’t worry about it! We all can’t have IPhones. Do the best with what you have. For the better part of 2013, I used an entry-level Samsung smart phone with a terrible camera. I still managed to get these images from Myanmar: Myanmar via Instagram  Don’t underestimate the power of good composition or powerful subjects!


Are you on Instagram? Leave your username in the questions along with any thoughts or questions you have about mobile photography.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Juno says:

    Great tip! I used my 3-year old iPhone3G for a long time, during most of my travels in fact, and managed to get interesting shots. Now I’m much happier with iPhone5’s camera.


  2. Maria Falvey says:

    The crop tool as opposed to using zoom – great tip. I don’t own a camera outside of my phone and find that it’s limited for long distance shots but otherwise a wonderful tool and the large android screen is priceless.

  3. rebecca says:

    great tips and fantastic photos

  4. ashylnmolly says:

    Really awesome tips, The pictures are amazing.

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