8 Tips For Better Pics With Your Mobile Phone

By Haje Jan Kamps on at

Forgive me for stating the obvious: You get much better photos with a camera than without one. So, whilst I would much rather always take photos with an SLR body with a sharp Prime lens, the truth of the matter is that you'll sometimes come across moments where you're just busting to take a photo -- and you may not have a 'real' camera handy.

If you're a geek (and, well, you're reading this on Gizmodo UK, so we'll take that as a badge of pride), you'll probably have a reasonably recent smartphone. Great news: the phone comes with a surprisingly capable camera built-in.

It's not without limitations, of course, but here are eight tips to get the most out of your mobile phone snaps...

Cat photo: Taken with a Nokia N8 mobile phone. Get in close to get the best-looking portraits!

1.) Clean your lens: Mobile phones are usually subjected to all sorts of abuse. Mine lives in my hand and my pocket; neither of which are the greatest environment for a clean lens. Fingerprints, grease, or pocket fluff are the #1 reason for rubbish smart-phone photos, so check it, and clean it before shooting.

2.) Shine a light: Modern mobile phones often come with impressive ISO ranges so you can take photos even in low light; but that doesn't mean you should. The small sensor size introduces a lot of noise, which isn't very nice, and certainly isn't conducive to awesome snaps. Turn up the lights in the room, or go outside in daylight for the best photos.

A tasty 21-year-old: you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a studio shot, but it ain't: A desk lamp pointing at the background, and the light from an iPad (!) is bathing the bottle in beautiful, soft light. Not bad for a mobile phone snapshot, eh? Taken with an iPhone 4.

3.) Rez it up: If your camera has several settings, use 'em! As a general rule, the higher the resolution of your mobile camera, the clearer your photographs will be. Bear in mind, though, that the higher the resolution of your photo, the larger its file size will be, so if you're emailing them, try to make them smaller before you kill your grandma's 28.8 kbit/s modem.

4.) Nix the digi-zoom: Using digital zoom to zero in on your subject is fun if you want to use your mobile phone instead of binoculars, but it isn't much good if you're wanting to take photos. For photography, keep it zoomed all the way out, and crop the images later instead.

5.) Steady now: When taking photographs, the more steady your camera is, the clearer your picture will be. Simples. If you can, lean your elbows on a sturdy surface, or place the phone against a lamp-post or similar for extra crispness.

Artistic blur: usually, you get the best photos by holding your camera still. If that isn't working, shake it like crazy to get more artistic effects, like this one! Taken with a Nokia N8

6.) Don't lose your (white) balance: If your mobile phone has the option of adjusting the camera using white balance, go ahead and experiment how the different settings impact on your photographs.

7.) Get closer. No, even closer: To avoid having to zoom in or crop your shots later, ensure that your subject fills your viewfinder.

8.) Sprinkle some editing magic. Even though your phone may have built-in editing features out of the box, consider editing them with a separate app instead. For the iPhone, my favourite editing apps are Snapseed and Photoshop Express -- try 'em out, and use the filters and editing tools to add a bit of sizzle.

A cheeky self portrait: Sure, it's grossly over-exposed, but with a bit of crazy editing, this one came out pretty cool looking, I think! Taken with an iPhone 4.

Got that? Great. Now go snap some photos you're proud of. Oh, and post links to them in the comments; I'd love to see what you guys come up with!

Photo credit: All pictures by Haje Jan Kamps. TopĀ imag: Macro taken with a Nokia N8 mobile phone.

Haje Jan Kamps is a prolific photography blogger who has written a small stack of books about photography. He also developed the recently-launched Triggertrap camera trigger and has been known to travel the world a bit. If you're of the tweeting kind, try him on @Photocritic!