How can I take professional quality pictures with my phone?

So you want to take professional quality images with your phone? Then, you have come to the right place. This blog is jam-packed with tips and tricks to create stunning photos. Here are 12 tips that will have you snapping like a pro!

No worries, you won’t need a high-end smartphone to get these results. Follow my tips, and it will take you pretty far. Don’t forget to clean your phone’s lenses and bring a wireless shutter and tripod.

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12 tips for taking professional images with your mobile phone:

  1. Learn about ISO, white balance, and shutter speed
  2. Use manual mode
  3. Take RAW images
  4. Use high-quality settings
  5. Bring a tripod and remote shutter
  6. Turn on the grid
  7. Apply the rule of thirds
  8. Think about the composition
  9. Don’t use digital zoom
  10. Don’t use the flash
  11. Don’t use photo filters
  12. Edit your images
Blue hour at the beach in New Zealand by Smartphone Photography

1 Learn about ISO, white balance, and shutter speed

Before taking professional quality images with your mobile phone, you should know a thing or two about photography. This extensive blog post can read all about ISO, white balance, and shutter speed. 

Here are the fundamentals:

  • ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. It will handle the light sensitivity of the sensor of your mobile camera. The more sensitive the sensor, the better it can ‘see’ the light. The ISO, aperture, and shutter speed form the exposure triangle. You will need a higher ISO value when it’s dark than on a bright sunny day. The values of the exposure triangle will determine how light your picture will be. You can learn all about ISO and how to choose the correct value in this blog
  • Shutter speed is the time measured in (fractions of) seconds; the camera’s shutter stays open and allows light to travel to the sensor. The more light you allow to the sensor, the brighter the image. Give it a try. You will see that even one second of exposure during the day makes for a very bright overexposed image. And a very short shutter speed of 1/12.000 will create a dark image when you are inside a house during the day. This blog will teach you all about shutter speed and how to use it.
  • White balance will change the mood of your image by adjusting the color temperature. It is measured in Kelvin. Daylight is around 5000K (Kelvin). Light sources like the sun, a light bulb, neon lights, or candlelight all affect your images. By adjusting the white balance, you can change the outcome of the color temperature. You can read all about white balance in this blog
Manual Mode Android Camera

2. Use manual mode

To change the ISO value, shutter speed, and white balance, you must choose the manual mode in the camera app. It is also called pro mode or professional mode, and you will usually find it in the settings. Most newer phones come with a manual mode; if not, you can download a third-party app like:

If your camera is camera2api ready, you can use the manual mode from the third-party camera app. You can read all about using manual features in this blog

3. Take RAW images

Another essential setting you will need to choose from in the manual (or professional) mode of your mobile camera is RAW. RAW image files are uncompressed and have all the information about the picture you took with your phone. It will allow you to change many things in post-processing. These files are significantly bigger than JPG files, so a smartphone with expandable storage or a large internal memory is advisable. 

You will get high-quality image files with an extensive dynamic range, better brightness levels, and more color options. When editing, you can adjust almost anything to your liking. You can read all about taking RAW images in this blog. And here, you will find an easy guide on taking and editing RAW photos with your phone. 

4. Use high-quality settings

Choose high-quality settings for your image size. My smartphones have a standard aspect ratio of 3:4 and the largest picture size possible. This usually is the best option for all camera phones. Just check the settings of your mobile camera in the native camera app on your smartphone.

Smartphone on Tripod

5. Bring a tripod and remote shutter

A tripod and remote shutter will help you create super-sharp images. Handheld photos with a phone tend to get blurry pretty quickly. You can choose a lightweight mini tripod or go for a professional tripod I like to use. A remote shutter ensures you won’t have to touch the shutter release button on your phone’s screen. You can find my favorite tripods here and my go-to remote shutter here

➽ You can use any tripod with your phone with a universal mount. You can read all about it in this blog post

Moment Pro Camer App Shutter Speed

6. Turn on the grid

Turning on the grid lines in your native camera app will help you take more professional quality pictures. For example, applying the rule of thirds (see next paragraph) and keeping a straight horizon is easier with a couple of lines to guide you.

What is the use of grid lines in mobile cameras?

One of the most powerful techniques to enhance your photography skills is to apply the rule of thirds. To do so aesthetically pleasing, you should use the grid lines in your camera app. You can turn these guiding lines on in the settings of your native camera application. These four lines create nine equally large rectangles and four intersections. In the next paragraph, I will explain how to use the grid. 

Rule of thirds Macro Photography

7. Apply the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds started to appear at the end of the 1800s. In his book Remarks of Rural Scenery, artist John Thomas Smith explains that you must divide an image into nine equal spaces with two vertical and two horizontal lines. The idea was (and still is) to place the most important subject of your scene at one of the intersections. Several studies have shown that people’s eyes are drawn to one of the intersecting points in a picture. It happens naturally.

Nevertheless, many stunning images don’t use the rule of thirds. But it is an excellent way to start taking more professional-looking photos. 

You can learn more about the rule of thirds and how to apply it in my blog about becoming a better smartphone photographer. 

8. Think about the composition

Besides the rule of thirds, you can follow many other compositional tips to improve your smartphone photography. For example, you can use leading lines to direct the viewer’s attention to a specific part of the photograph. Or you can try symmetry for a powerful effect. A shallow depth of field is an excellent way to create a particular atmosphere in your pictures. Try to get on your knees or a ladder while creating a different kind of image, or use a frame within a frame. You can find these tips and more in this blog. I will explain all compositional possibilities and have photos to demonstrate how it works.

Other tips for creating an excellent composition are removing distracting objects, cleaning the scene, paying attention to lighting (using natural light mostly), benefiting from negative space, finding different perspectives, and getting creative with reflections in mirrors, pools, and rain pools.

9. Don’t use digital zoom

Although some smartphone cameras come with optical zoom, most use digital zoom to get you closer to your subject. This is nothing more than a crop from the original view. It does not help the quality of your pictures. It is easiest to remember to walk, drive, or float closer to the subject you want to capture. Cropping the image can be done later in post-processing. 

10. Don’t use the flash

It might sound normal to use flash in a low-light situation, but I recommend not using it. The light intensity of a smartphone flash is nothing compared to the flashes of DSLR cameras. Instead, use daylight or present lights like the moon, street lights, billboards, or candles. You can create fantastic moody scenes with these kinds of lighting. 

Moment Lens and Case by Jakob Owens
Moment lenses from the Moment Store

11. Use add-on lenses from Moment

It might seem redundant to use an add-on lens when your smartphone has three. But these top-notch lenses from Moment will improve your photographs. You can buy wide-angle, macro, anamorphic, telephoto, and fisheye lenses from their store. This article shows you how to use them to your advantage. 

➽ I have put together an ultimate Moment Gear Guide for Smartphone Photographers to guide you through all possibilities. 

12. Edit your images

Editing your smartphone images can result in stunning creations. However, if you have never edited a picture, I recommend Snapseed. This is a free editing app for iOS and Android. Together, you can get started. The app is easy to learn and very user-friendly. 

Other quality apps are Lightroom for Mobile, Photoshop, and VSCO. You will find them in the Apple store for Apple phones and the Play store for Android phones. More on Lightroom, Snapseed, and VSCO on this page

➽ If you like to know how you can create the famous orange and teal effect? You can find a step-by-step guide in this blog

Sunrise New Zealand East Coast
Sunrise in New Zealand by Smartphone Photography

Do smartphones take high-resolution photos?

Smartphones take high-quality images these days. A mobile camera with a large sensor, sound processor, enough pixels, decent storage, optical zoom, image stabilization, and one or more lenses (including a wide-angle lens and possibly a depth sensor) will do the job. 

Other things to consider are battery life, display quality, water resistance, and storage. Finding the perfect mobile for smartphone photography might sound like a difficult job, but it is actually pretty easy with our downloadable buyers’ guide. You can find it for free in this blog. And no worries, you won’t need to spend thousands of dollars to create professional images with a phone. 

Fog lifting by stream by Studio Pico
Sunrise in the Netherlands by Smartphone Photography

A library full of interesting blogs about Smartphone Photography

There is tons of information about Smartphone Photography on this website. Start browsing, use the search button, or find something of your liking in this list:

How do you use Moment lenses on your phone?
How to reduce noise in a smartphone camera?
How to tilt-shift with your phone
How do I use portrait mode on my phone
How to take stunning sunrise and sunset images
How to photograph the milky way with a phone
How to take good pictures of yourself
How do I take creative Christmas pictures with my phone?
My smartphone camera is not working. A clear list of solutions

I hope you will enjoy your journey of becoming a smartphone photographer. 

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