My Top 5 Smartphone Photography Tips

Improve Your Smartphone Photography

Almost everyone has a smartphone now. Even my 74 year old mom has a smartphone. And smartphones all have cameras in them. It’s been said over and over that the best camera you have is the one you have with you. Deep. LOL. Now not everyone carries a DSLR with them 24/7. I tried. It got in the way. So, a point and shoot is the next best thing but again, you have to have it with you. Your smartphone is the best camera you have with you all the time. But, they are know to give inconsistent results. I’m going to try to help you get better photos more consistently.

Here are my best tips. I use these every time I use my smartphone for a photo.

Tip 1: Keep your phone close to your body.

I see people taking photos with their phones and they have their arms stretched out as far as they can get them. I’m not sure why. The farther you move your arms away, the more your hands will shake and wiggle causing camera shake in your photos.

Keep your hands as close to your body as you can and still see the screen. I usually have to take my glasses off or use my reading glasses. Keep your elbows tucked into your ribs. This will help to stabilize your arms and further reduce camera shake.

Arms too far out = Camera Shake             Keep your arms and elbows tucked in.

Tip 2: Use a stabilizing object.

A good idea is to support your phone on some solid object. A bench, a tree, a car even you knee will do in a pinch. Anything that will keep you phone steady will help to reduce camera shake in your photos.


I built a little adapter for my cell phone out of a large office binder clip. I can mount it on a small tripod or a large one for that matter. It works great.

Tip 3: Use a better camera app.

Most of the factory camera apps I’ve come across are pretty good and the above tips will help you get more from them but I have found that having access to the camera’s ISO setting will allow me to get a faster shutter speed from the camera. It will introduce some noise in the image but it will be sharper. So in a pinch, that’s the route I go.

I’m currently using an android app called “A Better Camera” and it is just what the name says. A Better Camera. It is a paid app but worth every cent I paid for it.


Screen shots from A Better Camera.

Tip 4: Crop your photo don’t zoom.

Smartphones don’t have an optical zoom. No moving lens parts. All the zoom is digital. That’s going to cause a lot of noise and in my experience take all the sharpness out of the image. All the small fine details will be gone.

Cropped                                                             Digital Zoom

I didn’t crop as tight on the cropped photos but you get the point. That said, I will use the digital zoom from time to time when it’s the only way to get the shot.

Tip 5: Don’t use filters, edit instead.

Filters can be cute but everyone uses them. If you want your photos to be memorable then don’t edit them the same way as everyone else. Filters merely cover up flaws rather than addressing them. SnapSeed or Photoshop Express are your best friends. What amazing photo editors. You are able to adjust the color temperature, the exposure, the sharpness, etc etc. The list goes on. I rarely post a photo from my phone that has not been touched by Snapseed or Photoshop Express.


This is the unedited image that is at the top of this post. You probably notice it’s not as sharp and the colors don’t pop as much. Snapseed did an amazing job bringing out the best of the photo.


And here is the edited version again just for comparison.

Bonus Tip: Be aware of your camera orientation.

By this I mean landscape or portrait orientation. Landscape meaning holding your phone on it’s side and portrait meaning holding it upright. All to often I see people just snapping away in portrait orientation out of habit because that’s the way they do everything else with their phones. This will drive me nuts. Especially if you are shooting video. Please NEVER EVER shoot video in a portrait orientation. It’s very hard to watch and really makes it look like you don’t know what you are doing.

With this in mind certain subjects will lend themselves to the different orientations more naturally. A photo of a lake or a mountain or even a group of people will look much better in landscape than in portrait where as a close head and shoulders shot of someone looks best in portrait mode. When in doubt, take a shot in each of the orientations and see what works best for the subject.




This crane looks alright but it could be better.






That’s better. It’s higher than wide and so lends itself to a portrait orientation.








Well there you have it. My top 5 tips. I could go on and usually do but I wanted to just give you my best tips.


And I’d like to give a special shout out to my son Jacob for helping me with the demonstration photos. You can see his preteen style fun over at his Instagram stream.



He Just Needed A Rest – PhotoFiction

He just needed to rest. When he started out on this adventure he didn’t realize it was going to be so hard. Who knew running away would be so hard. I mean really, he thought, how hard could it be? You just take your board and whatever cash you could scrounge up and you just….leave.


He was wrong of course. He hadn’t thought about where he was going to sleep or eat or how he was going to get more money. He spent the first night hiding in a friends room. He was kind enough to bring him up a snack that night. The second night, well that was spent sleeping under the deck of a house he passed earlier that day.

For the last two nights now, he’s been sleeping in a garden shed in the huge back yard of a McMansion he spotted from under the deck on that second night. The people who live here never come outside, at least not in the back yard, and their dog is really friendly.

Today maybe he can find a shelter that will let him stay. Maybe he can find work and a place to stay before the winter cold sets in. Even now it’s getting colder. He’s scared now. He has no idea what he is supposed to do. No one ever explained to him what was expected of a runaway. On TV they always end up living on the streets or in jail. He didn’t want that. He’s really scared now. The world feels as though it’s closing in on him. So scared

Suddenly, the thought occurs to him. “I could go home.” He’s right of course. His parents love him and probably miss him. They would take him back. It would be alright.

As he is about to get up from his warm place by the rock, he hears his name. Softly as if spoken by the wind. Quiet….there it is again, a little louder. He closes his eyes in concentration.

When he opens his eyes again, he is in bed. His dad is standing there telling him it’s time to get up. It was all a dream! He never ran away, would never run away. Relief. Gratitude.


So that was my first attempt at photofiction. I have never claimed to be a writer. It might be corny but it’s what I think of when I look at this photo. The worst part is that it’s MY son in the photo. I wish it didn’t make me feel that way but talk about an emotional reaction to a photo!


Photographic Fiction – A Creativity Project

Photographic Fiction – An interesting concept.

Recently, on an episode of the LensWork podcast, I’ve come across the idea of photographic fiction and a work of creativity. I was intrigued.

The idea is to take a photograph, or a series of photographs, then write a story, long or short about that photo or series of photos. The story can be complete fiction or mixed with some truths about the photo(s). It doesn’t matter. The point is to create.

Looking back through my library of photos, I see lots of candidates for this type of story telling. I’m not going to use any of my clients portraits in these projects but I do have a lot of great ones that give me some ideas I can build on. I can see this as a project to carry me into the future.

Now, I’m not a writer but I do like telling stories. It’s going to be fun to work on this.




Don’t Stop Taking Portraits In The Winter – Winter Portraits

Portraits in the winter?

Living in Canada, there is that season that so many people hate. Winter. All the snow and the cold temperatures can really turn people off. A lot of the people I know would very much like to move somewhere warmer for the winter or at the least, hide away in the warmth of their homes.

Like it or not, if you live in Canada, you are going to see your share of snow for several months of the year.

Rolling with it.

I’ve always liked winter. As a kid we used to go snowmobiling and tobogganing all the time. The cold was never a big deterrent. Then as an adult I became less inclined to head out into the snow and cold just for the heck of it. Until I had kids that is then it’s all about the tobogganing again and recently snowboarding. But I’m getting off topic. What’s this nonsense about portraits in the winter? Who would want to do that and why?

Well, as it turns out I have decided that I love taking winter portraits! There are fewer distractions. No leaves to clash with clothing. No colors on the ground to be distracting. Just pure white backgrounds!

First winter shoot down.

Have a look these photos from a recent winter portrait shoot I did for a young lady in need of some portraits. They are so clean and crisp. They just look great. (click on the images for larger views)





I’m looking forward to taking more winter portraits. I love the look of them.

If your interested and you are in the Edmonton area drop me an email and maybe we can work together to create some winter portraits.



My Photographic Style – A Realization.

I’ve recently decided to change the style of portraits I’m making. I’ve spent years trying to figure out what my style was. In the end it was there all along staring me in they eyes the whole time.

I’m a big fan of grungy, gritty photos. Photos that have an almost Indie feel to them if that makes any sense. I don’t like the clean smooth overly processed images that seem to be all the rage nowadays. So following that I give you the image below that was from the first shoot after coming to this realization.

It was just after this realization that I decided it was past time to get serious about photography as a business. Within hours of that, the decision was made to get the ball rolling.

A comment was made to me that my new found style might work well for teenaged boys but how about girls and adults?

I think it works well for everything!

In the end it’s got to resonate with me or it’s just not going to work. I think this new style is going to work out well.


"Nice Shot"

Ever get a comment like that on one of your photos? Those drive me crazy. Why is it a nice shot? What did you like about it that prompted you to comment? Come on, throw me a bone here. 🙂

It’s always nice to get a comment on your photo but it’s a bit frustrating to get an empty comment. They leave me feeling a little empty inside. Why did you like my photo???

If you constantly chase after that “good shot” or “nice shot” kind of comment, you will never be happy with your images and I don’t think you will increase your skill level and creativity at all. Those kinds of comments are empty. They mean very little to me. There was a time I craved it but then I realized I was getting nothing out of it.

Switching From Logical Thinking To Creative Feeling

I find it hard to switch from my day job mode to a creative mode.

My day job requires me to use my logical brain all day. I’m a buyer and logistics agent for an oilfield construction company in Alberta. I spend my days placing orders, comparing suppliers, researching new equipment and arranging trucking for equipment and supplies to our various job sites around western Canada. Logical thinking all day long.

Photography for me is an escape from the logical and a journey into my creative side. What I’m noticing is a tendency to not come at it from a creative angle. Always from that technical angle. I try to create technically perfect photos and I am quite good at that. I can get the exposure bang on almost every time and the colors look really good as well. The problem is that most of the time, the photo is just plain boring.

What I need is a really good routine to get me in the creative mood. When I used to play guitar in a few garage bands, that routine involved quite a bit of alcohol. LOL. I was much younger and a bit wilder back in those days. There’s not much risk of me becoming an alcoholic photographer in the name of creativity but I need to find a way to step out of my thinking mind and try to feel the creativity. I find the most creative photos bring a lot of emotion with them. To me anyway.