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10 Tricks for Mobile Phone Photography6 min read

Everyone knows DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex Camera) cameras are great for photography. But you don’t always have a DSLR camera all the time. There’s one thing which you always have though- a smart phone. Nowadays, smart phone cameras have become quite great for photography. Although you can’t compare it’s result to a DSLR camera’s sharpness, it has just enough features to get amazing pictures. Smart phone photography is evolving at an amazing rate. They are compact and portable. We can capture stunning pictures with them. Here are some tricks you can use for taking great photos with your smart phone:

1. HDR (High Dynamic Range)

This is a feature that’s usually neglected or mostly used incorrectly. There are times you want to take a picture of a place with shadows but your smart phone’s camera tends to completely darken the shadowy place. HDR is a great feature for capturing pictures, when you want to capture the bright and shadowed places at once. Enabling this would make the dark parts of your picture bright enough to be seen. An example of the impact of HDR can be seen in the pictures below:

2. Not Using HDR (it may sound wierd)

As the saying goes, “You can’t be a pro if you only have one trick”. HDR does not always work great with photos. Sometimes you want to capture the dark places. Such as sunrise, sunset and other breathtaking scenes. These are two pictures I took where HDR ruined the feel, until I turned it off.

3. Playing with your Camera Focus and The Bokeh Effect

Most phones nowadays have the Pro-Mode and if you don’t have it, there are a number of different applications on PlaysStore you can download for free. This mode lets you control your back camera manually. Manual camera may not be the fastest for capturing pictures but it is great for capturing pictures when you want something to really stand out. Focusing alone can give you better results. You can change your focus by sliding the focus bar as shown below:

Playing with focus can give you the perfect blurry background we all crave so much. The effect is termed as Bokeh. Focus can do wonders when capturing pictures. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be taking pictures like a Pro. Some stunning pictures I took with this are:

4. The Shutter Speed

The Shutter speed is also an option from the Pro-Mode. The shutter speed is the amount of time the camera is going to ‘take in’ the light. More time means more light and vice versa. Shutter speed is measured in time the camera is going to ‘take in’ light. For example, 1/8000 means the picture will be taken in 8000th part of a sec (very fast, huh?).


The shutter speed is great for capturing high speed pictures but it will not do as good as a high speed camera. It will, however, enable you to get pictures that may be blurry in normal mode.

High Shutter Speed is the real deal here. It is used to do night time photography like capturing the stars. But smart phone cameras don’t really capture good pictures at night. Well then, what is it good for? You may ask. Light Trails and night city photos come out great with the with high shutter time. You might have seen pictures of streets with light linings and trails. Those are taken with a high shutter speed. Also, they are cool. Bright city lights look magical at night. Don’t believe me? See these pictures:

The City
Light Trails

5- Edit your Pictures

Pictures taken by camera have yet to produce same colored scenes as we see through our eyes. Every camera, captures pictures with different levels of color saturation. Editing your pictures and correcting the colors to match the real-time view of the scene makes a whole lot of difference. A good example is these pictures below:

For the usual colour and sharpness corrections, Google Photos built in editor works good. But to tweak with a whole lot of multiple options, I’d suggest you to install Google Snapseed, my personal favourite for editing pictures on the go. It has all the things you need for an amazing edit.

6. Rule of Thirds

Over the years it has been seen that there are some rules that make a picture look even better. One of those is the rule of thirds. Here’s how it works: There is an option on the phone that enables grid on your camera.

Screenshot_2015-04-06-00-25-41

The three horizontal sections should be filled in one-third with one subject and two-thirds with the other subject. Also one of the 4 intersection points of the grid should be used to emphasize a subject. All the measurements do not need to be accurate.

Take these pictures as an example. I took this picture of Shah Faisal Mosque with one-third of the floor and two-third of the mosque and the sky all the while putting the dome at the intersection point.

Shah Faisal Mosque,Islamabad, Pakistan

Here I pictured one-third of the horizon and two-thirds of the land. I pictured a leafless tree at the intersection point.

DSC06347
I took the leafless tree on the intersection point

7. “S” Curves or Leading Lines

While taking a picture, try to find an S curve or a leading line (i.e. a road, a footpath, a path- anything that is leading to the main landscape). Take the picture below as an example for the leading lines (a track or road that leads to somewhere). In this case the dirt track is the leading line. 

DSC07283
The Track to the beautiful Rama Lake in Pakistan

Here’s another example of the S curve made by the road to Babusar Top in Pakistan.

Picture of Road of Babusar Top . Notice the curve made by the road.

8. Reference

What I mean by reference is that when you capture a landscape picture with no real subject picture looks a bit empty. Reference is the subject that is there. Putting a subject makes a lot of difference. See the leading lines example picture. In that picture the horse was the subject. Or in this one, I used a rock as the subject.

Picture of Saif-ul-Mulook lake, Pakistan

9. Symmetry

Focusing on symmetry in pictures works wonders. Try to find an element of symmetry in images. See this example:

10. Innovate

Lastly, experiment with new ways of taking a picture. There are hundreds of tricks you can use. Experiment with your phone’s camera and you will also find some new way to make a picture interesting. 

Note: All the pictures shown were taken on HTC One X9.

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I am Syed Asjad Fatmi, a senior year student of Chemical Engineer. I am interested in doing almost anything out of the ordinary unless It is absurd (if you want me to try jumping from a building and surviving it, I am not your guy). My primary interests are self-help, computer games, photography, novels, going on Foodventures and adventures.

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