Phone Photography: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Phone Photography has become a thing now because Mobile phone cameras have improved a lot over past few years. This Mobile Photography Tutorial covers several great tips and tricks to step up your Mobile Photography game.

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We always don't have a DSLR or a professional camera with us. And we might not own a DSLR but still we like capturing images. This doesn't means we can't take good images just with our mobile phones. In this blog we will learn how to combine our mobile camera and some amazing techniques to create some amazing images.

This Mobile Photography blog covers the tips which can be used with android or iphone or any other smartphone device. In this blog, we will discuss Macro Photography, HDR Photography, Time-Lapse Photography, Low Light Photography, Long exposure Photography all these using your smartphone's Manual Mode. If you don't have a manual mode to control your smartphone camera you don't need to worry. We will be sharing a list of apps that will enable you to use manual mode in your smartphone. So let's start.

Shooting Macro and Bokeh Images

If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram and seen an incredible close-up photograph of a flower, insect, or even jewelry, you may have wondered how you can get similar photos, especially if you don’t have a DSLR camera. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy a DSLR or expensive macro lens to get these kinds of shots. All you need is a mobile phone, a simple accessory, and a bit of curiosity.


When you shoot a Macro Image, you want the subject to be sharp and the background to be blurred. While some phones have a macro mode, the best way to get amazing macro photos with your phone is to invest in a zoom/magnification lens (or set of lenses) that work specifically with your device. Make sure that the lens you buy fits with your phone and won’t get in the way of taking photos.

Focus and Framing

With macro photos, there are endless ways to frame your subject, but you will be limited in the depth of field or the area of the photo that will remain in focus. You want the subject to remain (mostly) in focus, depending on your magnification. The larger the magnification, the smaller the area of exact focus in your pictures. This can lead to surprisingly beautiful photos which you might not expect to get from just your mobile phone.

Sometimes your intended subject will be too large to fully capture, even with the smaller zoom lens (like the 7x lens), so you may have to focus on only a part of the subject like the center of the flower, or a few petals. This is the fun part of macro photography! You can shoot the subject from directly above, from the side, or even from below. Experiment with different angles for the same subject.

Manual Setting

One important aspect of macro photography is focus. Your smartphone camera usually wants to focus itself, so you are going to have to take it out of auto mode and into manual mode where you will lock the focus on precisely the area you want to highlight, the very specific part of your image you want to stand out. In auto mode, your camera doesn’t know where you want it to focus. It’s a smartphone, but it’s not that smart (yet). So just tap and hold to lock your focus where you want it before taking the picture.

Capturing Bokeh

When you are capturing bokeh, you want the light sources to be blurry. So place the light sources at a distance. Keep the light sources out of focus and you will get those amazing bokehish backgrounds. You can also place another subject closer to the camera (in foreground) and you will get more amazing images. So try and experiment with Focus and capture amazing Macro and Bokeh Images.

Capturing HDR - High Dynamic Range

Most smartphone makers now claim that the cameras on their premium devices are as good as professional cameras. Considering how many top smartphones are now priced around or above 20,000, it can be considered a plus that they include increasingly more powerful and quality driven cameras that are simple enough for the average user to master. One important Camera feature that is enabled in almost all new smartphone devices nowadays is HDR.

What is HDR Photography?

The term HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR photography is a technique in which you can merge multiple photos clicked at different exposure values, and enhance the details in the highlight area as well as shadow area.

HDR technique is used to get details out of the brightest to the darkest elements included in the scene, which otherwise is almost impossible (if the dynamic range in the scene is more than the dynamic range of your camera) and lets you see proper details in the bright highlight area as well as dark shadow area.

Why click photos using HDR mode on a mobile phone?

The HDR mode on a mobile phone automatically clicks three consecutive photos of the scene and gives you a single HDR image. What happens inside the camera sensor is that the camera clicks three images each at different exposure value and through the internal process, merges them into one image. These three images are clicked in such a manner that one of them is of normal exposure, one is overexposed and one underexposed.

The overexposed photo is clicked to get details from the dark area, whereas the underexposed photo is clicked to get details from highlight area. The normal exposure photo helps in retaining details of mid-tones. This is how a single HDR image is processed.


It doesn't matter what camera you are using, what lens you are using or what phone you are using/ If the composition is not good then there is no point in taking the image. Since, the mobile phones are portable, we have the flexibility to play and experiment with different compositions. We can also use some guidelines like Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Symmetry, etc., and these guidelines will help us to compose our image. Here are some compositions in brief:

Using Rule of Thirds

When we are using rule of thirds, we basically divide the frame into three parts horizontally and 3 parts vertically. Thus, we get 4 intersecting points where we can place our subject as these points have maximum chances of grabbing viewer's attention.

Using Symmetry:

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

Using Leading Lines:

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place these leading lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey "through" the scene.

There are many different types of line - straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc - and each can be used to enhance our photo's composition.

Shooting in Manual Mode

Many smartphones today include a “professional” or “manual” mode in the bundled camera app, which gives you full access to all the different settings and gives you a greater measure of artistic control. On top of that, if the camera app can save images in RAW mode, then you will have even greater flexibility.

ISO speed – In the days of film photography, the speed at which the film reacted to light was an important factor. If the film was more sensitive to light then less light was needed to capture the image, for instance. This meant the aperture and shutter speed needed to be changed accordingly. Over the years there were various standards for quantifying film sensitivity. In the 1970s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created a scale, which is still in use today. The ISO scale is logarithmic, which means that ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100, 400 is twice as sensitive as 200 and so on.

Shutter speed – On a traditional camera there is a physical shutter (like on an SLR or DSLR) which opens for a fraction of a second, lets the light in to hit the film/sensor, and then snaps shut again to stop the photo being over exposed. Smartphone cameras achieve the same result by capturing the data from the sensor for a certain amount of time. In fact, light is always hitting the lens, but the data isn’t being recorded. In low light situations, you want the shutter open for longer and in bright sunlight you want it to open and close quickly.

However, altering the shutter speed has lots of benefits. Slow shutter speeds can be used to add artistic motion blur (e.g. for moving water or car tail lights at night), whereas fast shutter speeds are useful for capturing fast moving targets (e.g. sports or animals). The problem with slow shutter speeds is that it increases the chances of camera shake, which is one of the reasons that some phones include Optical Image Stabilization.

Focus – As the light travels through the lens in a camera, it passes through all areas of the lens and is refracted. Coming out of the lens, the light starts to converge and the spot where all the light converges is called the focal point, where the image is clear. The focal point can be changed by moving the lens slightly and this is how we focus images before taking a photo. In manual mode many cameras also give you manual control over the focus. With manual focus you have fine grain control over the focal point, which can be useful in some situations.

White Balance – The color of an object is determined partly by the lighting conditions. An object might appear white when viewed in sunlight, or it will have a different hue when lit by candles or on an overcast day. Candlelight and tungsten lights are towards the warmer end of the light spectrum, meaning they have a definite red tint. To compensate, the white balance setting will alter the color temperature towards blue to balance the whites. At the other end, the camera does the opposite, moving the color temperature towards red. When the white balance is set to auto then the camera measures the overall color temperature and applies the relevant white balance. When setting a manual white balance you choose the color temperature compensation from a set of presets like Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent light and Incandescent light. You can also set the white balance in Kelvin.

Bonus: Aperture – Smartphones have a fixed aperture lens, meaning the aperture cannot be changed. Nevertheless, knowing what the aperture on your smartphone camera does is still useful. Aperture is the size of the hole letting light onto the sensor: the smaller the hole the less light can come through, whereas the larger the hole the more light hits the sensor. Cameras with a wider aperture lens (a low f-stop number, like f/1.8) typically perform better in low light situations.

If your mobile phone camera app doesn't have a manual mode, you don't need to worry. Here is a list of external apps which you can download in your smartphones and start using Manual Modes:

Android Photography Apps:

1. Camera FV 5:

2. Footej Camera:

3. Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile:

4. Lapse It • Time Lapse Camera:

5. VSCO:

6. Lightroom:

iOS Photography Apps:

1. Camera+:

2. Manual:

3. ProCamera:

4. VSCO:

5. Lightroom:

Tags: #MobilePhotography #PhonePhotography #Tutorials #TipsandTricks #ManualMode #Aperture #ShutterSpeed #Composition #HDR #Bokeh #Macro


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