Kickass smartphone photography

Kickass smartphone photography

Simple tips and tricks that ensure you’ll never make your social media audience want to go blind.

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Take your pictures from a different angle to give them a dramatic flair.

Check through the camera folder on your phone. You’ll see a sea of similarly shot, mediocre-looking and ordinary pictures with nothing distinguishing one from another. Isn’t that sad? Your photography says a lot about you, how you see the world, what your eye sees. Shouldn’t it be not just mediocre? Fortunately, you can train your mind and eye to see things dramatically differently and translate that to your pictures.

In my last column I wrote about how the smartphone is now the single most used photography device in the world. I mentioned some simple tips and tricks last time. Now it’s time to take this journey to its logical conclusion.


The basic rules of getting a good photograph remain the same whether you use a phone or a million-dollar camera. Develop an eye for creating a scene (more on that later) and an understanding of photographic depth (critical, but very easy and explained below). But the basics start at an even more basic level. Keep your lens clean and don’t always use the default setting.

Rule of thirds

Use the rules of third to compose your pictures. It’s a simple yet very powerful way to create drama in any picture. All you need to do is use grid lines that divide your screen into 9 squares on your camera app (almost all of them have the option). The intersections of the squares are visual hotspots. Place your subject near any of these and your pictures will be more visually dynamic, engaging and have a lot more elements for the eye to focus on. Try it and train your brain to see it that way.

Don’t take all pictures in auto mode

Changing your aperture affects the light in your shot

Manual mode with all its settings looks very complex and daunting. It’s not. Even if you don’t want to learn about them all, then just learn the simplest one. Aperture. In your phone aperture will denoted with an f stop (f 2.4, f1.8). Changing your aperture affects the amount of light in your shot. The lower the number, more light is brought in and vice versa. Test it indoors, outdoors, in low light, in sunlight. This one small control feature is like waving a magic wand onto your pictures.

Filter filters out

Don’t overuse filters on social media

Yes, they look cool. But there’s something overwhelming and a little silly in the overuse of filters on everyone’s social media feed. Let them be. Use only for a special occasion.

Change the angle

We all take our pictures at eye level. But that’s an everyday, mundane angle. Almost every group photo is taken from the front. Instead, move to one side and have everyone look at you from that angle. Your pictures will have dramatic flair and a different angle.

HDR is not god mode

Use HDR only if the light is poor, else let the picture breathe

This is where I get into controversial territory. I’m sure you use HDR mode photography for everything. It’s supposed to be the holy grail for all amateur photographers. HDR mode shoots multiple images of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds. The result is bright, medium and dark photos which are combined to bring details to the shadows and bright spots. Awesome, right? Not really. Most HDR photos are good but oversaturated and overblown with details that look anything but natural. Use HDR only if the light is poor or the image isn’t dramatic on its own. Else, let the picture breathe its own natural life.

Learn some editing

Just the basics. Crop your pictures to make them look different, add a little saturation and warmth and play around with tint and fill. Your pictures will thank you for it, as will your Instagram ‘forced to like all your pictures’ audience.

Try these out. Simple, clean, easy-to-use tips and tricks to take you to the next level in smartphone photography.