FriDIY: Taking Better Smart Phone Pictures

Whether you snap hundreds of candids of your kids, or meticulously document every meal on Instagram, chances are good that at least some of your photos will be taken with a smart phone. We do this here at Oliver too, when we notice a good opportunity to share some of our behind-the-scenes news with customers on our Facebook page or when our technicians encounter a problem that would make a good discussion for a training class.

I’m skeptical of whether smart phone photos can ever totally match what you can do with a DSLR, but they have clearly come a long way and there are some great apps and tutorials that will help you make the most of your phone’s camera capabilities. And whether you’re using a smart phone or a DSLR, you should always pay attention to the basics that make or break a good photo:

Framing The Image

Look at your subject’s surroundings – what do you want to see in the final picture? Sometimes, you can’t avoid taking the picture and cropping out an undesirable element later. But there are lots of times when you can reposition the subject or yourself to get an image that makes the most of your surroundings. This isn’t a smart phone photo, but look at the difference between cropping this original image and framing the same scene from a different angle:

Original photo – the porch is too prominent in the scene.

Same image, cropped. The subjects are now the focus, but the angle and lighting are awkward.

Same subjects and background re-framed – now you can see their expressions!


Good lighting isn’t just for studio photography. With your smart phone, natural light is your most important source. Pay attention to where it’s coming from, and how it’s landing on your subject. You don’t have as many options for playing with lighting in editing smart phone photos, so it’s important to get it right in the original image. If you are taking smart phone pictures of food, or taking a portrait of someone who is able to hold it for you (or have an assistant to hold it when photographing a baby), you can DIY a reflector like this to distribute the light:

Using the Right Camera Mode

It’s so disappointing when you think you have a great picture, and it turns out blurry. Or you can barely see a brightly lit building that looked great on the display. Leaving your camera on Auto will get you a lot of good shots, but you should be familiar with all of the modes available so that you can toggle between them quickly and get your best shot.

One of my personal favorites is Sports mode, which is great for kids and pets who are rarely completely still! In this image, Velma’s ears were twitching while she was taking her sunbath – in Auto, one or both of them probably would have blurred, but in Sports mode I was able to capture how calm and relaxed she was.

Happy snapping, and have a great weekend everybody!

Here are some of my favorite tutorials for taking great smart phone pictures:

To Get You Started: 10 Tips To Make Your Phone Photos Amazing (via Photojojo)

For the Artsy Phone Photographer: Tips for Water Reflections, Abstracts, Splashes, Puddles, and More (via Picture Correct)

For the Mamarazzi: Easy Ways For Mom To Get In The Photo (via Modern Parents Messy Kids)

30 Best Photography Apps for iPhone (via The Next Web)


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