Helpful Phone Camera Tricks

Because I can’t be following you around 24/7 (I know…bummer…), I like to help you to capture important-to-you moments the best that you can. And since so many of us are using our phones as our primary cameras, I thought reviewing some helpful phone camera tricks might be, well, helpful.

Let’s start with some photography basics.

These apply no matter what you’re using — an iPhone, an android, even an actual ((gasp!)) camera. So the title is a bit deceiving: these are not just helpful phone camera tricks! These tips will have you taking better and more interesting images, capturing your unique memories for years to come.

Two antique cameras in black and white.

  • Take a lot of photos. I mean, take photos often, even of subjects that you wouldn’t normally, and also take a bunch of the same thing. You’ll find something different and great in at least one of the bunch!
  • Think about your composition. What is it that you actually want to highlight?
  • Don’t always put the highlighted subject right smack in the center of your photo. Play with composition. Play is the best way to learn.
  • Another best way to learn? Look at a lot of photography. Follow some professionals on Instagram. Like me (have to showcase myself of course) but here are some others. (Each of those words is a separate link.)
  • Watch your horizon line. Sometimes we intentionally play with them but often a wobbly horizon creates a sense of something being wrong in the photo.
  • Watch your people parts. Do you notice how many photos have people’s feet cut off? I mean, weird, right? But so very common.
  • Watch your edges. So many odd things can happen at the edges because we’re so focused on the subject.
  • Also watch the background for unintended captures.
  • Don’t be afraid of trying black and white photography. We’re a little partial to it around here ((smile)) and we guarantee that it brings a lot of emotion to your shots.

More photography basics…

Woman bent over a pad of paper, drawing.

Think of these all as PRE helpful phone camera tricks.

  • Practice being still while you’re shooting. Breathe calmly.
  • Practice using tools like tripods to give you more options.
  • Play around with settings no matter what camera you’re using. Now that we mostly have digital photography, you can instantly see how one single variable changes the outcome.
  • Try not to overuse filters after the fact. Learn to take a great shot that can stand on its own.
  • Play with filters just to see what happens and to notice what you like and what you don’t like.
  • Pay attention to lighting and to what’s happening with shadows.
  • Move your body. Meaning, don’t just stand there. What would happen if you got down on the ground and shot UP? What would happen if you held the camera way above your head? Again, play is the most important thing.

Now on to some actual helpful phone camera tricks.

Keep in mind that we’re talking specifically about the iPhone but I’m sure there are similar modes/variables on any android if you poke around (or use the google machine to ask where these things might be).

  • Don’t forget to tap the screen where you want the real focus of your shot to be. I see a lot of unfocused close ups.
  • Even without using portrait mode, if you get super close to your subject and tap the screen where your subject is, you’ll get a blurred background to some degree.
  • Learn to use portrait mode to blur the background even more. You know, you’ll get that fuzzy effect behind your subject whether it’s a person or a thing.*

*If you’re using a newer iPhone, you’ll be able to control the amount of blur when you go into edit mode. Cool.

Continuing with helpful phone camera tricks:

  • If you want to play with exposure (brightness levels), again tap the image on your screen and then either sweep up or down and you’ll see more light and then less.
  • You can also play with exposure in edit mode, of course. (Again, take a photo and go into edit mode and play with one variable at a time to see what happens.)
  • Keep in mind that you can set mood with exposure. You can create a sense of mystery by making things darker, by underexposing.
  • Sometimes the foreground of a photo is really nicely color saturated but you lose a lot of definition in the sky. Go into your phone settings, to camera, and then turn on your HDR (High Dynamic Range). Problem fixed!
  • Don’t forget that you have a “night mode” to capture things in really low light.

I can’t say this enough: THE most important thing you can do is to experiment. Press buttons that you don’t understand. Just keep looking for and trying new things on your phone. You’re not going to hurt anything by trying.

Woman holding mug, sitting on soft furniture.

Let’s take this a step further

There are some great apps out there to add to your functionality that go beyond helpful phone camera tricks:

  • Halide Mark II will give you a lot of control beyond what’s built in, including macro and long exposures (fun!). None of this is for post shooting editing.
  • Firstlight offers much the same as Halide but it also is known for providing the best image quality possible off of your phone.
  • ProCamera+ includes, again, much of what Halide offers but it also gives you a huge number of editing options.
  • For a FREE and amazing editing app, try Adobe Lightroom.
  • If you’re looking for editing and amazing filters, try POP!
  • And if you want to upgrade your filmmaking, try FilmicPro.

I hope you find some helpful hints in here or a new app to try (we don’t get anything for sharing those with you, btw). And remember, if you have any questions, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you at all.