Make the Most of Your Mobile Phone Camera

June 20, 2011

It’s easier than ever to capture special moments; there’s a camera in almost every mobile phone these days.  I love my (proper) camera, but it’s not possible to take with me everywhere so I enjoy the flexibility of having a camera with me without the need to lug around a big unit.  Taking pictures is important to me.  I love being able to capture what the kids are doing and often send pictures to my husband’s phone so he feels part of the everyday going-ons at home.

I’ve been working on my mobile phone camera skills and below are some tips I’ve discovered.

{all these pictures were taken with my iPhone 4}

1. Timing

While timing isn’t everything, it certainly helps.  Over time I get a feel for my mobile phone click speed which helps me time my photos well so I get that gorgeous expression when it happens.

2. Light

The control of light is quite limited when it comes to phone cameras but apps like Pro Camera are making it easier. For the majority of pictures, it’s best to have the light behind you when you take a photograph.

To experiment a little more with light, try these techniques:

Sun burst

Sun bursts work quite well on phone camera.  I’ve found capturing sun bursts most effective in the mid morning or late afternoon when the sun is relatively low in the sky. This way you can capture the sunshine directly behind an object or person.  Angle the phone until you get the right “sun burst” look in the view finder. As a general rule, I like to have the sun coming from a corner of the photograph. Here are some examples:

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- the light

Silhouette

I love silhouette pictures because they are simple yet somewhat mysterious.  To create a silhouette picture, the subject needs to be between you and the light source.  The best  results I’ve had with my phone camera have been in the late afternoon, just before and around sunset. (More Silhouette picture ideas here)

making the most of your mobile phone camera

3. Framing

I think about framing more than I do the subject. I frame first then quickly adjust the phone camera to fit in my subject. In both the photographs below, the eye follows the line of the land.

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- framing

4. Perspective

I love trying different perspectives on my phone camera to give a depth and interest to a photo. My favourite perspective when taking photographs of kids is looking down. I think this is because this is actually how I often see them.

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- perspective

5. Cut the Subject

You don’t need to frame the entire subject or person to get a great shot.  Cutting the subject slightly can add a lot of interest to a photograph, especially if it’s a familiar object. Here are two examples:

Photography: mobile phone camera tips -- cut the subject

Photo 1: It’s obviously a bike but I haven’t shown the entire form. In fact, I took this photograph from behind glass panels. I like it. It’s interesting.

Photo 2: While the entire umbrella isn’t visible,  it is clear what it is.  Boxing in the edges of the umbrella shows the rainbow colours perfectly.

6. Emotion

Capturing emotions through photographs is hard. Emotions are so complex and when I do get it it takes my breath away. For me, capturing emotion is more about body language than anything else.

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- emotion

Photo 1: My son forgot his yellow truck for a moment as he watched the birds fly by. I just adore this picture of him.

Photo 2: There is something the way my son is holding himself here that I love. He enjoyed swirling an umbrella  around on a sunny day at the beach.

7. Movement

 Capturing the ellusion of movement helps to make a photograph feel alive. Take a photo while the subject is moving (picture 1) is one way to have that moving feel.  Body language has a big part to play too when it comes to movement. In picture 2, the way the my daughter’s hands are placed, and her one closed eye helps you feel what will come next.

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- movement

8. Tell a Story

Photography for me isn’t just about pointing a shooting. It’s about telling a story.  I often think about what I’m trying to say when I’m taking a photograph.  Here are two photographs with captions:

winter warmth                                                     there is always hope

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- tell a story

9. Point of Reference

It can be helpful to have a point of reference for some photographs. A point of reference is something that relates to the picture but is  not the main subject. For example, in picture two below, I was watching my son play at the beach from a distance.  So my feet are there but the picture isn’t really about my feet. It was about me watching the spot that was my son.  This reference point set the tone for the picture. In the second picture, I ensured the feet of my subject was showing so the viewer could get a feel for the photograph perspective.

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- point of reference

10. Be Random & Break the rules!

I’ve captured some awesome shots from holding the camera totally random. I’ve also got some absolute shockers from doing the same. HA! But who cares? It’s worth a shot sometimes! Below (left) is a photo I took of when my daughter came down to sit with me on the grass (I just stuck my hand up in the air). I love how the photograph captures our hats and my daughter’s feet. In the second picture, I was in the passenger side of car while we were driving on the beach, and I spotted the side rear-view mirror and just snapped without thinking. I really like how the shot came out. Be random, and although all these tips I’ve learned are useful, you gotta throw out the rules sometimes to capture something wonderful.

(For example: Take a look at the first picture in my ‘A Few More Favourites’ below – it’s of my youngest and oldest exploring the rocks at the beach. I wanted to show the moon at the top of the picture and a lot of sky – with the children only being small figures – to emphasise the wonder of the experience.)

photography: mobile phone camera tips -- be random

 

11. It’s doesn’t have to be centred

In fact, many of my favourite shots are not centred.  I roughly work on the rule of thirds when I take pictures to add interest and perspective to the photograph.

mobile phone camera tips -- off centre

A Few More Favourites

Making the Most of Your Mobile Phone Camera

Making the Most of Your Mobile Phone Camera

Making the Most of Your Mobile Phone Camera

jacaranda tree -- brisbane

Mobile photography tips

Mobile photography tips

Mobile photography tips

Mobile photography tips

Mobile photography tips

Mobile Photography Tips

Instagram

One of my favourite photography apps for the iPhone is Instagram (you can find me @beafunmum). This app allows you to filter photographs in one simple step. You can then share your pictures with friends on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or email.  You can see some of my favourite photographs in the Instagram Photo Gallery.

I’ll never give up my regular camera but I don’t carry it around with my as much as I used to.  It’s nice to know I can get relatively nice photos with my phone camera. It’s pretty much always with me so I never have to be with a camera.

Has your mobile phone replaced your regular phone?

Do you have any phone camera tips to share?

Other Photography Links

Photographing Kids Tip 1: Capturing a Child’s Essence

Photographing Kids Tip 2: Rule of Thirds 

Photographing Kids Tip 3: The Background

Photographing Kids Tip 4: Setting Up a Shoot

Photographing Kids Tip 5: Perspective

My Camera

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

trishNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

Great tips Kellie – I learnt so much in 5 mins. Now to just remember it all.
(I only have an ipod touch though)

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Glad you liked it Trish! These tips work on all phone cameras. x

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CateNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

My phone has pretty much replaced my camera. My app of choice is hipstamatic – I love the shake to shuffle option, and while I can stage photos, I’m never quite sure how they’ll look.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I love finding out about all these new apps. Thanks Cate.

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VeronicaNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:18 am

These tips were awesome! I like the creativity behind them as much as the technical know how. I use my iPhone way more than my camera too. It’s meant I’ve put off further learning all the features of my DSLR, but I’m still getting shots I like, most of the time. I’ll stop procrastinating one day. :-)

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm

And it’s great that you can use these tips in all your photos, no matter if they are on your mobile or not. I think you hit it on the head Veronica: creativity is a key to good photography. Technical know-how absolutley helps too but even if you don’t have a professional camera, you can still capture wonderful moments.

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LighteningNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:31 am

Great hints. Thanks. I should make better use of my mobile phone camera at times. Problem is, I tend to be too “in the moment” to think about taking pictures a lot of the time. I find it a hard balance between capturing special moments forever and enjoying them fully at the time.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Lightening, you’ve touched on an important point here. Sometimes we can be so focused on capturing the moment that we forget to be in it. I think your problem of being “in the moment” is a good one to have :)

Thanks for the reminder. x

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BookChookNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

I don’t use my phone camera much as it is pretty low quality. But I always learn from your tips, even though I remain convinced you are also a great photographer and I’m not! Great tips, Kel and great pics!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm

HA! Well, I’ll just blush a little and say (a quiet) thank you. xx

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Kate @ Puddles and GumbootsNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 10:11 am

Fantastic tips thank you! I often find my iphone camera more convenient too, and I love the instagram app, though my photos never look as fabulous as yours above do

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Are we following eachother on Instagram? What’s your username?

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DebNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 10:23 am

I’ve only just got into instagram, so these are great tips thanks. I want to get into the habit of capturing simple moments.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

It’s so lovely to have a record of the kids isn’t it?

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NeenNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm

You’re photos are amazing! I love them! I wish I had a phone with a decent camera but I have the crappiest phone ever atm! Especially with these photo apps I’ve been hearing about! I have however got an old Instamatic camera and I’m thinking about getting some film for it and doing it old style! lol

Absolutely love your silhouette photo with the child and trees gorgeous. Also the one of your son, the truck and birds just lovely!
Also your umbrella photos! Camera house photo friday has the theme ‘umbrella’ this week you should enter them! It’s on facebook. I’m trying to think of a photo to take myself!
Pretty much love all your photos!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Thanks Neen! Phone apps do help in making the most of mobile phone cameras. Old style photos: that cool!

I know. I love that silhouette pic too…

I’ll check the umbrella thingo. Thanks for the heads up.

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Lina@MothersLoveLettersNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Wow, they were ALL taken with your iPhone? Amazing. I’ve been taking photos of bubs on my HTC phone. Very, very handy and great to just whip it out. My tip? Just remember to capture the moment! It’s easy to forget :)

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Very true Lina. Very true.

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Nikki @ stylingyouNo Gravatar June 21, 2011 at 12:39 am

Love this Kellie – I love always having the ability to capture moments when I’m out with my phone. Like today!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I only just found this comment Nikki. It went to spam. HA! Yep, I’ve seen you in action with your phone. As a team, you’re awesome! x

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Veggie MamaNo Gravatar June 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I would be lost without my camera phone. LOST! And I love Instagram so much. Your tips are invaluable xo

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I also would be lost if you didn’t have your phone camera. Then I couldn’t ooo and ahhh over Veggie Baby…which would be a sad thing indeed! xx

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CarlyNo Gravatar February 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm

What a great post :) I’ve just gotten into iphonography and love it! I used to take my canon everywhere but now I have an iPhone 4 the camera is great.
I use Hipstamatic and swankolab too.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar February 2, 2012 at 7:55 am

Thanks Carly. I’ve tried Histamatic but can’t seem to get into it. Will have to give it another try. I take my camera around less now too…although I still take it around with me when I can.

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LindaNo Gravatar June 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm

We just spent nearly two weeks in the USA and didn’t bother taking a camera – the iPhone does an equally good, if not better, job. I have tried a few apps and like the Camera+ app best, easy to use and plenty of options that allow you to quite quickly edit your photo. I have been amazed at how a photo that looks too dark or bright can easily be transformed using an app…!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar June 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Exactly!

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kylieNo Gravatar June 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Have a great dslr camera-sitting in the cupboard gathering dust! never use it. always have my iphone4s in my pocket so get all my pics with it. use instagram and camera+ mainly. love them! always edit my pics now, a unedited pic seems so plain and boring now lol.

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Another NeenNo Gravatar June 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

I use my iPhone5 all the time, really enjoying developing my skill using Instagram for inspiration. I follow you (I’m Neen_ if you want to follow me), loved your Laos pics. :) Really would love a good DSLR but the iPhone has to do for now…

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Tierney KennedyNo Gravatar June 7, 2013 at 10:43 am

I have another tip: change your own height. Try getting down on the floor to take a photo of the kids etc.

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Tierney KennedyNo Gravatar June 7, 2013 at 11:19 am

Also, for iPhone people, Frametastic and Photo Editor are great apps. With Frametastic you can apply an effect on a sliding scale – you might want it totally black and white or just a bit. With photo editor you can edit the brightness, contrast and colour saturation as well as adding text. Frametastic lets you put multiple pictures together in the one frame. Both are free, but you can pay extra and get more effects.

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RebeccaNo Gravatar June 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

These are excellent tips/ideas. I’d like to start experimenting with the phone camera more – the photos it takes are not super fabulous quality but I suspect that sometimes that’s party my fault. :-)
I love the silhouette shot and your rainbow umbrella. And the one of your daughter sitting with you, hands around her knees. Lovely.

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ChelseaNo Gravatar December 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Love this post… having just gotten a phone with a camera a month or two ago, I’m still learning so much. Thanks for the tips :-)

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