30 Smartphone Photography Tips

30 Smartphone Photography Tips

It’s no secret that I am an Olympus Visionary and that my specialty (bird photography) leaves me in a place where it’s highly unlikely that I will EVER be able to use a smartphone as my primary camera.

That said, I know many of you reading this rely on your smartphone camera at least as a backup. In the old days, I carried a DSLR and a digital point-and-shoot as a “go anywhere” backup camera.

Smartphone camera improvements, and the supporting software/firmware that drives them, have pretty much eliminated the point-and-shoot camera category.

On a daily basis, hundreds of millions of people take billions of photographs using smartphones. The last time I checked, either the iPhone or phones from Samsung, were the most popular “cameras” in the world.

Since I like to study trends in photography, I decided to dig in and learn more about “iPhoneography” as some people call it. Depending on the type of photography you do, smartphone cameras can be very useful. As with all cameras and all types of photography, the more you study with and practice with your camera, the better the results you will get.

I put together a little check list for those of you who rely on smartphone cameras, to help you get the most out of them. Since I own an Apple 11 Pro Max, my tips may be biased in the Apple direction, but they should mostly apply to any smartphone camera.

(Other than the first tip, these are in no particular order.)

Tip #1: The most important thing to remember is that if you want to get top-quality results from your smartphone camera, you need to treat it, think of it, and use it, as if it were a “real camera.”

  • 2. Clean Your Lens (On the newer phones the lenses are very exposed & need cleaning on a regular basis)
  • 3. Set phone to AIRPLANE mode
  • 4. When using as a camera, turn off WIFI
  • 5. When using as a camera, turn on DO NOT DISTURB
  • 6. When using as a camera, turn off notifications
  • 7. Use third party apps like Moment Pro Camera ($5.99 from the App Store)
  • 8. Set your exposure like it was a DSLR
  • 9. Set your shutter speed like it was a DSLR
  • 10. Set your white balance like it was a DSLR (Never use AWB)
  • 11. Set your focus like it was a DSLR

Screen Shot 2020-02-27 at 9.28.45 AM

  • 12. Shoot RAW or TIF if available – shoot highest quality JPG or HEIC otherwise
  • 13. Experiment with telephoto panoramic vertical
  • 14. Keep your camera phone level (Turn on the grid and use grid lines to help compose and on iPhone to help with lay-flat photography)
  • 15. Don’t shoot into the sun (flare)
  • 16. Change your perspective (high AND low)
  • 17. Get in close
  • 18. Shoot horizontal AND vertical
  • 19. Press the shutter by using the volume button
  • 20. For a more stable shot, use a remote USB trigger like the Moment Bluetooth Remote to trip the shutter
  • 21. Use a tripod, monopod or other stabilization method such as the Platypod
  • 22. Turn off the phone’s flash
  • 23. In extremely contrasty light, use HDR mode
  • 24. Use burst mode for action shots
  • 25. If you’re close to your subject, use Portrait mode to control depth-of-field


  • 26. Try third-party, add-on lenses (like those from Moment) to extend your smartphone camera’s capabilities
  • 27. Don’t use overhead lighting when making lay flat photos. Use side light or back light instead
  • 28. Shoot in panoramic mode both horizontal and vertical
  • 29. Do NOT use digital zoom
  • 30. Show your camera phone some respect and it will deliver great results
Bosque Sunrise On iPhone by Scott Bourne
Okay, so I have made ONE bird photo using a smartphone. This is a test shot using the iPhone 11 Pro Max at Bosque del Apache


For some, a smartphone camera may be all they need to enjoy photography. If you are one of those, then try applying some or all of these tips to get the most out of what you already have.

For people like me, it’s very unlikely that a smart phone camera will ever replace my interchangeable lens cameras. I’m sticking with my Olympus cameras.There are just some things that smartphones cannot do, that my Olympus M43 camera CAN do. But who knows what the future holds?

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8 Responses

  1. I have 2 questions:
    1. Should location be turned on ?
    2. Should Cellular data be enabled under App settings for the photo apps?

  2. Do you use Within the Settings app under Camera, there’s a section called “Composition” which lets you turn on “Photos Capture Outside the Frame” and “Videos Capture Outside the Frame.”

  3. Re #29 (Do not use digital zoom), I was surprised, and very impressed when I saw the results from using digital zoom on my Google Pixel 3. I suspect that the Google camera app it is taking advantage of my inability to hold the camera perfectly still ,and combining multiple images to show more detail in the cropped area. This would be something like what Olympus OM-D cameras do when taking photos in High-Res mode. The results are much better than what I see if I crop the un-zoomed image in post processing.

      1. I doubt that this is a matter of taste. I’m seeing good results with Pixel 3 digital zoom today. Perhaps your experience was with an earlier version of Google’s camera app, or maybe the Moment Pro app does not perform the same kind of computational zooming.

Leave a Reply to David ShermanCancel reply




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