I was camping recently in Tarifa and I sent this photo (below) to a friend. You know what she said?

“Wow, what a difference having a nice camera makes!”  

I was so annoyed!

In my head, I was like… “My camera didn’t take this pictue, I took it! And besdies, I took it with my cell phone!!”

So…  I thought I’d write a post on how you can take really nice photos with a cell phone because it’s NOT all about your camera!

(All shots on this page were taken with my cell phone. And it’s not a fancy new iPhone, its a 3 year old Samsung!)

Tarifa, Spain. Taken as a JPG with my Galaxy S4 phone around 6:30pm. How to do it? Tip #1 Shoot with the sun to your side. Soft side light makes the grass looks pretty like this. And, the lack of the sun actually in the frame means that we can avoid flare and allow true saturated colors to show through. No photoshop or filters have been added. Slight vibrance and contrast boost but otherwise unedited.

Vancouver, Canada. My son was looking out the train window, very tired as we were still jet lagged from traveling from Spain. I actually was taking photos out the window with my phone when the lady next to me said “You’re missing the real photo opportunity” and pointed at my son. Sure enough, I was. Sometimes we are too distracted with the scenerey to notice the special moments right in front of us. Tip #2. It doesn’t matter what camera you have in your hand if you miss noticing the photo ops. Be present… don’t live life looking through your lens. (I know, this is a hard one!)

Tip #3. Underexpose your sunset shots. Typically with cell phones when you see an amazing sunset and then you take a shot and it looks blah, right? Most cell phone cameras nowadays have a little exposure slider where you can make the image darker or lighter. Or, you might touch the screen where you want it to expose properly. If this is the case, touch the brightest part of the sky, or if you have sliders, underexpose (make it darker) and it will bring back the colors. Try this tip next time you see a sunset!

Tip #4 Get close to your foreground. When you are closer to something in the foreground it gives depth to your image. In the shot above, I waded into the water and held the phone as low to the water as I could without getting it wet. In the shot below, I got as close to the praying mantis as I could and had my son get behind it, giving it a bit of distance so you could see separation in the two.

Tip #5  Think about the direction of the light. When sunlight comes through trees it creates very spotty shadows and bright areas. This is a nightmare for photos… it’s too high contrast and you’re unlikely to get a good shot. Instead, try shooting with the sun blocked from your lens and behind your subject, so that they are in full shade. Had I taken this image from the other side of the fountain, it would have looked very different. The boy would have had patches of sun and shade on him as would the fountain. It would not have been nearly as pretty as this backlit shot. 

Tip #6 (Below) Rules are made to be broken – sometimes! You might see a gorgeous scene, sunset, silhouette… or whatever… and you snap a shot and LOVE IT! That’s great! Forget about the rules and don’t worry that it shouldn’t have had the sun flare or you “should have” taken it from a different angle… etc. I love the shot below with the 2 people and if I’d exposed for the sunset in this case (as I told you to do above) then I wouldn’t have gotten those neat triangular pools at the bottom! Everything would have gone dark except the sky… so go on and break the rules and experiment!

Have fun shooting!

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this post about cell phone photography – All images here taken with my cell phone!