Mobile Photography 101: Tips and Tricks

Laurel Village
Notice the use of the rule of thirds in this image to draw the viewer’s eye toward different elements of the capture.

Believe it or not, there was a day when capturing a moment in time was not as easy as reaching into your pocket and pulling out your smartphone. Gone are the days of waiting for a roll of film to be developed hoping that the pictures would turn out—with proper exposure and no blinks.

Recent years have seen advancements in mobile photographic technology that render Polaroid-era photographers amazed and bewildered. So, you didn’t get the right angle? The photo came out blurry? Snap another picture. In fact, take about 20 more. Your only limit is the capacity of your device and deleting unwanted images is as simple as a few taps and swipes across your screen.

The explosion of Instagram and other image sharing applications has allowed the world to be seen through millions of different perspectives. Countless related apps supplement the visual experience through image editing and manipulation, and all it takes is a bit of practice using the following tips to hone your photography skills and deliver high-quality captures.

Be creative with angles

I learned long ago that one of the easiest ways to take a boring picture is to snap the photo at eye level. We see that angle every day through our own eyes. Take advantage of the opportunity to capture life in a way that isn’t often seen. Our smartphones are small enough that we can maneuver them into tight spaces, hold them close to the ground, or raise them above our heads to capture subjects from angles that are to otherwise experience.

Lighting is the key

Good photography is built upon the foundation of lighting. So much so that there’s even a name for the time of day when lighting is best for picture taking: the Golden Hour. This time period is shortly after sunrise and slightly before sunset, when the light is soft and illuminates your subject with highlights and shadows from various angles. On the other hand, midday photography produces harsh lighting and sometimes washed out subjects. Always be cognizant of where you and your subject are in relation to the sun.

Use the rule of thirds

Composition is another key component to good photography. The goal here is to avoid placing the most interesting part of a picture—often a person—directly in the middle of the frame. Instead, imagine that your picture is divided into three vertical sections and three horizontal sections. Placing your focal point at any intersection of these imaginary lines is an easy, natural way to catch the eye of your viewer. A landscape horizon, for example, is more appealing when it spans either the top- or bottom-third portion of the frame.

Use apps to edit your photos

I’ve spent a fair share of time testing image-editing apps in an attempt to find ones that do exactly what I need. Rarely do I ever limit myself to only the in-app filters of Instagram. Does it take more effort? Sure. Is it worth it? Totally. Afterlight, one of my favorite apps for altering images, comes packed with beautiful pre-made filters (which can be layered on top of one another) and even allows you to adjust the hue of your highlights, mid-tones and shadows. This app is essential. On occasion, text can highlight a theme or idea, and an app called Over is hands down the best typography app I’ve come across. Be careful not to overdo your edits with these apps. Gravitate toward doing less rather than more.

The last piece of advice to take better pictures is to start living life by viewing the world as a photographer. Look for new ways to look at simple things. Change your perspective. And in the words of an unknown author: “When life gets blurry, adjust your focus.”