Have you been looking for a way to push yourself creatively and improve your photography skills? The key to doing just that might very well be in your hand at this very moment. Yes, I’m talking about your cell phone!

You may just use your phone camera for simple snapshots. But your phone is capable of so much more! With some intention and a few helpful tips shared below, you can take photos with your cell phone to rival your DSLR images.


Use an app that gives you more control while shooting

It may feel limiting going from your DSLR to your mobile phone for photography, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sure, your big camera has a thousand knobs and dials to control every aspect of your photo. But did you know that there are apps that will allow you to have more control over the images you take with your phone’s camera too?

Look for an app that allows you to easily change your settings. An application that lets you have full control over exposure, white balance/color temperature, ISO, shutter speed, and focal point will allow you to get more intentional results in any shooting situation. By having the option to control these factors, you’ll begin to feel more creative with the images you’re producing from your mobile phone.

Also, just like shooting in RAW is recommended in order to have the most latitude in photo editing, the same is true for your mobile photography. Utilize an app that allows you to shoot with your phone in RAW format so you have more control during the editing process.

These are some favorites that allow you to have more control over the final image than your phone’s built-in camera:

Lightroom Mobile
Camera +2

The more you understand the app you’re using to take your photos, the better your images are bound to turn out. It’s important to take the time out to really learn how to maximize your available apps just as you would learn to better operate your DSLR.


Consider photographic elements

It’s easy to feel like taking a photo with your mobile phone is nothing more than a quick snapshot. You pick up your phone, snap the photo without much thought, then toss your phone back into your purse and continue about your day.

When you’re shooting with your DSLR, however, I’m willing to bet that you take the time out to really plan. You evaluate your surroundings before you begin shooting. You observe the light and contemplate how you want to use it. Then you start looking for the perfect composition, the ideal color combinations, and other photographic elements that you can incorporate.

Well, guess what? It should be no different when you’re shooting with your mobile phone. Before you start snapping away, you should still be taking all of these factors into consideration.

A photo taken with any camera will be elevated with good light. Using compositional techniques to guide you viewer to your subject will make any photo more impactful. Perspective, color theory, and texture will all add to the value of your photos. The camera does not dictate any of these variables…you do!

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Avoid falling into the trap of always grabbing those quick and mindless snapshots with your phone. Instead, slow down and take a moment to really think through the photo you want to create before you press the shutter button.


Treat your phone’s camera like a DSLR with a prime lens

The best thing about prime lenses is how they push you to be creative. Unlike a zoom lens, with a prime lens you have to move your feet and switch up your POV while you’re shooting in order to avoid all of your images looking the same.

When shooting with your mobile phone, keep this same frame of mind. Make sure to remember to move around and utilize different angles while you’re shooting to add variety to your photos.

When you’re shooting don’t be afraid to get closer to your subject for a macro-like shot. Look around you and take note of all of the opportunities to capture things both above and below you. Take a few steps back so you can capture the wider shots that include the environment. Crouch down for the closer shots that create intimacy with your viewer.

Step outside of your box and really push yourself to realize all that you can do with your phone by simply changing your position. Instead of thinking of your phone camera’s single focal length as a limitation, look at it as an opportunity to shoot differently.


Take the time to edit your photos

If you feel like your photos taken with your mobile phone are lacking a bit of polish, you may just need to spend more time with your editing process.

Having more control over your camera and shooting with more intention are both necessary steps in the process to take a quality photo. However, editing your photo after you’ve taken it can really elevate your mobile photography.

When you’re editing your photos from your DSLR, you often enhance the basic factors such as the brightness, contrast, and saturation. You may also focus on more in-depth editing such as color toning and using the healing tool to remove distractions in the frame.

Go beyond simply adding a filter to your photo and get more in depth with your editing to really enhance your mobile phone photos. Some of my favorite apps to edit photos are:

VSCO: They have awesome presets that you can then edit for a more natural and custom look.
Snapseed: I love this app for in-depth editing, especially it’s Healing and Portraiture tools.
Lightroom Mobile: this app allows you to upload your presets so you can keep cohesiveness between your mobile phone photos and your DSLR photos if you desire.

Related: Using Lightroom Mobile to make your life on the go easier

If you want to improve your mobile photograph skills, you need to take more control, slow down and take your time, and shoot with intention. With practice, you might be surprised at what type of art you can create with this tool you carry around every day.