How to Take Great Photos With an iPhone (or Another Camera Phone)

Close-up of mans hands taking picture of creamed pumpkin soup with smartphone
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Whether in a purse, in a pocket, or clipped on a belt, cell phones are always with us. This makes a cell phone camera the first choice for taking pictures by a lot of people. Not because people like them more than larger cameras but because they are convenient.

Like any change in photography, this isn't without controversy. Even more so than the debates about whether anyone "serious" about photography can use a point and shoot camera, vicious comments fly far too often when anyone asks for tips on taking better cell phone photos. Not here. The best camera is always the one with you when you need it so here are some tips to help you take the best iPhone (or another camera phone) photos you can.​

  • 01 of 06

    Learn the Controls

    Overhead view enthusiastic mother and daughter taking selfie laying on rug
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    Like any camera, you need to know how to operate your camera phone first before you can take great photos. Some camera phones allow you to do nothing more than turn the flash on and off while others give you some zoom and focus point control. Take a moment to look at your camera manual and learn what your camera phone is capable of doing.

    If your camera phone is not capable of doing what you want, remember that smartphones like the iPhone can be buffered greatly by using photography apps. Apps can speed up the number of shots you can take in a minute, add focus effects, give you control of the shutter, and many more features. Some cost a few dollars but a huge quantity is available for free through your phone's app store.​

  • 02 of 06

    Be Rock Solid

    A mobile phone on a tripod filming a mountain range.
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    Camera shake plagues photographers using any type of camera and cell phones are particularly bad about shake. This is because most people take photos holding the phone far out from their bodies where it is nearly impossible to eliminate shake in your arm.

    Because there is no viewfinder you can't hold a phone up to your eye or bring it close ​to your body to help stabilize the shot like you would when holding a traditional camera.

    To steady your cell phone camera you have several options:

    • Use two hands to minimize shake
    • Buy a tripod
    • Download an image stabilization app
  • 03 of 06

    Diffuse the Flash

    Multi-ethnic millenial group of friends taking a selfie photo with mobile phone on rooftop terrasse using flash at night time
    julief514 / Getty Images

    If you must use your phone's flash, you risk a nasty overexposure on close subjects. Tone down the harshness of the flash with a bit of wax paper to scatter the light (diffuse it). Just be sure not to get the wax paper over the camera lens.

    Remember that when you scatter light it will make the scene a bit dimmer so experiment with wax paper thickness until you find the right amount of diffusion without losing too much flash power.

  • 04 of 06

    Composition Is King

    Making smartphone photos on mountain
    Christoph Hetzmannseder / Getty Images

    When you don't have a lot of control over how your camera (in this case iPhone or other cell phone camera) records a photo, you have to fall back on composition. ​A strong composition can overcome a multitude of problems with exposure, soft focus, and noise. It won't cure everything but it can save a borderline photo easily. Learn about point of view, leading lines, natural frames, and horizontal versus vertical shots.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Pump Your Camera up on Steroids

    Woman photographing sandwich with cell phone

    JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

    iPhones and Android phones have the added advantage of apps and there are tons of apps to give you more control over the camera on your phone. There is nothing wrong with the ever-popular Instagram but don't stop there when looking for apps. There are more out there much more powerful that will let you take your photography to another level without depending on filters to hide flaws.

    Look for apps that let you:

    • Control shutter speed
    • Take dozens of photos rapidly
    • Modify depth of field
    • Add image stabilization
  • 06 of 06

    Bonus Tip: Have Fun

    Grandmother taking a photo of grandson with mobile phone.
    twomeows / Getty Images

    Finally, don't be so serious. If you are worried about taking a "perfect shot" or what someone else will think about your photos you'll suck the joy right out of it. Enjoy taking photos and recording what interests you. Skill comes with practice, not frustration.

    In the final analysis, it doesn't matter what others think of your photos. If you are happy with your pictures then they are perfect for you.