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We’ve all been there. Trying to preserve an important moment and realizing that the photos on your phone are turning out…a little bit less than desirable – to put it nicely.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur taking photos of recent work or a parent attempting to capture a child’s first soccer game, great phone photography has become something of a necessity these days.

Here’s your guide to taking fantastic photos on your phone without breaking a sweat.

Step 1: Turn Your Phone Sideways

Want to start taking better photos? The simplest step is one that few people know (or remember) to take.

So why is turning your phone sideways so important? Because doing so turns “phone photos” into professional-grade photography.

You should especially consider taking photos in the horizontal format if you’re hoping to use them on your website or social media.

While it’s definitely true that vertical photos are gaining in popularity, they still just don’t work on websites. By nature, they typically require a user to scroll to see the entirety of the image, and that’s definitely not ideal.

If you’re planning to use the image on social media or for personal reasons, you could consider vertical format. However, always keep in mind that vertical format photos usually showcase far less of a surrounding environment.

As an example, consider the difference in how these two photos display.

Horizontal Format

This photo is easy to see all at once on desktop, mobile, and tablet versions of our site.

Vertical Format

This photo requires scrolling to reveal the entirety of the shot. It’s difficult to see the entire thing all at once.

Step 2: Take time to Focus Manually

Phone photography is often thwarted by blurriness, out of focus subjects, and improper lighting.

Taking the time to manually focus can be the remedy for all of these issues. To manually focus on an iPhone or Android device, try clicking different around the image on your phone before you take it. Doing so will allow your phone to automatically adjust the lighting as well as the focus so that the image you take can be as crisp as possible.

Step 3: Test Different angles

Most poor phone photos are the result of bad lighting or poor composition. Both of these problems can be remedied by choosing different angles before taking a shot.

You don’t have to be a master of photographic elements or composition to see the improvement that moving around a little bit can make. Just carefully study the photo preview your phone generates and see how the shot is affected by the different options you explore.

As a general rule of thumb, try to never include your primary source of light within your frame. A sun, a lamp, or even a candle have the potential to produce tremendous glare. If the source of light isn’t your primary subject, you’ll probably end up with a very dark version of the thing you were actually trying to photograph.

Step 4: Hold Still

If at all possible, both you and your subject should stay very still as you take photos. Many phone photos are taken at a relatively low shutter speed, meaning that your device is likely to capture motion blur within an image. Unless you’re carefully factoring that in to your process, you’re probably just going to end up with a blurry picture.

The best thing to do in this scenario is be excessively careful. Try holding your phone in place for one or two seconds after your photo has taken to help ensure that you won’t capture motion blur.

Of course, if you’re capturing a subject in action, that’s absolutely possible. Just be sure to at least keep still on your end!

Step 5: Add Depth

On some newer phones, users have the ability to enter into a “portrait” mode that allows the background to be blurred out. This creates the effect that a more high-end camera would.

However, when we talk about creating depth, we’re not just talking about that. (But on that note, folks with older and incompatible phone models should take a look at Instagram’s new portrait feature.)

Depth can mean so much more than a blurred out background (also known as bokeh). Depth can also refer to an image that has layers – one that looks almost 3D due to the composition of the image.

Consider these three photos.

Each of these photos introduces depth into the frame. That makes a significant difference. Think about how the average person takes a photo – most of us have seen this scenario play out when it’s time to take family photos.

Our photographic instinct tells us to line our subjects up against a wall – the most inoffensive background at our immediate disposal.

And there’s nothing wrong with that either. Most people don’t have the time to perfectly arrange an entire frame before taking family photos. That said, it’s still true that adding depth can greatly impact a photo.

Most people think that their subjects should be placed directly in front of the background they choose. The reality is that most professional photographers actually place their subjects at least six feet away from the background so that sufficient depth can be added to the frame.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to take on the burden of professional photography or not, it helps to know how to take a decent photo in a pinch. For more practical tips and tricks that are helpful to entrepreneurs, follow along with our how-to series.