The ultimate guide to mastering phone photography

Your mobile phone can snap stunning photos perfect for social channels – follow these top tips to get it right every time
man taking a selfie


Table of Contents

Your mobile phone is your gateway to creating incredible images for social media.

With the right tips and tools, your iOS or Android device can capture images that will add immense value to your brand. 

Every smartphone comes with most of the tools you need to take great photos. You may have to download some apps and invest in kit (like a power bank and a tripod) to up your photography game, but you don’t need to fork out a fortune to get started. 

In this ultimate guide to great photos, we give you 17 top tips to taking pictures on your mobile phone and offer insights into how to optimise your images. 

Why do you need great photos?

It’s vital that any imagery you use on social channels truly reflects your brand values. Whether you’re taking vivid photos of food or shooting moody landscapes, your images must be unique to your brand.

You don’t want them to look generic and they should be as crisp and perfect as possible. People expect good quality photos on branded social media channels and if you fall below par, it could hinder follower growth and/or engagement. 

The right device is vital as is a thorough understanding of how your smartphone camera works. 

man pointing phone to mountainous scenery

Which smartphone is which? 

Not all smartphones are created equal and some makes have put a lot of time and effort into building devices that include high-end cameras as standard. Some of the best are:

  • The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • Oppo Find X5 Pro
  • OnePlus
  • Xiaomi 13 Pro


You want your device to have a large camera image sensor – the sensor determines how much light is captured when you take a photo. This light is responsible for dynamic range, sharpness and exposure balance. Most phone sensors are about 1 cm wide whereas a DSLR camera’s sensor is up to five times bigger. The Xiaomi 13 Pro has a 2.54 cm sensor.    

Megapixel count also needs to be considered. This refers to the number of pixels on the camera sensor that capture light and colour. Pixels are less important than the camera sensor, and if you are only using your photos online and not printing them, you can get away with as little as 0.16 megapixels. A Facebook cover photo for example, requires 0.26 megapixels

It’s also worth investing in a phone with image stabilisation and iPhones offer some of the best on the market. Added to these features you need zoom capabilities, a good front camera (for selfies) and video for live action. 

17 tips for smartphone photos that will make your photos pop

#1 Take as many photos as you can

This is a good way to practice your skills as a photographer and ensure you get a great shot. Professional photographers take lots of shots to get the perfect combination of light, action, and colour. You should do the same. If you’re taking a static shot, take as many as 30 photos so you have plenty to choose from.

#2 Get to know your phone

Take time to get to know your device and its capabilities. Read the manual and research pixels, lens quality, how it operates, any special tools. Look into how it responds to light and focus. If your smartphone includes any manual settings, get familiar with them too because you can use these to optimise your images.

#3 Learn about shutter speed, white balance, ISO, and aspect ratio

These are important aspects of photography that will help you frame, light, and take better shots. If you have manual settings, you can sometimes adjust things like your shutter speed or your white balance to get stand out images.

#4 Play with exposure

Many smartphones come with features that automatically manage your exposure, but if you switch to manual mode, you can experiment and create stunning effects. For example, a long exposure shot of a street at night will create elongated trails of light that contrast wonderfully with the darkness. There are also apps that you can download for long exposure photography. You will need a tripod to keep the phone absolutely still as you shoot. 

woman holding slushy ice cream

#5 Explore perspectives

Taking shots from different angles and heights can transform a scene into something interesting and dynamic. You can also play around with distance and space – frame your images in unique ways. 

#6 Know the rule of thirds

This photography rule used in portraits can also apply to picturing food, landscapes or any scene where one person or item is the focal point. It helps you frame images for better impact.

#7 Use symmetry and patterns

Symmetry and patterns are important when creating impactful images. Symmetry is eye-catching and can turn a pedestrian scene or item into a piece of art. Look for patterns and lines of symmetry when taking your photos and use them within the frame to accentuate your image and its focal point.

#8 Play around with lens flare

This spark of light can ruin shots in the early morning or late at night, but with a little skill and knowhow, you can use it to great effect. Frame your subject in such a way that lens flare frames it or adds a creative glow.

woman on laptop wearing glasses

#9 Digital zoom vs. optical zoom

An optical zoom camera lens is going to give you much stronger results than a camera with digital zoom. Your smartphone won’t come with the bells and whistles that a traditional DSLR camera does, but you do get brands with an optical zoom that include features such as wide-angle and telephoto, such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Choose a smartphone that has multiple lens options for more variety.

#10 Discover the delights of HDR

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a smartphone feature that lets you balance light more accurately in images. It does the one thing we’ve wanted cameras to do for ages – takes a photo that looks how we see things with our own eyes. 

#11 Natural light is a winner

Get outside because it’s hard to beat natural light when it comes to photography. You can use your lenses, aperture, white balance, shutter speed, and exposure to play around with both natural light and a professional lighting setup. The former will always look richer and more atmospheric.

#12 Invest in megapixels

Buy a smartphone that has a decent megapixel count. DSLRs can shoot at 60 megapixels while the average smartphone is often below 20. The Samsung Galaxy 23 Ultra has a 200MP wide-angle camera, while the Xiaomi 13 Pro has 50MP. Aim for anything above 8MP, but don’t panic because if your phone has 3MP and above, it will be sufficient.

couple overlook mountain view @cjexplores @luxury.escapes

#13 The light is best before dawn (and the night)

The golden hour after sunset and sunrise delivers the most extraordinary photographs. People look amazing, the light is soft, and the sun is your professional backlighting setup (as it hovers on the horizon). Spend time photographing during this time and notice how much it changes the quality of light in your shots. 

#14 There’s also the blue hour

You’ve captured gold, now it is time to capture blue. As the sun sets in the evening, twilight takes command and the purple-blue light it offers can help you take dynamic and dramatic images. This is a good time to try shots of landscapes, architecture, cityscapes, and passing cars. You will need to play around with your exposure to get the best possible shots.

#15 Learn the basics

Just as you should spend time learning the capabilities of your device, you also need to spend time understanding the basics of photography. Amazing photographers don’t just arrive, they spend hours practicing with composition, light, story, framing, lenses, contrast, scale, and objects. You’ll take some terrible photos at first, but as you get to know these critical skills and photography fundamentals, your images improve.

#16 Don’t be afraid to experiment

Make mistakes, take photos of old shoes, and rubbish. Do things differently. Explore your creativity. The rules are made to be broken, but only when you know them. If you understand the basics, you can break rules in interesting ways that add value to an image. 

#17 Try some apps

You can transform your smartphone into a professional camera, add filters, and more with apps. Here are some of the best Android apps for smartphone photography and here is a selection for iPhones

And finally…

As you grow more comfortable with your smartphone and learn how to take amazing shots, you can use these to build your social media presence and brand. You can also use apps and tools to improve your designs and create videos that are perfect for social media, such as Instagram.

Then you can follow our detailed guide on creating the perfect captions for your images – you need to tell a story and sometimes a great caption can make all the difference.

Discover more about building your brand as a creator, monetising your individuality and taking advantage of every opportunity with Vamp. We have guides to help you use YouTube more effectively, create content with influence, and get verified on Instagram.


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