7 Basic Photo Tips for Your Phone

If you follow my Twitter or Facebook posts, you know part of my brand is photography. The other part concerns trauma. Traumatized or not a hobby, pet project, or side gig, if not a job, in something you love is healthy. My side gig being photography I’ll pass along a few tips for taking impressive photos with camera or cell phone.

Photography is something that takes me completely out of my head. It is a sort of meditation in that I immerse myself in my subject–seeking out the elusive great capture. I am interested in color, exposure, focus, frame, composition, focal point, and, even, the background. You can do as I do and get a semi-expensive camera with semi-professional equipment and really work on learning all about those things, or you can use your cell phone camera. I captured some outstanding photos when I just had an iPhone 4s and with today’s phone camera capabilities the sky is the limit.iphone 4

Yes, the color, exposure, and so forth I listed above matter, but not so much you can’t have fun and great shots with your cell phone camera. But first a few details related to iPhones and probably other brands.


If you go to your settings app you can scroll until you get to the one for the camera (not the photos), and you can adjust the settings how you want. If there is an HDR option, I recommend that in addition to keeping the regular shot. Sometimes the HDR just turns the photo a bit neon. Sometimes the HDR captures the details really well.

High Efficiency (HEIC)

If you have an option for Formatting, such as High Efficiency or Most Compatible, you need to consider a couple of things. I am no expert in High Efficiency except by accidental practice, and it sucked because it didn’t use a standard file type such as the common jpeg. I got these funky files my computer and photo software didn’t recognize. It does reduce the size of the photos for phone storage (more on that to come), but if you want to do anything with that photo such as upload or edit it, you need to consider the Most Compatible for taking shots in jpeg format.


To store photos, find a cloud server that will handle the quantity or that you can inexpensively add storage to that doesn’t corrupt the saving of the file to it. I am paying for iCloud space at $ .99 a month for 50 GB additional storage to serve both documents and photos. Just don’t depend solely on your computer, even if you regularly back it up on a drive. The dependability is up to your computer’s and drive’s state.


On to the meaty details … Horizons are tricky little devils that tilt your world and end up causing you to crop it straight, losing details and file quality. I did a boat tour, trying to take photos all the while, and I can tell you even with my experience, I had a boatload (pun intended) of photos to delete or crop to level the horizon.

How Many (Quantity)

That brings me to quantity–take lots of photos because only a few will make the cut (or not to cut). Even professional photographers know that you shoot, shoot, shoot, because little details you didn’t notice taking pictures will stand out and ruin (even with special software editing) a shot. One of my photos is mystical except for the thin branch sticking out across the top.

Lake Maumelle_the branch

Attention to Detail

Speaking of details … It takes lots of practice to get to a point where you are able to take in a comprehensive profile of your shot in the instant you need it. There is always a person in the background staring at you as you take family vacation pictures, the reflection of a car window or the parking lot, for that matter, or some telephone lines cutting across the perfect blue sky. Often you can’t account for everything whether in logistics or in mind. That is when you start brushing up on your photo editing skills.

Editing or Processing Apps

There are some great phone apps for some of your editing needs. While it is preferable to edit on your computer straight from phone uploads on you computer software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop CC, Photoshop Express, and Photoshop Elements, you can get several of those as phone apps, sometimes way cheaper than the full computer version. When editing work with the original if possible, because there again, you lose file quality and purposability with each transfer and edit.

There is much more to think about if you are interested, but it is always good to start with a few things you may be able to remember next time–

  • Equipment isn’t everything
  • Beware the surroundings
  • Horizons don’t tilt
  • Editing has its place
  • Shoot, shoot, shoot!

A Passing Butterfly

“A Passing Butterfly”

iPhone 8 and Adobe Photoshop

Special Merit Award in Light, Space and Time Botanical Exhibit

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