How to professionally use your smartphone’s camera features

A camera is to a photographer what a brush is to a painter, a tool. You are young, talented, and passionate about photography, a camera, or its lack, limits your desire to express this creativity. Here is a question, do you have a smartphone? does it have a camera?

Young tourist woman taking photo of beautiful canyon on her smartphone camera during travel

Your smartphone may not be top of the range, it may be middle range or low range; the truth is, it doesn't really matter; your smartphone’s camera can still capture creative, dreamy, emotive and vivid photos.

Smartphone cameras now come loaded with powerful - soon to be basic - features as we saw in the last article - Five Smartphone Camera Features to help you Shoot Stunning Photos.

True Photography is telling a story, your camera is to you what a pen is to a writer, weave the drama, mood and feel of your subject through excellent composition. Knowing the features of your camera can limit or explode your abilities.

In this article we delve deeper on how to professionally use features found on your smartphone camera and capture award winning photos.

HDR and Exposure

ISO Sensitivity

Resolution and Zoom

Burst mode and Timer

Grid Lines

Young Traveler Man Stands On Logs And Takes Photos On Smartphone Camera With Copy-Space Left

HDR and Exposure

Landscapes, sunlight portraits, low light; this are some situations when using HDR (High Dynamic Range) will help you shoot a perfect photo.

When to Use HDR

Capturing extreme contrast; a deep blue sky, a scorched earth, with a mix of green foliage,may stretch the limits of your smartphone camera. Enable HDR; HDR will balance the sky and landscape, the sky won’t be too blown out and the earth won’t be too dark..

Woman taking pictures with smartphone. Stylish summer traveler woman in hat with camera outdoors in european city, Czech

Creative photography is painting with light, harsh sunlight causes glares and dark shadows, HDR takes care of both the light in background and foreground, it brightens the foreground without washing out clearly lit spots, capturing a vivid, crisp image.

Your smartphone camera’s flash when used in low light has a limited reach.HDR works better, it will capture shadows, highlight details that may otherwise disappear.

When Not to Use HDR

When your subject is in motion, HDR may fail you, it will blur the image.

When trying to capture a silhouette while creating a deep contrast between the background and foreground.

When shooting an array of rich colors, for example multicoloured flowers in bloom, the color intensity may be washed out.

Girl taking picture of healthy food with her smartphone. Vegan f


Choose Phase Detection Autofocus over contrast detection. It's better and faster, takes about 0.3 of a second to focus on your subject.

Switch to continuous Autofocus when capturing a moving subject.

ISO Sensitivity

ISO settings brighten or darken your photo depending on light conditions.

Your smartphone camera is limited on the control of shutter speed and aperture, you gain your ‘stops’ control by adjusting Exposure value (EV) in your settings.

To brighten your image slide EV towards the positive (+) sign.

To darken your image slide EV towards the negative (-) sign.

Take note, extreme movements will increase noise in your image.

In low light or if your subject is moving bump up the ISO, you will capture smooth images with less noise.

Resolution and Zoom

smartphone camera

Where will the image you capture be used? Your answer to this question determines which resolution to use.

High resolution gives sharper images when blown up, the downside is that your image comes loaded with high megapixels.

Pixel size matters: Megapixels determine your camera’s capabilities; each pixel captures light from the subject. A larger pixel size in your smartphone allows more light into the sensor, The larger the pixel size, the larger the overall sensor and the better the general capabilities of your smartphone camera.

Low resolution on the other hand will produce a grainy image when put on a large screen.

Assume you are shooting a bird in the sky using your smartphone camera, your interest is the bird and not the sky, unlike a DSLR you cannot adjust your settings and make the bird your focal point, to take care of this your smartphone camera is equipped with a digital zoom, an equivalent of zooming in by cropping a higher megapixel photo down to a lower megapixel equivalent.

Flying bird In The Sky

For example when using a 16MP camera in order to leave out unnecessary details you can use digital zoom to effectively bring the pixels down to 6MP or crop it even closer to 3MP this will get you a closer shot of the bird without compromising the quality of your image.

Lastly, Zooming into your subject compromises the quality of your image it is better to move closer to your subject.

Burst mode and Timer

Burst Mode shoots several photos of your subject from which you can select a crisp and clear image.

Use burst mode to shoot intense activity;People, animals or subjects in motion - flying,driving, skating, running, jumping, swimming,or walking.

When shooting close up photography burst mode and self timer can be used to reduce the chances of camera shake which may spoil your shot in low light.

Set your Timer to capture a group photo or self portrait.

Running Lion

Grid Lines

The rule of thirds - the process of placing two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines across the photo creating nine squares- when applied correctly will help you position different elements in the same photo.

Your smartphone camera comes with grid lines use them to apply this all important photographic rule.

Used professionally your smartphone camera will capture amazing photos.

Photo credits: Liudmyla Chuhunova, Peter Betts, Tatiana Chekryzhova, Silverblack, Sergey Tinyakov, Mr.phonlawat Chaicheevinlikit, Valio84sl.

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February 05, 2019


Thank you!

February 04, 2019


Thank you guys for reading, smartphone Cameras are only getting better, like Angela says it can be the only equipment allowed, it may just save the day, help you shoot that once in a lifetime photo!

February 03, 2019


Great advice! I actually feel that smartphone is a great thing to have and you can capture some pretty sharp photos on it too. i've just been using an ipod, but it works well and works when I'm not allowed to have a camera in certain places. : )

January 31, 2019


very helpful blog.thanks for sharing ...........

January 25, 2019


I tried to exclusively use my smartphone on a recent trip. It was better than I though for 4x6 family shots. But I was soon back to my DSLR for the other stuff. I guess it is too hard to "teach an old dog new tricks"! Thanks for the article, William

January 25, 2019


Very thoughtful, and I hope it makes some people think beyond the typical sensor size debate. A photographer's eye is more important than the sensor or camera!

January 21, 2019


Thanks for reading.

January 21, 2019


Interesting article. Thanks for sharing

January 11, 2019


Good blog! Thank you for sharing and best regards!

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