Smartphone photography questions

Updated 7th October 2023

Obviously, the most essential smartphone photography question is the one you want to ask. But, it’s impossible for me to know what your question is.

So… as you explore smartphone photography, in this article, I’ll do my best to guess. Hopefully the answers to these smartphone photography questions will be helpful to you 🙂

Before you get started though, I’d encourage you to make extensive use of the article’s content menu below.

When I first wrote it a few months ago, I answered 10 essential smartphone photography questions. Since then, it’s exploded to 25.  I originally planned on around 1,000 words. As of now, it’s getting close to 10,000!

But, if you’ve got a question that’s not on this list, let me know and I’ll add it to the next update 🙂

Let’s get started…

The 25 essential smartphone photography questions.


1. Which smartphone has the best camera for photography?

This particular question is almost as difficult to answer as knowing what the most essential question is! As expected, the latest flagship smartphone from Apple, Samsung, or Google’s Pixel range will most likely give you the best technology for your photography.

But, the photographer’s eye is much more important. How you SEE the world is more important than what you use to capture it.

If you’re looking to get a new smartphone for your photography, you can get some ideas on what’s available by clicking here. The article was written the end of 2022, but the list is still relevant in 2023, because those manufacturers produce smartphones that are great for photography.


2. How do I clean my smartphone camera lens?

Because of the nature of having a camera on your smartphone, the lenses are bound to pick up smudges from your fingers and debris from your pocket, or bag. But, here’s how to keep them clean.

Blow Away Dust and Debris: Before you wipe the lens, gently blow on it to remove any loose dust or particles. This helps prevent scratching the lens when you wipe it.

Use a Soft Microfibre Cloth: The best tool for cleaning smartphone camera lenses is a clean, microfibre cloth. The kind you get with eye glasses is ideal.

Wipe Gently: Lightly and gently wipe the lens in a circular motion. Start from the centre and work your way outward.

Read more…


3. How do I switch between front and rear camera modes?

Android and iOS cameras use a similar technique to swap from the front to rear cameras on your smartphone. Here’s how you do it.


  • Open the default Camera app on your smartphone.
  • Look for the camera ‘switch icon’, which is typically either two circular arrows, or a camera icon with two arrows in opposite directions.
  • Tap the camera switch icon to switch between the front and rear cameras.


4. What is HDR mode, and when should I use it?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a mode available on smartphone cameras that helps capture photos with improved detail and balanced exposure, especially in challenging lighting situations.

When you enable HDR mode, your smartphone takes multiple photos at different exposures and then combines them to create a final image with a wider dynamic range. Here’s when you should consider using HDR mode:

Contrast and Backlit Scenes: HDR can help balance the exposure when you’ve got a scene with a stark contrast between bright and dark areas, such as a backlit subject, or a landscape with a bright sky. It also preserves the details in the highlights and shadows, that means, it’s a more evenly exposed photo.

Landscapes: HDR is often beneficial for landscape photography, especially because it can capture the full range of tones in the scenery. It helps retain details in the highlights, such as clouds, and also preserve the shadow details at the same time.

Indoor and Low-Light Conditions: In dimly lit environments, HDR can help reduce noise and capture more details. It can enhance the overall brightness and bring out the details in low-light situations without overexposing bright areas.

Still Subjects: HDR works best with stationary subjects because it captures multiple images and merges them together. It might result in blurry images if there’s significant movement during the capture process.

Remember that HDR mode might vary in its functionality and effectiveness across different smartphone models. It’s worth experimenting with HDR in different scenarios to see how it enhances your photos and to determine when it produces the desired results.


5. How do I use the camera grid for composition?

Using the smartphone camera grid is a helpful technique for better composition in your photos. Here’s how you can use it:


Enable the Grid: Open your smartphone camera settings and look for an option to enable the grid. On most devices, it can be found under the camera settings, or composition settings.

Rule of Thirds: The grid divides your screen into nine equal sections, forming a 3×3 grid. The rule of thirds suggests placing your main subject along the lines, or at the intersections of these gridlines.

This off-centre placement often creates a more visually appealing and balanced composition.

Remember though, the grid is just a tool to assist you in composing your photos. Feel free to experiment with different compositions and adjust based on your creative vision.

Over time, using the grid becomes more intuitive, and you’ll develop an eye for balanced and visually appealing compositions.

There are loads of other uses for the Camera grid and you can read about some of them HERE.


6. What is the Portrait mode, and how does it work?

Portrait mode is a feature available on many modern smartphone cameras and it allows you to capture professional-looking photos, with a shallow depth of field. It simulates the effect of a traditional DSLR camera that’s using a wide aperture.
The purpose, is to get a sharp subject and a blurred background.


Here’s how Portrait mode works on smartphones:

Depth Sensing: To create the soft, or blurred background, smartphones with dual or multiple cameras use depth-sensing technology. These cameras capture the scene from slightly different angles, which helps the device understand the depth information of the subject and its surroundings.

Subject Separation: Using the depth information, the smartphone camera software identifies the subject and separates it from the background. It recognises the foreground subject by analysing the variations in depth, edges, and contrast.

Blur Effect: Once the subject is identified, the smartphone applies a blur effect to the background, creating a smooth and visually pleasing bokeh effect. The amount of blur can vary depending on the device and software settings.

Real-time Preview: Many smartphones provide a real-time preview of the Portrait mode effect on the screen, allowing you to compose your shot and adjust the focus if needed. This helps you see the level of background blur before capturing the photo.

It’s important to note that Portrait mode works best when there is a clear distinction between the subject and the background. It may struggle in low-light conditions, or if the subject has complex edges or transparent elements.

Experiment with Portrait mode in different lighting conditions and with various subjects to achieve stunning portraits with a professional look. Keep in mind that the performance and features of Portrait mode may vary across different smartphone models.


7. How do I use the camera timer?

Using the camera’s timer on a smartphone, allows you to capture photos without needing to press the shutter button immediately. Here’s how you can use the camera timer on your smartphone:


Open the Camera App: Launch the camera app on your smartphone. The location of the timer option may vary depending on the device and camera app.

Locate the Timer Option: Look for a timer icon, or a settings menu within the camera app. It’s usually represented by a clock, or stopwatch symbol. Tap on it to access the timer settings.

Set the Timer Delay: Once you access the timer settings, you’ll typically find options for different timer delays, such as 3 seconds, 5 seconds, or 10 seconds. Choose the delay you want, based on how much time you need to position yourself, or the camera.

Position the Camera: Place your smartphone on a stable surface, or use a tripod so it remains steady during the timer countdown. If you’re taking a selfie, position the camera at an appropriate angle and distance.

Start the Timer: After setting the timer delay and positioning the camera, tap the shutter button or the dedicated timer button to start the countdown.

Get Ready: Once the timer starts, you’ll typically see a countdown on the screen or hear beeps indicating the remaining time. Use this time to get into your preferred position, or strike a pose.

Capture the Photo: When the timer reaches zero, the smartphone camera will automatically capture the photo. Make sure to stay still during the capture process, so you don’t get any blurriness.

Using the timer feature is particularly handy for group photos, self-portraits, or when you want to avoid camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button manually. By utilising the camera’s timer, you can have more control over your photos and be part of the frame without rushing to take the shot.


8. How can I take sharper photos with my smartphone?

To take sharper photos with your smartphone, you can follow these tips:


Clean the lens: Make sure the lens of your smartphone’s camera is clean and free from smudges or dirt. Use a microfibre cloth and wipe the lens gently.

Steady your hand: Hold your smartphone with both hands and keep it as steady as possible while you’re taking the photo. This helps reduce motion blur and ensures sharper images.

Use natural light: Good lighting is essential for sharp photos. Whenever possible, try to capture photos in well-lit environments, or use natural light sources like sunlight.

Don’t use just the flash to light your shot. It causes harsh lighting and will almost certainly reduce image quality. It’s fine to use it as a fill-flash though, to lift shadows, etc.

Tap to focus: Most smartphone cameras allow you to tap on the screen to focus on a specific area. Take advantage of this feature, so that the subject you want to capture is in proper focus, resulting in sharper images.

Avoid digital zoom: Digital zoom can degrade image quality and make your photos less sharp. Instead of using the zoom feature on your smartphone, try to physically move closer to the subject, or consider cropping the image later during editing.

Unless you’re looking to make huge prints, you won’t even notice a drop in quality

Use HDR mode: High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode can help capture more details in both bright and dark areas of a photo. It can enhance the overall sharpness and clarity of your images, especially in challenging lighting conditions.

Use a third-party camera app: Consider using a third-party camera app that offers more manual controls and advanced features. These apps often provide options to adjust settings like ISO, shutter speed, and focus, allowing you to fine-tune your photos for sharper results.

Remember, different smartphone models may have varying camera capabilities, so it’s always a good idea to explore your device’s specific camera settings and features to get optimal results.


9. What is burst mode, and when should I use it?

Burst mode on a smartphone camera allows you to capture a series of photos in rapid succession, by holding down the shutter button, or using a dedicated burst mode setting. It’s designed to capture multiple frames within a short duration.
By doing that, it allows you to choose the best shot from the series, or create dynamic action shots.


When to Use Burst Mode: 


Action Photography: Burst mode is particularly useful for capturing fast-moving subjects, or other action scenes. Whether you’re photographing sports, pets, or any dynamic activity, burst mode increases the chances of capturing the perfect moment without missing a crucial frame.

Group Photos: When taking group photos, it’s common for someone to blink or look away in at least one shot. Burst mode ensures you have several frames to choose from, increasing the likelihood of capturing everyone with their eyes open and smiling.

Low-Light Conditions: In low-light situations, it can be challenging to capture a sharp photo because of slower shutter speeds. But, by using burst mode, you can take multiple shots in quick succession, increasing the chances of getting a sharp image despite the lower light.

Selfies and Portraits: Burst mode can be helpful for selfies, or portraits where you want to capture various expressions or poses. Holding down the shutter button in burst mode, allows you to capture a range of shots, ensuring you’ve got multiple options to choose from.

Macro Photography: When photographing small subjects, such as insects, flowers, or intricate details, burst mode can be beneficial. It helps you capture a series of frames, increasing the likelihood of getting a sharp and well-focused shot.


Tips for Using Burst Mode: 
Keep your smartphone steady while using burst mode, to avoid excessive camera shake.
Be mindful of available storage space, because burst mode captures a series of photos rapidly, and that consumes more storage.

Review the burst mode photos afterward and select the best shots to keep. then, delete any duplicates, or unwanted frames as soon as you can.

By using burst mode on your smartphone, you have a higher chance of capturing the perfect shot in dynamic, or challenging situations. Experiment with burst mode in different scenarios to maximise your chances of getting that ideal photo.


10. How do I lock focus and exposure on my smartphone?

To lock focus and exposure on your smartphone, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the camera app on your smartphone.
  2. Tap on the screen where you want to set the focus and exposure.
  3. A square or circle should appear on the screen to indicate the focus and exposure area.
  4. Some camera apps have a separate focus and exposure lock button (Most often although not always, a square grid is the focus, and a circle is the exposure grid. If yours is one of those, choose the focus grid and drag it into position). Tap to lock it.

Once locked, the focus and exposure settings will remain fixed until you unlock them, or close the camera app.

Remember that the exact steps may vary depending on the make and model of your smartphone and the camera app you are using.


11. What is the difference between optical and digital zoom?

Optical zoom and digital zoom are two different methods of zooming in on a subject when using a smartphone cameras. Here’s the main difference between them:


Optical Zoom:

On a standard camera, optical zoom adjusts the length of the camera lens, to effectively bring the subject closer. It physically extends, or retracts the lens elements, allowing you to zoom in and out optically.

With optical zoom, the image quality remains high because it captures more detail by magnifying the subject optically. The zoom range is usually represented by a number (e.g., 2x, 3x, 5x), indicating how much closer the subject can appear compared to the camera’s widest angle of view.

On a smartphone, the zoom feature is achieved by using different length lenses. That’s why you’ll find more than one camera lens on the back of your smartphone.

When you zoom in on a smartphone camera, what you’re actually doing is utilising a different lens, that has a longer focal length.

Digital Zoom:

Digital zoom, on the other hand, does not rely on the camera lens to bring the subject closer. Instead, it enlarges the image digitally by cropping and magnifying the existing pixels.

When using digital zoom, the camera essentially takes a portion of the image and enlarges it, resulting in a loss of image quality and resolution. The more you digitally zoom in, the more pixelation, and loss of detail you may experience.

Key Differences:

Image Quality: Optical zoom retains the image quality since it captures more detail optically, while digital zoom compromises image quality due to the enlargement of existing pixels.

Zoom Range: Optical zoom typically provides a greater zoom range, allowing you to get closer to the subject without sacrificing image quality.

Detail and Resolution: Optical zoom preserves the details and resolution of the subject, while digital zoom may result in a loss of detail and reduced resolution.


In summary, optical zoom is preferred when you want to maintain image quality and capture more detail at a distance, while digital zoom should be used sparingly, because it can result in a loss of image quality. If possible, opt for devices with optical zoom capabilities for better zooming performance.


12. How can I take better macro photos with my smartphone?

Taking better macro photos with your smartphone can be achieved by following these tips:

Get Closer: Move your smartphone as close as possible to the subject you want to capture (while keeping the image sharp). Most smartphones have a minimum focusing distance, so getting physically closer helps to ensure the subject is in focus and fills the frame.

Tap to Focus: Use the tap-to-focus feature on your smartphone camera app, to make sure the subject is in focus. Tap on the screen where you want the focus point to be, and the camera will adjust accordingly.

Steady the Camera: Macro photography is prone to camera shake, which can often result in blurry images. To minimise this, use a tripod or stabilise your smartphone against a steady surface.

You can also try using the timer, or a remote shutter to avoid any movement caused by pressing the capture button.

Utilise Natural Light: Good lighting is crucial for macro photography. Whenever possible, take your macro shots in natural light.

Avoid using the smartphone’s built-in flash, because it can create harsh lighting and unwanted shadows.

Experiment with Angles: Try capturing your subject from different angles to find the most interesting and visually appealing perspective. Macro photography allows you to explore small details, so be creative with your compositions.

Use Manual Settings or Macro Mode: Some smartphone camera apps offer manual controls or dedicated macro modes. Explore these options to have more control over focus, exposure, and other settings specific to macro photography.

Opt for Editing: After capturing your macro photos, consider using photo editing apps to enhance the final result. Adjusting brightness, contrast, sharpness, and applying minor edits can help make your macro images stand out.

Explore Third-Party Accessories: If you’re passionate about macro photography, you may want to invest in third-party accessories like clip-on macro lenses. These lenses attach to your smartphone and allow for even closer focusing and enhanced macro capabilities.

Remember that practice makes perfect, so keep experimenting and exploring different subjects and techniques to improve your macro photography skills with your smartphone.


13. How do I shoot long-exposure photos on a smartphone?

Shooting long-exposure photos on a smartphone can be a bit challenging, because smartphones usually have limited manual controls. But, you can still achieve long-exposure effects with certain techniques and third-party apps. So, here’s how you can shoot long-exposure photos on a smartphone:


  1. Stabilise the Phone: Ensure your smartphone is steady, by using a tripod or placing it on a stable surface.
  2. Enable Gridlines: Open the camera app and turn on the gridlines to help align your composition and keep the horizon level.
  3. Lower ISO: If your camera app allows manual control, decrease the ISO to minimise noise in the image. This’ll help maintain the image quality during long exposures.
  4. Adjust Exposure: Some camera apps provide exposure compensation controls. Decrease the exposure to prevent overexposure, especially in situations with bright lights, or when shooting at night.
  5. Use Live Photo (iOS): On iOS devices, you can use the ‘Live Photo’ feature to create long-exposure-like effects. Open the camera app, enable Live Photo mode, then after taking the Live Photo, you can apply the long-exposure effect during post-processing.
  6. Third-Party Camera Apps: Consider using third-party camera apps that offer manual controls, including shutter speed adjustments. Apps like ProCam, Halide, and Camera+ provide more flexibility for long-exposure photography.
  7. Neutral Density (ND) Filters: To capture long exposures in daylight, you can attach ND filters to your smartphone using specialised clip-on filters, or cases. These filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing for longer exposure times without overexposing the image.
  8. Long-Exposure Simulation Apps: Explore dedicated long-exposure simulation apps like Slow Shutter Cam, Average Camera Pro, or NightCap Camera. These apps create long-exposure effects by combining multiple exposures, or applying motion blur effects.
  9. Practice and Experiment: Long-exposure photography takes practice and experimentation. Try different exposure times, subjects, and lighting conditions to achieve the desired effects.

Remember to explore the features of your specific smartphone and camera app, as capabilities may differ. With these techniques and tools, you can capture impressive long-exposure photos using your smartphone.


14. What is the best format for saving photos: JPEG or RAW?

The best format for saving smartphone photos depends on your photography goals and your willingness to post-process your images. Both JPEG and RAW have their advantages and disadvantages, so let’s explore each format:


JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group):

  1. Advantages:
    • Convenience: JPEG is the default format for most smartphone cameras, and it’s widely supported across various devices and platforms.
    • Smaller File Size: JPEG files are compressed, which reduces their file size. This makes them ideal for saving storage space on your device.
    • Ready to Share: JPEGs are ready to share, or print right out of the camera, requiring little to no post-processing.
  2. Disadvantages:
    • Lossy Compression: JPEG compression discards some image data to reduce file size. This can lead to a loss of image quality, particularly in areas with high contrast or fine details.
    • Limited Editing Flexibility: Because JPEGs are already processed by the camera, you’ve got limited flexibility to make significant adjustments during post-processing. Additional editing can sometimes result in a further loss of quality.


  1. Advantages:
    • Uncompressed Data: RAW files contain all the unprocessed data captured by the camera’s sensor, providing the highest image quality and maximum editing flexibility.
    • Better for Post-Processing: If you’re into serious photo editing or want to have full control over your images, RAW is the way to go. You can adjust exposure, white balance, and other settings without losing image quality.
    • Recover Details: RAW allows you to recover details in overexposed or underexposed areas that might be irretrievable in a JPEG.
  2. Disadvantages:
    • Larger File Size: RAW files are significantly larger than JPEGs, which can quickly fill up your device’s storage.
    • Requires Post-Processing: RAW files require post-processing to look their best, which can be time-consuming if you’re not familiar with editing software.
    • Limited Sharing Compatibility: RAW files may not be supported by all devices and platforms, making it less convenient for sharing immediately.

In summary, if you want the convenience of quick sharing and don’t plan on extensive post-processing, JPEG is a suitable choice. It’s also ideal if you have limited storage space on your smartphone.

However, if you want the best quality and editing flexibility, shooting in RAW is the preferred option. Many smartphones offer a RAW+JPEG option, allowing you to capture both formats simultaneously, which can be a good compromise if you want the best of both worlds.


15. What is the rule of thirds in smartphone photography?

The rule of thirds is a fundamental composition guideline in photography, including smartphone photography. It’s a simple and effective way to create visually appealing and balanced images.

The rule of thirds involves dividing your frame into a grid of nine equal parts, like a tic-tac-toe grid, using two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. This grid results in four intersection points where the lines meet.

Here’s how to apply the rule of thirds in smartphone photography:


  1. Grid Overlay: Many smartphone camera apps offer the option to overlay the rule of thirds grid on your camera’s viewfinder. Activate this feature if available, because it makes it easier to compose your shots.
  2. Subject Placement: When composing your photo, align important elements, or subjects along the gridlines or at the intersection points. Placing your subject slightly off-centre rather than in the centre of the frame, often creates a more dynamic and visually interesting image.
  3. Balance: Use the grid to help you balance the elements in your photo. For example, if you have a striking subject on one side of the frame, you can balance it by placing something of interest on the opposite side, following the grid lines.
  4. Leading Lines: Pay attention to lines and patterns within your scene. Align them with the gridlines to create a more harmonious composition. For instance, a road or pathway can lead the viewer’s eye into the image when placed along one of the vertical gridlines.
  5. Horizons: When photographing landscapes, position the horizon along one of the horizontal gridlines. For example, if you have a beautiful sky, place the horizon along the lower horizontal line to emphasise the sky, or if the foreground is more interesting, position the horizon along the upper horizontal line.
  6. Multiple Subjects: If your photo contains multiple subjects or points of interest, try to align them with the gridlines or intersection points, to create a balanced and pleasing composition.

Remember that the rule of thirds is just one guideline in photography, and there are times when breaking this rule can result in compelling compositions. As you gain experience in smartphone photography, you’ll develop a better sense of when to apply the rule of thirds and when to experiment with other composition techniques to get the look you want.


16. How can I create a bokeh effect with my smartphone?

Creating a bokeh effect on a smartphone involves achieving a shallow depth of field, where the background is blurred while the subject remains in focus. Bokeh can add a beautiful and artistic quality to your photos.
Here’s how to create it on both iPhone and Android smartphones:



  1. Portrait Mode (Dual-Lens iPhones):
    • If you have an iPhone with dual-lens cameras (e.g., iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and newer), you can use the Portrait mode. Open the Camera app and swipe to the “Portrait” mode.
    • Follow the on-screen instructions to position your subject. The camera will automatically detect the subject and blur the background, creating a bokeh effect.
  2. Depth Control (Newer iPhones with iOS 13 or later):
    • On iPhones running iOS 13 or later, including the iPhone XR, iPhone 11 series, and newer, you can adjust the bokeh effect after taking a Portrait mode photo.
    • Open the Portrait mode photo in the Photos app, and tap “Edit.”
    • Use the slider labeled “Depth” to control the amount of background blur (bokeh). Sliding it to the right increases the blur.


Creating a bokeh effect on Android smartphones can vary depending on the make and model, but here’s a general approach:

  1. Built-in Camera App (Select Android Phones):
    • Some Android smartphones have a built-in Portrait mode or a similar feature that creates a bokeh effect. Open your camera app and look for a mode like “Portrait” or “Live Focus.”
    • Follow the on-screen instructions to capture your subject, and the camera will automatically blur the background.
    • Some devices also allow you to adjust the level of background blur after taking the shot.
  2. Third-Party Apps:
    • If your Android phone’s camera app doesn’t offer a built-in bokeh mode, you can use third-party camera apps that provide this feature. Apps like “Open Camera,” “AfterFocus,” “Snapseed,” and “Adobe Photoshop Express” often include bokeh effects or background blur tools.
    • Download and install one of these apps, and then follow the app-specific instructions to create a bokeh effect.
  3. Manual Focus and Distance Technique:
    • If your Android smartphone camera lacks dedicated bokeh features, you can attempt to create a bokeh effect manually.
    • Position your subject close to the camera while keeping the background at a significant distance. Tap on the subject on your smartphone screen to focus on it, and the background should naturally blur due to the shallow depth of field.
    • This method may require some experimentation and may not yield the same results as dedicated bokeh modes, but it can work in some situations.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of creating bokeh on a smartphone can vary depending on the smartphone’s camera capabilities and software features.

Newer and higher-end smartphones tend to have more advanced bokeh modes and produce better results. Experimentation and practice will help you achieve the best bokeh effect with your specific device.


17. What are the benefits of shooting in Pro mode?

Shooting in Pro mode on your smartphone (or using a third-party app) provides several benefits. Particularly for photographers who want more control over their images and are willing to invest time in adjusting settings manually.

Here are the key advantages:

  1. Manual Control: Pro mode allows you to manually control various camera settings, including shutter speed, ISO, aperture (if supported), white balance, and exposure compensation. This level of control is essential for achieving specific creative effects and capturing challenging lighting situations.
  2. Creative Freedom: With manual control, you have the freedom to experiment and create unique shots that may not be possible in automatic mode. You can adjust settings to achieve long-exposure effects, play with depth of field, and capture scenes exactly as you envision them.
  3. Low-Light Photography: Pro mode enables you to set a lower ISO and longer shutter speed, which is useful for capturing better quality photos in low-light conditions. You can reduce noise and avoid overexposure by fine-tuning these settings.
  4. Custom White Balance: You can set the white balance manually to match the lighting conditions accurately. This is especially important when shooting in mixed lighting situations, or when you want to achieve a specific colour temperature effect.
  5. Exposure Compensation: Adjusting exposure compensation allows you to control the brightness or darkness of your photos, ensuring that your subject is correctly exposed, even in tricky lighting scenarios.
  6. RAW Capture (if supported): Some smartphones in Pro mode offer the option to capture photos in RAW format, which retains all the unprocessed image data. This gives you more flexibility in post-processing and allows for extensive editing without significant loss of image quality.
  7. Enhanced Dynamic Range: By adjusting exposure settings, you can capture scenes with a wide dynamic range, preserving details in both shadows and highlights.
  8. Advanced Focus Control: Pro mode often provides manual focus control, allowing you to pinpoint focus on specific subjects, or create effects like shallow depth of field (blurry background), or macro shots.
  9. Professional-Level Results: Pro mode can help you achieve results that rival those of dedicated cameras, making it an excellent choice for photographers who want to produce high-quality images with their smartphones.

However, it’s important to note that using Pro mode requires a good understanding of photography principles and practice. It may take some time to become proficient in using these settings effectively, but the learning process can be rewarding for those looking to take their smartphone photography to the next level.


18. How do I use manual focus on my smartphone camera?

Using manual focus on a smartphone camera can provide more control over your photography, particularly when you want to precisely focus on a specific subject, or create artistic effects like shallow depth of field (blurry background). But, not all smartphones have built-in manual focus features, and the process may vary between iPhone and Android devices.
Here’s how to use manual focus on both:


iPhone (iOS):

iPhones don’t have a built-in manual focus in their native camera app. But, you can simulate manual focus to some extent by using the following method:

  1. Tap to Focus: Tap on the screen where you want to set the focus point. This will cause the camera to focus on that specific area and adjust the exposure accordingly (You’ll see a yellow square indicating the focus point).
  2. Lock Focus: To lock the focus at a specific distance, tap and hold on the focus point until you see “AE/AF Lock” appear at the top of the screen. This locks both the focus and exposure settings, then you can recompose your shot while maintaining the same focus point.
  3. Manual Control Apps: To have more precise manual focus control on an iPhone, you may need to use third-party camera apps available on the App Store. Some of these apps offer manual focus sliders, or settings for achieving the desired focus distance.

Please check the App Store for third-party camera apps that provide manual focus capabilities.


Manual focus is more commonly available on Android smartphones, but the location and functionality of the feature will depend on the manufacturer’s camera app. Here’s a general approach though:

  1. Open the Camera App: Launch your smartphone’s native camera app.
  2. Switch to Pro or Manual Mode: Some Android camera apps have a dedicated Pro or Manual mode that provides access to manual focus controls. Look for an icon or mode labeled “Pro” or “M” (for manual).
  3. Find the Manual Focus Control: Within Pro or Manual mode, you should see a slider or a manual focus control option. It may be represented by a symbol like a slider icon or a lens icon. Tap on it.
  4. Adjust the Focus: Slide the control left or right, to adjust the focus manually. Some camera apps may provide an additional on-screen focusing ring that you can rotate to set the focus distance.
  5. Take the Shot: After achieving the desired focus, capture your photo as you normally would.

The availability of manual focus and the specific steps to access it may vary depending on your Android device’s make and model, as well as the version of the camera app.

If your native camera app doesn’t offer manual focus, consider exploring third-party camera apps from the Google Play Store that may provide manual focus functionality. These apps often have various advanced features for photography enthusiasts.


19. What are the best composition techniques for smartphone photography?

Smartphone photography, like traditional photography, benefits from the application of various composition techniques to create visually pleasing and impactful images. Here are some of the best composition techniques for smartphone photography:

  1. Rule of Thirds: Divide your frame into a 3×3 grid by overlaying two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Place key elements of your composition along these lines, or at their intersections for a balanced and aesthetically pleasing shot.
  2. Leading Lines: Use lines or patterns in your scene, such as roads, railings, or tree branches, to lead the viewer’s eye into the image. Leading lines can create depth and draw attention to your subject.
  3. Symmetry and Balance: Seek symmetry in your compositions by centring your subject or finding natural symmetry in your scene. Balanced compositions can create a sense of stability and harmony.
  4. Framing: Frame your subject with elements in the foreground, like doorways, windows, or foliage. This technique adds depth and context to your photo and draws attention to your subject.
  5. Foreground Interest: Include interesting objects or elements in the foreground to provide depth and context to your image. This technique can create a sense of immersion and engagement.
  6. Negative Space: Embrace empty or negative space in your composition. Leaving room around your subject can draw attention to it and create a sense of simplicity and elegance.
  7. Diagonals and Dynamic Angles: Incorporate diagonal lines and dynamic angles to add energy and visual interest to your photos. These lines can create a sense of movement and drama.
  8. Leading Subjects: Position your primary subject so that it faces, or moves into the frame, providing a sense of direction and purpose to the image.
  9. Golden Hour and Lighting: Take advantage of the golden hour (shortly after sunrise and before sunset) when natural lighting is soft and warm. Good lighting is crucial for smartphone photography, and the golden hour often provides the best conditions for stunning shots.
  10. Fill the Frame: Get close to your subject and fill the frame with it. This technique can highlight details and create impactful images, particularly for subjects like portraits, or macro photography.
  11. Rule of Odds: When photographing multiple subjects, consider using an odd number of elements (e.g., three, five, or seven), as it can create a more balanced and visually appealing composition.
  12. Depth of Field: Experiment with depth of field by controlling focus and blur. You can use shallow depth of field to isolate your subject from the background, creating a compelling visual effect.
  13. Color and Contrast: Pay attention to colour contrasts and complementary colours in your composition. Bold colour contrasts can make your subject stand out and add vibrancy to your images.
  14. Patterns and Repetition: Capture repeating patterns or shapes in your scene, such as rows of trees, or a patterned floor. Patterns can create a sense of rhythm and visual interest.
  15. Foreground-Background Interaction: Incorporate an interesting foreground element that interacts with the background, or middle ground. This adds depth and complexity to your composition.

Remember that these composition techniques can be combined or adapted to suit your specific subject and creative vision. As you practice and gain experience in smartphone photography, you’ll develop a better sense of when to apply each technique to achieve the desired impact in your photos.


20. Which smartphone camera accessories would be most useful?

Smartphone camera accessories can enhance your photography and help you achieve better results in various shooting conditions. The most useful smartphone camera accessories depend on your photography style and preferences, but here are some popular and versatile options:

  1. Tripod or Smartphone Stand:
    • A tripod or smartphone stand provides stability for your phone, reducing camera shake and allowing for longer exposures, low-light shots, and time-lapse photography.
    • Useful for landscape, night, macro, and portrait photography.
  2. External Lenses:
    • Attachable external lenses, such as wide-angle, macro, fisheye, and telephoto lenses, can expand your smartphone’s capabilities and enable you to capture different types of shots.
    • Great for landscape, macro, and creative photography.
  3. Remote Shutter Release:
    • A wireless remote shutter release, or a Bluetooth remote control allows you to take photos without touching your phone, reducing the risk of camera shake.
    • Handy for selfies, group shots, and long-exposure photography.
  4. Portable Lighting:
    • Portable LED lights or small clip-on smartphone ring lights can improve your photography in low-light conditions and provide more even illumination for portraits and macro shots.
    • Useful for portrait, macro, and low-light photography.
  5. Gimbal Stabiliser:
    • A smartphone gimbal stabiliser helps you capture smooth, steady video footage and eliminates shaky camera movements when shooting video, or walking with your phone.
    • Ideal for videography and cinematic shots.
  6. External Microphone:
    • External microphones improve audio quality for videos by reducing background noise and capturing clearer sound, especially in noisy environments or during interviews.
    • Essential for vlogging, interviews, and video recording.
  7. Lens Filters:
    • Lens filters, such as ND (neutral density) and polarising filters, can control exposure, reduce glare, and enhance colour in your photos and videos.
    • Useful for landscape and outdoor photography.
  8. Storage and Backup Solutions:
    • External storage drives, or cloud backup services ensure you have enough space to store your high-resolution photos and videos, preventing your phone’s storage from filling up.
    • Essential for photographers who capture many images.
  9. Cleaning Kit:
    • A cleaning kit with a microfibre cloth, lens cleaning solution, and a lens pen helps you keep your smartphone’s camera lens and screen clean and free from smudges and dust.
    • Essential for maintaining image quality.
  10. Phone Mounts and Holders:
    • Phone mounts for tripods, car mounts, and bike mounts can secure your smartphone in various situations, enabling you to capture unique perspectives and angles.
    • Useful for action photography and capturing moments on the go.
  11. Waterproof Case or Pouch:
    • A waterproof case, or pouch allows you to take your smartphone underwater, or protect it from moisture and dust in outdoor environments.
    • Essential for underwater and adventure photography.
  12. Power Bank:
    • A portable power bank ensures that your smartphone doesn’t run out of battery during extended photography sessions, or when using power-intensive camera features.
    • Handy for all types of photography.

The choice of accessories should align with your photography interests and needs. It’s a good idea to research and invest in quality accessories that are compatible with your smartphone model and offer the features you require for your specific style of photography and videography.


21. How can I avoid lens flare in my photos?

Lens flare occurs when unwanted light enters the camera lens, resulting in artefacts like streaks, spots, or a hazy glow in your photos. While lens flare can be used creatively in some situations, you may want to avoid it when it detracts from your intended shot.

Here’s some tips to help you avoid lens flare with your smartphone camera:

Adjust Your Angle:

Change your shooting angle to avoid pointing the camera directly at a strong light source, such as the sun, or a bright artificial light. Slightly repositioning your smartphone can make a significant difference in reducing lens flare.

Use Your Hand or an Object as a Shield:

Cup your hand, or use a piece of dark card to create shade over your smartphone lens, blocking the unwanted light source from directly hitting the lens. Be careful not to obstruct the lens or change your composition too much.

Clean Your Lens:

A dirty, or smudged lens can increase the chances of lens flare. Regularly clean your smartphone camera lens with a microfibre cloth to keep it free from dust, fingerprints, and smudges.

Use a Lens Filter:

Some lens filters, such as a polarising filter, or an ND (neutral density) filter, can help reduce lens flare by minimising reflections and controlling the amount of light entering the lens.

Enable HDR Mode:

High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode on your smartphone can help balance the exposure in your photos, reducing the likelihood of overexposed areas that may lead to lens flare.


If you’ve already taken a photo with lens flare, you can use photo editing apps to reduce, or sometimes, even remove it. Techniques like using the “heal” or “clone” tools can be effective for this purpose.

Avoid Using a Smartphone Flash:

The built-in flash on many smartphones is close to the lens and can contribute to lens flare, especially in low-light conditions. Try to use natural, or external lighting when possible.

Experiment with Different Compositions:

If you can’t entirely eliminate lens flare, try incorporating it into your composition intentionally for artistic effect. Lens flare can add a sense of atmosphere and mood to some photos.

Consider Using a Lens Attachment:

Some smartphone lens attachments come with anti-flare coatings that can help reduce lens flare. These attachments can also provide additional control over your shots.

Keep in mind that lens flare can be more prevalent when shooting against the sun or in backlighting situations. While these tips can help minimise lens flare, they may not entirely eliminate it in every situation.

Experiment with different techniques and approaches to achieve the desired results in your smartphone photography.


22. How do I use the panorama mode effectively?

Using the panorama mode on your smartphone effectively can result in stunning wide-angle photos that capture expansive landscapes or scenes. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use panorama mode effectively:

1. Open the Camera App:

Open your smartphone’s native camera app.

2. Locate the Panorama Mode:

Find and select the “Panorama” mode within your camera app. This mode is usually represented by an icon that looks like a mountain range or horizon.

3. Choose Your Starting Point:

Decide where you want to start your panorama shot. This is typically the far-left or far-right edge of the scene you want to capture.

4. Hold Your Smartphone Steady:

Hold your smartphone steady, and make sure it’s level to avoid distortion in the final image.

5. Start Capturing:

Press the shutter button, or the designated capture button to begin the panorama capture. Your smartphone will guide you with on-screen instructions, such as an arrow or a line, to help you align your shots.

6. Move Slowly and Steadily:

While you’re capturing the panorama, move your smartphone slowly and steadily in the direction indicated by the on-screen guide. Keep your movement smooth to avoid jagged edges in the final image.

7. Complete the Panorama: – When you’ve reached the end of the scene you want to capture, press the shutter button or the designated capture button again to stop the panorama capture.

8. Review and Edit: – After capturing the panorama, review the image to ensure that it meets your expectations. Many camera apps allow you to preview and edit the panorama immediately after capture.

9. Save and Share: – Once you’re satisfied with the panorama, save the image to your smartphone’s gallery. You can then share it on social media, print it, or use it as desired.


Tips for Effective Panoramas:

  • Keep the horizon level for a more natural-looking result.
  • Avoid moving objects or people within the frame, as they can appear distorted in the final panorama.
  • Use a tripod or stable surface for the best results, especially in low-light conditions.
  • Practice your panning technique to achieve smooth and consistent movement.
  • Experiment with vertical panoramas for capturing tall subjects, like skyscrapers or waterfalls.

By following these steps and practicing your panorama technique, you can create impressive wide-angle photos that capture the full beauty of expansive scenes.


23. How can I add text and captions to my photos?

Adding text and captions to your photos is a great way to provide context, tell a story, or enhance your images for social media, blogs, or personal albums. Here’s how you can add text and captions to your photos on both iPhone and Android devices:

iPhone (iOS):

  1. Use the Markup Tool:
    • Open the Photos app and select the photo you want to add text to.
    • Tap the “Edit” button (it looks like three horizontal lines with circles) in the top-right corner of the screen.
    • Select the “Markup” option.
    • Tap the “+” button at the bottom right, and then tap “Text.”
    • A text box will appear on your photo. Tap it to start typing.
    • You can resize and reposition the text box by tapping and dragging it. To change the font, size, and colour, tap the text box, then tap the “Aa” icon.
    • Once you’re satisfied, tap “Done” in the upper-left corner, then tap “Save as New Photo“, or “Save” to overwrite the original image.
  2. Use Third-Party Apps:
    • There are many third-party apps available on the App Store that specialise in adding text and captions to photos. Popular options include “Over,” “Canva,” and “Snapseed.”
    • Download one of these apps, import your photo, and follow the app’s instructions to add text and customise it to your liking.
    • After editing, save the image, or in some cases, share it directly from the app.


  1. Use Google Photos:
    • Open the Google Photos app and select the photo you want to edit.
    • Tap the pencil icon to enter the editing mode.
    • Select the “Text” option.
    • Type your text in the provided text box and use the controls to adjust the font, size, colour, and alignment.
    • Once you’re done, tap the checkmark icon to apply the changes, and then tap “Save copy” to save the edited photo as a new image.
  2. Use Third-Party Apps:
    • Android offers a variety of third-party apps for adding text to photos, such as “Pixlr,” “Snapseed,” and “Canva.”
    • Download and install one of these apps from the Google Play Store.
    • Open the app, import your photo, and follow the app’s instructions to add and customise text.
    • After editing, save the image or in some cases, share it directly from the app.

Remember to experiment with different fonts, colours, and placements to achieve the desired look for your text, or captions. Whether you’re using native tools or third-party apps, adding text and captions to your photos can help convey your message and make your images more engaging.


24. What are some ‘creative photo editing’ ideas?

Creative photo editing can take your smartphone photos to the next level and allow you to express your artistic vision. Here are some creative photo editing ideas and techniques to explore:

  1. Double Exposure:
    • Merge two, or more photos to create a double exposure effect. Combine images of nature, people, or objects to tell a unique story or convey a mood.
  2. Selective Color:
    • Convert a photo to black and white, while keeping specific elements in colour. This technique draws attention to the coloured subject, creating a striking contrast.
  3. Miniature Effect (Tilt-Shift):
    • Simulate a miniature scene by applying a tilt-shift effect. This blurs the top and bottom portions of the image, making subjects appear like miniatures.
  4. HDR (High Dynamic Range):
    • Create an HDR effect by merging multiple exposures of the same scene. HDR enhances the dynamic range, bringing out details in both highlights and shadows.
  5. Light Leaks and Lens Flare:
    • Add artificial light leaks, or lens flare effects to create a dreamy and nostalgic atmosphere in your photos.
  6. Texture Overlay:
    • Apply textures, such as grunge, paper, or vintage patterns, to your photos to give them a unique and aged appearance.
  7. Double Color Exposure:
    • Overlay two different colours on your photo to create a surreal and vibrant look.
  8. Silhouette Portraits:
    • Convert portraits into striking silhouettes with a dark, dramatic background. Adjust contrast and shadows to emphasise the silhouette.
  9. Comic Book Style:
    • Transform your photos into comic book-style art by adding bold outlines, vibrant colours, and speech bubbles with captions.
  10. Prismatic Effects:
    • Use prism, or kaleidoscope effects to create visually intricate and kaleidoscopic patterns from your photos.
  11. Mirror and Symmetry:
    • Duplicate and mirror your photo to create a symmetrical or mirrored effect, adding symmetry and visual appeal.
  12. Motion Blur:
    • Add motion blur to make static objects appear as if they are in motion, creating a sense of movement and energy.
  13. Infrared Effect:
    • Mimic the look of infrared photography by adjusting colours and contrast to create surreal and ethereal landscapes.
  14. Dramatic Black and White:
    • Enhance the drama in your black and white photos by adjusting contrast, brightness, and structure for a more impactful result.
  15. Pop Art:
    • Turn your photos into pop art by applying bold colours, strong contrasts, and comic book-style effects.
  16. Textured Portraits:
    • Overlay textures onto portraits to create a unique and textured look that adds depth and character to your subjects.
  17. Bokeh Overlays:
    • Add bokeh (blurred background) overlays to your photos to create a dreamy and enchanting atmosphere.
  18. Vintage Filters:
    • Apply vintage filters to give your photos a nostalgic, old-fashioned look reminiscent of different eras, such as the 1950s or 1970s.
  19. Abstract and Surreal Edits:
    • Experiment with abstract and surreal edits by distorting, stretching, or warping your photos to create a unique and imaginative result.

There are various smartphone apps available, that can help you do most, if not all of these quite easily.

Remember that the key to creative photo editing is experimentation and imagination. Don’t be afraid to try different apps, filters, and techniques to develop your own style and make your smartphone photos stand out.


25. What are the key differences between smartphone photography and traditional photography?

Smartphone photography and traditional photography share many similarities, but they also have key differences due to the distinct tools and methods they use. Here are some of the primary differences between the two:


Camera Equipment:

Smartphone Photography: Smartphones have small, compact built-in cameras with fixed lenses. They offer limited control over settings compared to traditional cameras.

Traditional Photography: Traditional cameras come in various types, including DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and film cameras, each offering a range of interchangeable lenses and manual settings for greater control.


Control Over Settings:

Smartphone Photography: Smartphone cameras are typically designed for automatic shooting. Manual control options are limited in the default camera apps, although third-party apps are available to simulate manual controls.

Traditional Photography: Traditional cameras provide full manual control over settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance, allowing photographers to fine-tune exposure and creative effects.


Image Quality:

Smartphone Photography: Smartphone cameras have improved significantly in terms of image quality, but they are limited by their small sensors and fixed lenses. They excel in well-lit conditions but may struggle sometimes in low light.

Traditional Photography: Traditional cameras, especially DSLRs and mirrorless cameras with larger sensors, offer superior image quality, dynamic range, and low-light performance. Interchangeable lenses provide versatility for various photography styles.


Manual Focus and Lens Control:

Smartphone Photography: Manual focus control is often limited, or absent in smartphone cameras. The lenses are fixed, and any adjustable zoom is typically digital, reducing image quality at higher zoom levels. An optical zoom function is achieve by using various lenses, each one attached to its own sensor.

Traditional Photography: Traditional cameras offer precise manual focus control and interchangeable lenses for different focal lengths, perspectives, and creative effects.


Accessories and Add-Ons:

Smartphone Photography: Smartphones offer a range of accessories like external lenses, tripods, and stabilisers to enhance capabilities. Many editing apps are available for post-processing.

Traditional Photography: Traditional cameras have a wide array of accessories, including interchangeable lenses, external flashes and filters, allowing photographers to customise their equipment for specific needs.



Smartphone Photography: Smartphone apps provide easy access to in-camera editing and post-processing, often with user-friendly interfaces and quick sharing options.

Traditional Photography: Editing in traditional photography often involves more extensive post-processing using software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. These software packages offer greater control over image adjustments and manipulation, but at a much higher price point (Photoshop is around £20 per month).


Print Quality:

Smartphone Photography: Smartphone photos are suitable for online sharing and smaller prints. Larger prints may show limitations in terms of resolution and image quality.

Traditional Photography: Traditional camera photos, especially those captured with high-resolution cameras, can be printed in large formats with excellent detail and clarity.

In summary, smartphone photography offers convenience and accessibility. In contrast, traditional photography provides greater control, versatility, and potential for professional-quality, but requires more specialised equipment and knowledge.

Both forms of photography have their place and can coexist, with many photographers using both smartphones and traditional cameras for different purposes.

The differences between smartphone cameras and traditional cameras are getting smaller every year. Personally, I shoot almost exclusively with a smartphone now.


Did you find your answer?

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The unedited version of this article’s Featured image, courtesy of geralt

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