How to Take Better Photos with your Phone

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

Cell phones these days are like awesome little mini cameras. The technology and ability to change the size of the image in camera and print them out to more than a tiny pixelated image has grown leaps and bounds over the years.

Here are some tips to take better photos with your phone so that you can be freed up from your dSLR and start living more in the moment.


There are plenty of apps out there right now that allow you to control focus and exposure. I adore the ProCamera app for just this purpose along with its self timer.

Once you can somewhat control exposure and focal point, it acts more like a dSLR in manual than just a point+shoot where you hit the button and pray it understands what you are trying to capture.

Being able to control exposure works ESPECIALLY well for dramatic light situations, where you want to record the light as you see it, and not as how the camera dictates or reads it. Paying attention to light is an important way that you can take better photos with your phone.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014


When I shoot with my phone I treat it just like shooting with my dSLR. I ʻseeʼ what I want in frame and I compose the shot just like I do with my Nikon.

Thereʼs an awesome little app called whitagram which keeps the images ʻwide,ʼ so donʼt think phone = square images only and limit yourself! Stories are told in many ways and sometimes the square format doesnʼt cut it.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014


Not every selfie has to be the reeeaccchhinnggg of your arm way out so you look strained and, half the time, have part of your arm making the final image cut. Set the self timer when doing traditional selfies. It will give you a chance to steady the camera and lose the strained look and actually have a natural smile when it clicks.

And speaking of selfies, Iʼm a huge fan of setting it and running into frame. By using the self timer, I first find something else in frame to grab focus on- like a chair, bench etc.

Then, I reset the timer and run into frame. I do this for less of the traditional ʻcheeseʼ selfie look and more for the ʻlife as itʼs happeningʼ look.

Itʼs a great way to ʻget in the pictureʼ as you can see below of my and my family chasing the soccer ball.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

One request: Just make sure at the end of the day the images donʼt live and die on your phone. Get them off there, quickly. Because they accumulate fast and you will be less apt to do anything with a 2,548 images sitting on your camera roll then if you narrow them down, delete the throw aways and get them printed in a timely fashion.

A few suggestions? I myself always print my favorite images right onto the Pinhole Press Magnets for the refrigerator. We have quite the collection going (and growing) and itʼs a conversation piece for sure.

These are just a few quick tips to get you going… but like any form of photography, you need to log in some serious shooting time to get the desired results.

So next time you are headed out to a trip to the park with the family, or going out for coffee with friends, leave the dSLR behind and document with something far less cumbersome.

Besides, the best part of shooting with your phone is you never will ʻforgetʼ to load a card in or not be able to fit it in your back pocket.

About the Author

Jennifer Tonetti Spellman is a New York–based children’s photographer, blogger, and mommy of two girls. She’s a contributor at and teaches photography courses at Illuminate Classes, “a photography education community focused on bringing meaningful insight to your art and your business.”

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