City Photo Blog – Smartphone Photography with Shutterbugs

Chelmsford City Photography Competition is back and accepting entries until August 31st. To help you capture that perfect shot the competition is collaborating with professional photographers to bring you a wealth of resources and tips across the summer.

Find out more about the competition here.


Mobile Photography

The City Photo Competition is open to photographs captured on any device including mobile phones. This article by Sarah from Shutterbugs includes a whole range of tips and advice on how to get the best from your mobile phone camera.

If you want to have a go at the advice and tips in this article, you can also download City Photo Top Tips.

Here are Sarah’s tips, in her own words.

Mobile phone photography is still new, but as cameras on phones have improved, so has the opportunity to take great photos with them. And I do mean GREAT photos.

Yes, there are limitations; resolution, lens options, zoom, amongst a million other things. And yes, I would be a little shocked if a professional photographer turned up to shoot my wedding using a smartphone. But as a parent, and not a professional photographer, a smartphone has become a super accessible tool for capturing images.

You are likely to already own a smartphone with a decent camera function. And chances are, it’s always on hand to capture that perfect moment or scene when it arises. It’s lightweight and compact, you can download an app with incredibly sophisticated, but user-friendly editing software. You can print, email and share your photos in one click all from the one device. What is not to love? 

I am a firm advocate of mobile phone photography. Despite having a DSLR, my mobile phone has become both my go-to camera and editing tool. As such, I have honed some reasonable mobile phone photography skills. I am excited to share with you a few tips that will mean you, your family and even kids can take some great photos and edit them, all with your mobile phone.


Treat your phone like a camera

You will be used to holding your phone to text and check emails. But to use it as a camera, it’s best to hold it like it is a camera and not a phone. We tend to drop the phone and angle it slightly to the floor when shooting so we can better see the screen. However, this impacts the angle of the photo when we didn’t intend to.

So, try to hold it nice and straight, as you would a camera when you take photos. This should essentially feel a little unnatural. I normally suggest you hold the phone straight, at right angles to the floor.

You will want to experiment with this and play around with angle, but it is a good starting point. It’s important to be aware of this accidental mobile camera tilt. 


Check the phone camera resolution is high

Make sure your phone picture settings are set to the highest resolution possible. You will want to make sure your photo is at the best quality, so you can increase its size for printing if you want to.

If you know very little about resolution, you want to select the picture quality with the biggest numbers.


Use natural day light

Always photograph in natural light where possible. Mobile phone flashes are not great and they struggle with low lit environments, so natural light is 100% your best option. It will help to keep your images nice and clear, reduce blurring and grainy finishes.


Do not zoom

Most phone cameras only have a digital zoom. But, unlike an optical zoom on a SLR/compact camera, this reduces the picture quality and you should avoid it. The digital zoom also increases the chance of blurring, as your physical movements are magnified.

Any zooming can be done later while editing with a crop tool giving you the best quality image to work from and a stable zoom.


Use an editing app

Your phone pictures can be improved using some basic editing apps on your phone. From Instagram’s basic filters to full editing apps like Lightrooms, there are lots of options available.

My favourite is Google’s SNAPSEED. It’s free to download and available for both android and IOS. It has no adverts and no paid-for extras.

SNAPSEED covers everything from basic colour changes, filters, image rotation, spot healing, faux lens blurs and plenty more if you explore. It also offers a range of in-app tutorials to help guide you through the programme (top right corner menu in the app). I also cover lots of tips using this app on my Instagram page @shutterbugs_essex.

The app is user friendly, and you can use it simply, or over time find more and more creative and exciting ways to use the features available.


I hope these tips help get you on the path to enjoying phone photography as much as I do. And I hope it gets those of you without a ‘proper’ camera involved in the Chelmsford photo competition. It certainly is a great social distanced activity!


Follow @Shutterbugs_essex on Instagram where you’ll find tips and tricks for you and your mobile phone, follow @shutterbugsessex on Facebook for information on photography workshops.


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Remember, you have until midnight on 31 August to enter your best snap and be in with the chance of winning some fantastic prizes. Up for grabs are exclusive aluminium prints from Blue Sky Printing and training with Unshaken Digital Photography Training, where you’ll gain invaluable photography and industry insight.

Part of Essex 2020, the competition is proudly sponsored by Meadows Shopping Centre, Blue Sky Printing, Unshaken Digital Photography Training and partnered with Essex Chronicle Community.