Smartphone Camera 101: 5 Tips to take professional Instagram Photos

Travelling Soon? Need to take some impressive instagram shots? You don't need an expensive digital camera to take great photos — the smartphone in your pocket is better than you think.

There's a lot that goes into taking photos besides the camera. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shooting that will dramatically improve your results.

Time of day

Quality of light is everything. If you are shooting outdoors, the best time to take photos is during the two magic hours, just after sunrise and before sunset, when the lighting is softer and not as harsh.

Shoot out of direct sunlight

If you are taking photos during the middle of the day, avoid focusing on people in direct sunlight. Try and find a shaded spot where the lighting will be more uniform. An overcast day is also a good time to shoot outdoors as the cloud cover diffuses the light.

Capture as much light information as you can

The sensors on smartphone cameras have limited dynamic range, or ability to capture information from the brightest part of a photo to the darkest. To ensure you're capturing as much light information as possible, set your exposure (by tapping on your screen) to the brightest part, which is usually the sky.

Even if it produces a dark image, you can generally recover it using mobile editing software like Lightroom or Afterlight.


In photography, the rule of thirds is a guideline that helps with framing interesting compositions. Most smartphones have a grid feature you can enable that will help you align points of interests in your photos.

When you're taking pictures of people, frame them so that you're cutting them off mid-shin or mid-thigh. Headroom is also an important thing to consider. Try not to leave too much or too little empty space above your subject.

Try shooting at different angles to change the feeling of a photo. When shooting landscapes, try to capture something in the foreground to emphasize depth.

Portrait mode

High-end smartphones like the iPhone X, Google's Pixel and Samsung's Galaxy S9 have a portrait mode that adds depth of field, emulating the look of a DSLR. To produce the the best results possible, use it when you have plenty of light and depth behind your subject.

Bonus Tip: Selfies

The front-facing camera is not as powerful as the one on the back. Whenever possible, default to the rear camera, and instead of taking that selfie, ask someone for an assist.

Originally published on CNBC