The Starter’s Guide to Smartphone Photography

Ever since I started My Passion Projects, I wanted it to be a platform where everyone could share things about their passion so that others could be inspired by their enthusiasm. That’s why I am excited to tell you that this Starter’s Guide to Smartphone Photography was written by Jennifer Stewart from I hope you enjoy her awesome post!

Whether photography is a hobby, a business project, or a burning passion of yours, we can all stand to get a little better at it. One of the great things about photography is there is so much to learn and a thousand different avenues to explore. And with today’s constantly improving technology, you can take stunning photos using just your smartphone. Your smartphone is a truly great camera. Let me welcome you into the rich world of smartphone photography for blogging and everyday.

In this post, I’ll share with you:

  • Why it’s okay to make your smartphone your first choice of camera
  • Some simple tips to remember when composing a shot
  • How to take beautiful flat-lay photos for your blog or Instagram
  • How to take amazing smartphone travel photos when you go on a trip (my speciality)
  • The most important thing to do in post processing

Why it’s okay to make your smartphone your first choice of camera

Long gone are the days when your smartphone was “a phone with a camera attached to it.” Your smartphone camera is actually quite powerful. For example, both the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9 have a 12-megapixel camera. This means you can print your photos to 8X11, or A4 size, and even larger at full resolution of 300 or 200 PPI (pixels per inch)! And at that resolution, naturally they look great on your blog or social media account.

The iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S9+ both have a dual camera, so you can take photos with a perfectly blurry background. And with a seemingly endless selection of editing apps, there’s almost nothing you can’t do. You can take photos that are just as good, or arguably better, as those you can take with a DSLR.

Some simple tips to remember when composing a shot

One of the most basic but incredibly useful things to know about photo composition is the rule of thirds. This is when the image has two vertical lines and two horizontal lines running through the photo. You get nine equal sections. Instead of centering your subject or the horizon, use these lines.

Place your subject or the horizon on the horizontal lines or where the lines intersect. Placing your subject away from the centre can help to balance a scene and make it more visually pleasing. But the rule of thirds is just one of many ways to compose engaging photos. There are so many other ways you can take interesting and creative photos that are guaranteed to not be boring.

How to take beautiful flat-lay photos for your blog or Instagram

Flat-lay photos are when you carefully arrange your subjects on a flat surface and take a photo looking straight down on them. It’s best to take flat-lay photos during the day when there is lots of natural light. Arrange your subjects near a window so there is plenty of light.

A white or light colour background often looks great for flat-lay photos, but experiment with whatever you have (paper, blankets, pieces of wood, marble, etc.). If you find you are getting a harsh shadow next to a window, a big piece of white paper can help to reflect some of the light back onto the subject. You will most likely still need to edit your photos to get that bright white look that is oh-so-popular right now.

How to take amazing smartphone travel photos (my specialty)

Your smartphone is an awesome camera for traveling. Here’s why…

It’s small and barely takes up any space in your pocket.

It’s light and won’t hurt your shoulder or weigh you down.

It’s compact, so you won’t bump it as you get in and out of rickshaws.

It’s durable. I’ve never cracked the screen on my iPhone, nor have I ever dropped and broken a DSLR. But I have a feeling a DSLR is considerably more vulnerable to a drop – both the camera body and the lens.

It’s powerful. Considering the size, weight, and durability of your smartphone, it has a powerful camera. And each new model gets better than the last. I work with an iPhone 6s, and I love the photos it takes.

It’s convenient. I’ll go out on a limb and guess you never leave your house without your smartphone, right? If it’s always with you, it makes sense to learn how to use it well. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you.

It’s easy to master. Learning how to use a smartphone camera is not as confusing as learning how to use a DSLR. And it gives great results.



The most important two things to do in post processing

After you’ve taken your photos, you should not just leave them as they are. It is extremely rare that a photo is perfect right out of your camera. And that’s okay. That’s what editing apps are for. This doesn’t mean you need to go crazy adjusting everything until your photo looks unnatural. But there are a couple key things you should do that will instantly improve your photos.

Straighten the horizon

This is the first thing I always do with my photos, because a crooked horizon drives me crazy. You can do this right from the native editing app on your phone. It will instantly change your photo from “sloppy” to “I actually tried.” This doesn’t only apply to photos that have a horizon. You should still rotate flat-lay photos until the angle looks good to you.

Adjust the exposure

No matter how hard you try, it can be tricky to get the correct exposure when you take a photo. Or maybe it’s just me… Even if your photos look great on your screen, when you look at them in an editor later, you probably notice that the exposure could be increased or decreased. This is easy to fix with a native photo editing app, though I prefer to use Snapseed because you can fine-tune the image even more. All you need to do is increase the “Exposure” or “Brightness” of the photo, and it will instantly appear brighter and more appealing.

And if you’re up for a more advanced editing technique, read this post all about HDR iPhone photography.




I hope you have a greater appreciation for your smartphone as a functional and powerful camera. Let’s go over what we covered in this introduction to smartphone photography for blogging and every day.

  • With the technology always improving, your smartphone takes clear, bright, and sharp photos that will look great online or even in large print.
  • Your photos will look great when you apply thoughtful composition, like the rule of thirds.
  • Your smartphone works well for taking and editing beautiful flat-lay photos for beauty and lifestyle blog posts.
  • It is a fabulous travel camera for numerous reasons. In fact, I’ve all but replaced my DSLR with my iPhone 6s.
  • With powerful editing apps, you can do almost whatever you want to them. From simply straightening the horizon to enhancing your photos in HDR, you can get great results from your smartphone. 

I hope this post has sparked a passion for photography inside you

The best thing you can do now is to practice using your smartphone for whichever type of photography you are interested in. If you like doing flat-lays, practice arranging your products and making the most of the lighting. If you have the travel bug, practice composing beautiful shots before you go on your next trip. And if you just like photography for the sake of making art, then have fun experimenting with different lighting, composition, photography styles, and making artistic photos!

Something about the author: In 2012, Jennifer Stewart packed a suitcase and landed in Japan in pursuit of life abroad. Six years later, she writes in-depth guides on her blog, Stewie Overseas, that teaches travellers and bloggers about smartphone photography, travel, and of course, Japan. Check out her free smartphone photography email course, and take your smartphone travel photography to the next level.