1. Clean your lens. This is so simple, but almost every time someone hands me their phone to take a photo of them, the lens is smudged. Those cameras spend all day in your purse or butt pocket – the lenses could almost always use a wipe. Just swipe it quickly on your shirt before shooting. The extra bit of clarity does wonders for the quality of your images.
2. Skip the flash. Of all crappy camera flashes, cell phone flashes are the worst. If you’re inside in low light, do your best to boost your light in other ways – move near a window, gather all the candles on your restaurant table close to your subject, stand under a neon light at the bar…your picture will more resemble the mood of the actual atmosphere that way.
3. Move closer. If the background is cluttered or the lighting is questionable, which it often is while we’re snapping on the go, step closer and make your subject the biggest part of your frame.
4. Anticipate the shutter lag. Chances are there’s going to be a delay between when you push the shutter and when the photo snaps – get used to the timing of your phone and remember to expect it, so you're not always capturing that one second after something happens.
5. Avoid direct sun. Strong direct sunlight causes harsh shadows and squinty eyes…but unfortunately, the moments we want to commemorate don’t always happen in the “golden hour” of perfect pre-sunset light. If the sun is direct, have your subjects stand in the brightest bit of shade you can find. And make sure everyone is covered the same way…don’t leave Aunt Betsy with half her face in sunshine on the end!
Or...use direct sun to your advantage: the low quality lenses on phone cameras are easily apt to cause a starburst-y flare when at a certain angle from the sun. When the sun is behind the subject, over their right or left shoulder and pointed into the camera lens a bit from the side, you're most likely to get a hazy glow or bright sun flare. Use it to create moodiness to an otherwise normal photo. You can play with the severity of the flare by angling your phone at different tilts.
6. Play with your angles. Just because the camera is in your phone doesn’t mean you have to shoot it as if you just took it out of your pocket every time. It’s a camera – be creative! Get low, get high, get close - and hold the camera vertically or horizontally depending on what’s best for your composition.
7. Avoid blur. Hold the phone steady with two hands, tuck your elbows into your body, even exhale before clicking the shutter if you can. And keep the phone in that position until after you lift your finger off the shutter and the photo is processing. So many times, I watch people pull their hand away practically before clicking the shutter.