Guest post by photographer Saaleha Bamjee. Every thirty seconds, 22680* photographs are uploaded onto Instagram. Never in our history have we had this level of visual documentary; from the mundane to the marvelous, the ordinary to the awesome. Smartphone image capture technologies get better with each new handset release, and while they may never completely replace DSLR cameras, most phones today will produce print-quality images. The iPhone 7 Plus for one, impresses with its telephoto and portrait photography capabilities, but it does come at a price. However, you don’t need the very latest mobile in hand to achieve good photography.

Here are a few tips to make the best of your current phone’s camera:


Unless you’re purposely after light flare and a softer focus, be sure to regularly clean your camera lens with a non-scratchy lint-free cloth.


Look for the Light

Good photographs are lit correctly. What determines correct lighting is a combination of the light that is available, the photographer’s artistic intent and the technical aspects that work towards achieving that vision.There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some conventions you will find useful. For example, food always looks good in soft, even light, especially the kind of light offered by a late afternoon sun streaming in through a window.

However, when you’ve got a photo opp that can’t wait for those perfect conditions, you have to look for the light that is available to you. Pay attention to what’s illuminating a room. Look out for interesting shadows and highlights. When shooting still life or portrait, experiment with the placement of your subject within those highlights and shadows.

When the lighting available to you is not optimal, make your own light. If you’re shooting in a dark restaurant, use torchlight from other phones to light your subject. Soften the light by placing a thin serviette in front of it or bounce it off a menu card.


Steady Now

Even though newer phones are much better at preventing camera-shake, you still want to lock in your focus before clicking the shutter. Be still for about a second after you shoot to make doubly sure you’ve captured a sharp scene.

Be Brave and Manual Up

Most phones take pretty decent pictures on their automatic settings but sometimes the phone’s light meter can misread the scene, especially when it’s backlit or has a higher percentage of white values. Switch to manual mode and adjust the brightness settings to achieve the look you’re after, whether it’s an evenly lit landscape or a dramatic silhouette.


Consider your Compositions

Composition is the difference between meh and amazing. When composing your image, look for what’s interesting; this could be an interplay between light and dark, bright colours, gradients, textures, repetition, leading lines.

Pay attention to your backgrounds. Are you aiming for a cluttered effect or do you want your subject to stand out?

Get up close to your subject, be the zoom you want to see in your pictures. The quality will be so much better than using your phone’s digital zoom.

When selecting your focal point, consider the final dimensions of the image you want to upload to Instagram and compose accordingly. Will it be square, portrait (with an aspect ratio of 4:5 or 1080x1350px) or landscape format.

When photographing done-to-death monuments and tourist attractions, look for a unique perspective (pinching the tip of the Eiffel Tower doesn’t count).



My go-to mobile apps for editing are VSCO (for a moody analogue feel or black and white conversions) and Snapseed (general exposure adjustments and vibrancy) . I also occasionally use Lightroom Mobile. These editing apps also allow you to adjust the strength of or modify their preset filters to achieve a unique treatment for your photograph that doesn’t come across as overly-processed.

Document your Joys

Take considered pictures everyday of the things you love and enjoy. Not every single one of them has to make it online, but at the end of a year, you will have a visual record of your happiest moments.

*At the time of writing via

More shots from from Saaleha’s Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (right click to open in a new tab to enlarge images)

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