Thanks and inspiration for this post goes out to The Geek Lawyer, who responded to my article with a question on how to improve cell phone picture quality. You could call this a side-article to go along with the others I have written on photography in general.

Improving your cell phone pictures, is it possible? It is!

Light it up!

You might remember me going on an on about light in my other articles about photography and digital photography, right? The same is going to apply here when you are using your cell phone to take a picture. Of course, the best light you’re going to have is outside on a clear sunny day or a very bright cloudy day. If you are inside, throw on all the lights, open the windows (if it’s day), if you cell phone comes with a light or flash–use it! Even if you are outside, use it. It can double as a fill flash too!

Digital Editing is your friend.

Do you have GIMP? Adobe Photo shop? Do you have google? There are countless of free to pay-for digital editing software that you can use these days to adjust levels, brightness, hue, saturation and sharpness. All of these tools will be a great help when it comes to cell phone pics especially.

Here are some off-the-tips-of-my-fingers free cell phone editing and free photo editing software or sites you can use for free to help improve your images:

Clean your messy lens!

Often, cell phone camera lenses are placed on the back of the phone’s screen and ear piece. (Usually. Some models aren’t.) Or at the very least, placed in such a manner where our hands will at some point, pass over the lens or protective cover. We leave fingerprints, and fingerprints or dirt can lead to blurry pictures with spots, or blurred halos where the dirt is on the lens. Use a very soft cloth (you don’t want scratches to marr your photos!) or if you wear glasses like I do–use your cloth you use to clean your glasses just for the camera lens.

Steady as she goes!

Your cell phone generally takes a little longer than digital cameras to take a picture, there’s often shutter lag and of course, a lower shutter speed when you are in low light. Keeping your cell phone as still as possible will help you to take clearer shots.

If you are having a hard time keeping it still, look around you for things that can help you keep still. Lean on the bar, against a wall, a friend, a chair, a table or any surroundings you think can give you an extra hand in keeping steady.

Got some spinach on your teeth, Bob.

Get in close. Or at least, get in as close as you can before someone tells you to step off or get out of their grill, yo’. The closer you are, the better the image will be. Don’t try taking a beautiful shot of the magnificent vista miles off, because, unfortunately, most cell phones are still very low res. (Well, mine is, I can’t afford an uber phone!) Plus, getting close will save you from having to edit your photos later to zoom in–which will just make the quality of your image go out the window.

Do not zoom gently, into that good night.

Avoid zoom if you can, or at all costs. Zooming in with your camera will probably compromise image quality. Try the step above, which is to get in closer to your subject!

Tinker with it.

Most cameras in cell phones have some settings you can tinker with. Several of them can be changed to help you take better pictures.

  • Make it the largest resolution your cell phone’s camera can take. Change the resolution to the largest your phone camera can take to help with quality. Don’t leave it on itty bity!
  • Play with your White Balance. If you camera has a setting for White Balance, this is a great tool for you and you should be poking at it often. White Balance can help with color balance according to where and what you are shooting, you could get sharper images with more brilliant colors with the right setting. Play around with this!
  • Try playing around with contrast or any other settings. One of the keys is to familiarize yourself with your cell phone camera and what it can do!

Remember the rules of Composition, and then forget them.

Use the same rules of composition, framing, and leading lines as you would for your photography with a real-camera. They apply here and can still help you get that great shot from a cell phone. Of course, once you are familiar with them or have used them, feel free to chuck them right out the window and try your own rules!

Experiment, not just for scientists.

Don’t hole yourself in just because I, or some other website tells you what you should or should not do. Go ahead and break all the rules or follow them–the best way to figure out what works for you and your cell phone pic is to take a billion pictures in practice and tweak your settings the same amount. Keep your “mistakes” or the oddly lighted images, you never what they’ll look like once on the computer screen!

I hope these tips have helped shed some light (haha, light, get it? Ge–oh, nevermind) on the subject and maybe get you better quality cell phone pics. Hey, if you take any and notice an improvement? Show me! I want to see!

Interested in reading my other articles on photography? You can do so here: Tips & Tricks to get the move out of your digital camera and photography, and here Tips & Tricks to get the most our of your Camera and Photography II .

Written by M. Pence
elf_fu is also known as Mel, and is one of the primary authors to 2phatgeeks. She likes cats, Star Wars, chasing her husband around the house making light saber noises and being a geek.