Ask A Minnesota Expert: How To Take Better Pictures With Your Phone

May 18, 2015 7:00 AM

(credit: CBS)

Capture the moment on your phone before it is gone; share it with your friends forever. Now is the time to learn how because May is National Photography Month, and photographer Natalie Champa Jennings is just the person who can help you do this so effortlessly.

Natalie Champa Jennings
Natalie Champa Jennings Photography
Minneapolis, MN
(808) 284-5490

Serenity is a rare quality when coupled with competence. A master at her craft, Natalie puts her clients at ease with a discrete and relaxed manner, often completing her projects in minimal time, amazing her clients with stunning results. She shares her skills instructing a photo business course at Minneapolis Photo Center. Now, she is sharing her insights with you, so you can also amaze your friends.

Tip 1: Make Sure Your Subject Is Properly Lit

Photography is essentially the art or science of capturing light. No matter what kind of device you’re shooting with – even though most new phones auto-adjust for proper exposure – lighting is paramount. If you’re indoors, try moving your subject towards natural window light while you capture the image, making sure to keep your back to the window. If you’re outdoors at high noon, try finding solid shade, avoiding mottled light from trees, to help even out your light source and eliminate harsh shadows on your subject’s face. The soft light found early in the morning, under a light cloud cover, and at sunset will yield gorgeous images.

Tip 2: Understand Shutter Lag

Phones are notorious for significant lag time, meaning there’s a bit of time between pushing the button to snap your shot and the time the actualshutter snaps. It’s important to keep shutter lag in mind and to hold your device steady until the action is complete. Moving the phone away too quickly causes blur to occur. This is particularly prevalent in low light. Unless you’re feeling especially avant-garde, a blurry photo is probably not your desired outcome. If you want to avoid using a flash in a dim room try setting your phone on a solid surface in order to steady your shot.

Tip 3: Avoid Zoom

Although it seems like a handy add-on, the zoom feature on your phone’s camera is actually decreasing the quality of your photographs. Think of it like cropping. If you crop away huge amounts of an image then try to enlarge what’s left, the quality of your blown up photo is going to be pixelated and grainy. If that’s confusing, think of pizza (yeah, pizza). Say you have enough dough rolled out for a pizza but you slice away two-thirds of the dough and toss it, then you try to make the same sized pie with the third you kept. Chances are it will be super thin and flimsy. Essentially, cropping on your phone stretches out the quality, so the more you crop, the lower your image quality.

Related: Best Photography Classes In Minnesota

Tip 4: Experiment With Apps

There is a wonderland of easy-to-use, fun, and creative phone apps out there to add an appealing final touch to your phone photo. Most of them are free, too. The options are endless, from vintage filters that mimic old film to psychedelic light leaks. Some apps even boast a community of inspiring photographers to connect with, as well as the opportunity to browse thousands of beautifully edited pics. With a little experimentation, most of these apps are intuitive and quick. I personally like Mextures or VSCOcam. Find an app you like and you’ll build a gorgeous collection of photographs quickly and easily.

Tip 5: Experiment With Your Perspective

A good photograph is all about perspective. The next time you find an interesting subject, try moving around a little. Get closer, crouch down, and shoot upwards at your subject. Conversely, try moving farther away, climbing a little higher – stand on a chair, for example – and shoot downward at your subject. There are endless angles surrounding any subject and sometimes shaking things up is exactly what’s needed to capture a killer image. The more you practice shifting your perspective the sooner you’ll be able to discern exactly where to stand or crouch to capture any subject well.

Related: Good Question: Is A Phone Just A Phone Anymore?

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at

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