Why your phone pics look like crap

You know I love you, and so I’m gonna help you…by explaining why your phone pics suck.

(Well…maybe not “you” per say, seeing as how all of the ensuing photos are mine, but let’s not make this all about me. 🙂 )

First of all, I get it.  Even as a successful and professional photographer myself, we’re out on-the-go all of the time and don’t always have a decent camera on hand (in fact, almost never!), but more than 75% of us do have our camera phones, thank goodness for technology! Except, phones notoriously SUCK at taking photos.  And sometimes, that’s okay because we’re just so happy to have captured the moment (especially when hilarious!) warts and all.

See the hilarity caught via phone:

Like the time my oldest son got stuck in the shopping cart, or the time he “got himself dressed” but forgot the clothing part, or the time he got in the tubby and again, forgot the clothing part! Ack! lol Thank goodness for my phone camera!

And you also can’t be too picky when a MIRACLE occurs:

(All three kiddos sleeping at the same time!! *insert: chorus of singing angels here*!!)


For everything else, it would seem there is lack of a very basic level of understanding most people should have regarding photography and what “goes”, but I’ve seen the images trending on social media.  And don’t think for one minute we’re at all fooled by your Instagram filters. (That being said, I still love me some Instagram!)  So, help me help you and read over the areas I feel are in desperate need of a little TLC!

The 5 photography f’aux pas cramping your style:

(All of these photos are straight from my phone, the good the bad and the frumpy! NO editing software **other than to put them together** was used!)

  1. For crying out loud, hold still! Seriously, are you dancing while you’re shooting? Do you have bees in your britches? Hold your camera with TWO hands (this is what I say to my toddler every day, “two hands son!”) and rest your elbows on your chest to create stability.  If it’s still not coming in clear, lean up against something steady like a tree or a wall. You obviously whipped out the camera for a reason so stop walking, hold still, and focus.
    see, I missed this adorable pic!
  1. Look for the light. Soft, natural lighting. I know most of us are snapping photos of our kiddos, pets and people, and they don’t always cooperate…or ever (that’s you hubs!)  But all that wiggling around has gotten easier to freeze with trial and error, better tech and rapid fire!  The general key is more light! The more light, the better your shutter will be able freeze the motion and put an end to the blur.  Here are a few examples of major light issues where I was either in a hurry, or just plain lazy…(“in a hurry” sounds better; I’m sticking with that):
    (Okay, but then there is too much): 
    1.  The BEST light ever, is window light!  Control how much you let in by simply turning the shades up a bit, or drawing a white curtain across to diffuse the light, giving beautiful, even lighting across your subject. Play around with it.
    2. Get your subject to turn into the light, especially the eyes! It will really make them pop! And will show off the beautiful light flairs in their irises, which is what people love…they don’t always know what it is, but that’s clutch! See the images below…all are well exposed, but the ones where you can see the light in his eyes is by far more engaging. 
    3. When you’re outside, find the shade, or go out on an overcast day. (Don’t be afraid of a little rain.)  That’s the best for your wiggly ones because you can follow them around without cramping THEIR style and capture beautiful candid images.
  2. Shoot a TON!
    1. “They” say the average film photographer’s first 10,000 shots are the worst, but I’d venture to say now with the advent of digital photography, that number is likely closer to 100,000! So get to shooting!
    2. Want to get the shot? Take 10, 20 100 photos! And all from different angles.  People! Like I just said, it’s the digital era, you can delete. Stop being such a scrooge with your storage space, BUT do remember to delete most of them when you’re done, and just save the 2 or 3 fantastic ones! And hey, maybe, just maybe you could download your images to your desktop every once in a while.  I’m just sayin’.  The great thing here is the more you shoot the better you’ll get.  You will figure out your camera and its funks and learn how to work with them and you’ll also find your preferred shooting style. Soon you’ll be so familiar with what works best and you won’t be shooting 100 photos to get a one good shot. (Maybe just 50 or so.) 🙂
  3. Get Close!
    1. Move your feet, NOT your finger on the screen.  The on-camera zoom is a miserable feature and should only be used in a desperate situation, or never. Let’s just stick with never.  If worse comes to worse, crop it afterwards, just don’t zoom!  It’s not actually zooming in, it’s fake; your camera is just making crap up to fill in the details, kind of like Dad when we were kids asking too many questions!  And it just comes out pixilated. See what I mean from this pic of me and the hubs: 
    2. A tightly composed image is much more interesting to look at.  Give it a focal point so we know exactly where you wanted our eyes to go.
    3. Speaking of that, Follow the RULE OF THIRDS
      1. I think I can count on one hand the number of rules that I will obey without question, based entirely on my fear of cataclysmic consequences:   I turn off my electronic devices during take-off and landing, I always tell my server dinner is fantastic, even if it is in fact, vomit-inducing! I never cook bacon naked, I always wipe down the equipment at the gym, and I never fart in small confined spaces. Anything else is debatable.  Which brings me back to the point: the Rule of Thirds is probably a good rule to add to your list of rules to follow… for now; once you’ve got it down you can play around with some flexibility, but stick to it until then.  If you haven’t had a basic art class, the rule simply is a guide for your imagery. Basically it says that if you slap your subject smack dab in the middle of the frame, you end up with a drab, jilted photo.  Break your image into thirds going both vertically and horizontally and then keep your points of interest at the intersections.  (*these next two photos are the only ones not from my phone, they’re from my big camera but only because I’ve used them for this lesson before.)
      2. See, in the second photo of my little boy, the first is fine, but the second is much more engaging; one might even say it has more flow and energy to it…one also might be a bit pretentious.
    4. Are there bright patches in the background of your composition throwing off the camera’s meter and making your subject dark? Get closer and block it out all together.
  4. Details, Details, DEATAILS!
    1. Focus on eyes.  And don’t always trust your camera’s auto-focus feature.  If you can select where to focus, DO! Where you point will also tell your camera what to expose for…for instance, you don’t want it to expose for the background, especially if it is lighter or darker than your subject.
    2. Check your surroundings
      1. Is there garbage on the floor? Is there anything distracting from your subject? Let’s focus on your adorable puppy, and not his chili dump just a few feet behind!
      2. Again, look at your lighting.  Is it too bright, dark?  Try moving your camera up, down and around so it’s slightly different allowing for more or less light in. Also, while lens flair can really work for an image, it can also destroy one, so cup your hand around the lens to block out the flair (or excessive flair).
      3. Clean your lens once in a while!
      4. If you’re serious about getting better photos from your phone, I highly recommend downloading this app: Pro camera. It does cost, but it’s absolutely worth it!! (And no, I do not benefit from recommending them, they’re just good.)
      5. Don’t leave it up to filters to clean up the dirty work. (They generally do a poor job anyway.)

I know people like to turn up their noses to images captured with a phone, but hopefully with these tips you can turn their snooty little expressions into shock and awe!

So get out there and start taking better photos!  In fact, I would absolutely LOVE to see what phone photos you are proud of or answer any questions you might have, so come on over to our facebook page and post them there. I can’t wait to see them! 

Shoot a thousand images and then a thousand more, and for heaven’s sake, HOLD STILL.


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  • Kira

    I enjoyed reading this, thanks for the tips!ReplyCancel

  • Great post cass! I need these tips!ReplyCancel

  • Karie

    What a fun read. Great tips Sis!!!ReplyCancel

  • Cassia

    I hope it was helpful and simple to follow!! Thanks for reading!! XoxReplyCancel

  • Thank you for reassuring me that my photo’s taken on my phone…..suck! lol. I know they do… thank you for the tips and I hope to not suck so bad in the future!ReplyCancel

    • Cassia Denton

      Haha, thanks Brook! And rest assured, your photos in Stella and Crew are adorable!!! I just went and checked them out! Love that little styling toddler girl’s outfit. I’m so getting that. Thanks for stoping by mymommystyle!ReplyCancel

  • What fabulous tips!! Thanks SO much for sharing them…and sharing them on Project Inspired!! Pinning!


MyMommyStyle Meet Camille

Hello! I am Camille, a wife, mother of four, Disney obsessed, certified teacher, and reality optimist. Motherhood comes with its ups and downs, and I hope while you're here you'll find something that makes your #momlife easier!


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