Smartphone manufacturer Apple has reportedly made the claim that more photos are taken daily with iPhones than all other cameras combined.  That could be a difficult-to-substantiate claim, but I would guess they are pretty close.  Throw in all other smartphones and the claim would probably be a no-brainer!

The fact is, smartphones marketed in the last few years are very capable of taking excellent photos. Pull out an old box of pictures taken 15 or so years ago and compare them to recent photos taken with your smartphone.  What a difference! 

As good as your smartphone photos are, there are a number of simple things you can do to make them dramatically better.  An internet search will produce a lot of “hits” on how to take better smartphone photos. Based on personal experience with smartphone cameras over the last 10 years or so, my favorite tips write-up is Popular Photography’s “Ten Ways to Take Better Photos with Your Smartphone.”  I’m not including the link to the page because it is very long. Search on the info above or drop me an email and I’ll send the link to you.

There is no sense repeating Pop Photos’ tips here, but there are several I would like to expand on. Perhaps the most important is, pay attention to your lighting.  Don’t shoot against a very light or dark background, because your phone camera will attempt to average the exposure and your subject will either be very dark or washed out.

Be careful when taking photos in low light.  Yes, your smartphone will take a photo and the exposure may be acceptable, but camera and subject movement become more problematic.  Look for the best possible lighting and use the light to your advantage. The brightest light should be in front of your subject, not behind it.

From a practical standpoint, the smartphone’s built-in “flash” is very weak and for taking photos more than a few feet away, it is, in my opinion, just about worthless.  Beyond that range, if you have no alternative, by all means, try the flash.  If you can live with the results, that’s fine.  But don’t expect a great photo. 

Don’t overlook the built-in photo editing software in your phone.  In addition to cropping and straightening your photos, other controls allow you lighten or darken your photo and bring out detail in shadow areas. Don’t be afraid to try these tools, as they can make a dramatic difference in your photos.  Practice is good!

Your phone is a great close-up camera, focusing down to a mere few inches.  If I want to take a close-up photo, I grab my smartphone instead of my regular camera.  There are also a number of little-known features built into your phone that will give your photos some eye-grabbing appeal.  One of my favorites on recent iPhones is the ability to take photos of waterfalls and give them a flowing effect. 

Space constraints make it difficult to include detailed info in these articles.  If you want more detail on any of the topics covered in this column, have general questions or comments, or an idea for a future column, please send me an email at  I want and need your feedback to make sure this column is relevant and worth reading in future issues of the Saddlebag Notes.

Jim has a Fine Arts degree with a major in Photography and more than 50 years’ experience in a wide range of photographic disciplines.