Take professional photos with a smartphone camera

This is an oral presentation I gave for a class I took at the DATC.

Manual Settings


aperture example

Setting the aperture will allow more or less light to come through the lens. You should narrow the aperture to let in less light or will focus more of the image, like for landscape photos. A wider aperture will let in more light and will allow you to take pictures with focus on a subject and a blurry background. Aperture is denoted in f-stops, like f/1.8 (wide aperture) or f/22 (narrow aperture). A lens that says 50mm f/1.8 means its widest aperture is f/1.8.

Shutter Speed

shutter speed example

This refers to the amount of time it takes the aperture blades to close when you take the picture. For fast motion it should be at most 1/300th of a second. If there is no motion you can sometime go up to 1/30th of a second. A longer shutter speed is useful in low-light situations because there is more time for the lens to take in light. Generally you should try for the fastest shutter speed you can get away with.


iso example

ISO would be the digital equivalent to film speed (100 or 200 for outdoors, 400 or 800 for indoors). The lower the  ISO the more accurately light is represented. Higher ISO means greater sensitivity to light. You can lower the shutter speed so you can set a lower ISO.

Combining the Settings

What is your priority? Shallow depth of field? Set your aperture. Accurate representation of light? ISO should be your priority. Prevent motion blur? Shutter speed is what you should worry about.

Choosing the Camera

Since we’re talking about smartphones here, I mean choosing the right camera app. I like Camera FV-5 for Android (here’s the link to Google Play). This app lets you adjust virtually every camera setting for “DSLR-like manual controls in your fingertips.”

screenshot of fv-5


This app will even let you take RAW photos. The problem is you need the latest version of Android, Lollipop, for RAW photos and, as far as I can tell, to adjust the shutter speed.

RAW Images

“A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner (Wikipedia).” That way you can edit the photo in post without losing quality. You would need a program that can open RAW images (I’m pretty sure Photoshop works).

Using a Tripod

You can buy a mount specifically made for mounting your smartphone on a tripod:

istabilizer phone mount

Or you can DIY it:

diy phone mount


You’ll need:

  • L-bracket
  • 1/4″ 20 course nut
  • Some kind of adhesive or Velcro
  • a spare hard case

This was my favorite DIY solution I found online, but there are a few problems with it. First, you need to sacrifice a case, either with a permanent adhesive or putting Velcro straps on it. Second, the lens isn’t directly over the swivel point; which is fine if you don’t plan on shooting video or taking a panoramic shot. Here’s my modified version:



my own phone mount


What I want to is attach a car cell phone mount so I don’t have to use Velcro or a spare case. Until then, I just so happened to have a spare case. I used a second L-bracket to hold the weight of the phone.

Some Examples

I only had time to take a couple pictures myself:





Here’s some professional photos:

Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130701_18_46_16_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130701_19_29_37_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130703_05_32_49_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130706_06_13_24_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130706_06_56_50_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130707_18_02_55_Pro Smartphone_photography_tips_ALV_NOK_2__20130708_19_05_24_Pro

This wasn’t part of my presentation, but here are the camera specs of my smartphone, the LG G3:

  • 13 megapixels
  • Aperture size: F2.4
  • Camera sensor size: 1/3.06″
  • Features: PopupBack-illuminated sensor (BSI)
    • Autofocus
    • Touch to focus
    • Optical image stabilization
    • Face detection
    • Smile detection
    • ISO control
    • Burst mode
    • Geo tagging
    • High Dynamic Range mode (HDR)
    • Panorama
    • Voice activation