Hone your Mobile Photography Skills

If you like talking about cameras and photography, you have undoubtedly heard the old saying, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” That saying has more meaning than ever as our mobile devices are capable of the high-resolution photography found in DSLRs, coupled with the simplicity and convenience of a point and shoot camera.

Our phones have become so popular that the photo sharing site, Flickr, showcased the dominance of the Apple iPhone as far as post frequency over professional DSLR cameras such as Canon and Nikon. In 2015, the Apple iPhone accounted for 24.1% of all photos uploaded to Flickr.com and a quick look at the top cameras ranking was very telling: the iPhone took 7 out of the top 10 spots and mobile devices (cameraphones and pads) displaced DSLRs as the majority of Top 20 cameras.

As our mobile devices evolve into a legitimate photography option, it’s good to understand a few “best practices” for the avid and budding photographers alike. After-all, honing your skills could WIN you $500 at the end of the year in our Annual San Mateo Photo Contest! Here are a few easy-to-implement suggestions to improve your mobile photography skills:

Be Ready for Anything. Always set your phone to camera mode so you won’t miss that great shot. Even if your screen is locked, a simple unlock is all that is needed, allowing for a quicker reaction time to capture that perfect image.

Be patient…it will happen. Although your device can hold a huge amount of images and data, it is best to train yourself to be patient for a good shot; you should set a goal to snap a couple of photos when the shot presents itself. Don’t bury yourself in post-production and sorting when you find yourself trying to differentiate your favorite image from 20 similar images.


Shoot Landscape when possible. Most photographers tend to shoot in portrait mode with their iPhones. Although there is nothing wrong with portrait orientation, it is good practice to make it a habit to hold your mobile phone horizontally as most social sites and photo hosting options tend to prefer to display imagery in landscape mode.

Zoom Control. A mobile photography “best practice” is to zoom with your feet and not with your phone. It is far better to capture the image by closing in physically with your subject matter rather than rely on the phone’s zoom capabilities, which usually relies on a distortion of pixels to arrive at a zoomed-in result.

Frame It Right. Turn your camera grid on to frame up that perfect shot by utilizing the ‘rule of thirds’. The ‘rule of thirds’ states that a photo composition is more interesting if the important elements of the photo fall on one of the grid lines or their intersections. On the iPhone, you can turn it on by going to Settings-Photos & Camera-Grid. Read more about the ‘rule of thirds’ here.

Light Up Your Photos. When you photograph matters, with regards to lighting. The Golden Hour, also known as the Magic Hour, and Blue Hour are the best times for any video and still photography. The Golden Hour occurs shortly after sunrise and before sunset, resulting in redder and softer lighting, while the Blue Hour occurs just before sunrise and just after sunset when the Sun is below the horizon, resulting in softer, bluer lighting. Here is a great, simple article on understating lighting.

Camera Replacement App. While there is no “magic” app to improve everybody’s photography, it does help to obtain an app that you understand and can use as a replacement for the typical, point-and-click camera setting on your phone. For those of you with a background/understanding of photography, take a look at ProCam 3, an app which allows manual control over ISO, exposure, focus and white balance. It also has a shooting mode which simulate long shutter speed. What could be better than all your traditional and DSLR settings rolled up into one, easy and affordable app?

Be Inspired.
There’s no better way to get some ideas for subject matter than to view 100 local images from friends and neighbors. We’re sharing a lot of ‘Local Love’ through photos. Join us on First Friday, February 5th for 100 Reasons to Love San Mateo, a Pop-up Photo Exhibit at Philz in Downtown San Mateo. The 1st 100 attendees will receive a FREE coupon for a drink! Learn more here.

With the ability to capture a life experience no further than your pocket or purse, taking photos couldn’t be easier.  So grab those phones, click away and be sure to share all your Bay Meadows and San Mateo photography with us by tagging all your photos with #BayMeadowsLife. You could WIN $500 in our annual photo contest. View rules at baymeadows.com/photocontestrules.

As we develop community, we want to see how you live or play at Bay Meadows and beyond. Share your fun San Mateo lifestyle photos with our community by using #BayMeadowsLife and check out our Twitter and Instagram profiles to stay updated on everything #BayMeadowsLife related. For easier event, photo, and building updates, make sure to follow our Facebook page.