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

Elyssa Pearlstein
Elyssa Eve Photography

Elyssa Pearlstein is a photography-lover who grew up in the Ann Arbor area. Shooting photos with her DSLR and, of course, her camera phone, are two of her favorite activities. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan and is earning an Associate of Applied Science in Photographic Technology from Washtenaw Community College. Check out Elyssa Eve Photography on Facebook and read her blog at If you're having trouble taking pictures with your phone, check out these tips.


"It may seem obvious, but sometimes, phone photo enthusiasts get so excited, they forget this step and just shoot an image. Most, if not all, camera phones focus with a square that appears on the screen and then disappears when the subject is focused."

Move Closer To Subjects As Opposed To Zooming In 

"Zooming onto subjects with a camera phone can result in pixelation. If you must zoom in, do so as minimally as possible."

Rule Of Thirds

"This rule transcends general photography to phone photography. Many phone screens have diagrams that split them up into 9 evenly sized squares. These squares have a purpose. Photographing subjects that correspond with the intersections of these lines produces optimal images. Generally, situate subjects a little off center for optimal appearance."

Shoot In Well Lit But Not Overly Bright Or Dark Settings 

"Because phones don't often have a powerful flash, it is best to take photos in areas that are already well lit, whether inside or outside.  Outdoors, midday overcast weather conditions are ideal. Too bright an environment can result in overexposure or lens flare - blotches of bright light in photos - and too dim an area can result in a noisy and unclear picture. In extremely sunny conditions, it can be advantageous for the photographer and subject to immerse themselves in shade."

Related: Best Photography Classes in Detroit

When Shooting Photos At Dimly Lit Concerts, Opt For A Wider Depth Of Field And Utilize Stage Light 

"With your phone zoomed all the way out, seek some heads and bodies of concertgoers that can be seen against the vivid stage light.  A silhouette effect often results. This works especially well when you can see some of the performing artists on the stage from a distance. Not only is this kind of artsy, it gives your friends who couldn't make it a good overall look at the show."

Edit... But Don't Overedit

"A variety of camera phone filters and editing apps exist. Some are even automatically included. I personally use the 'chrome' filter on my iPhone 5S on default. Some apps, such as Instagram, allow not only for adding filters, but for fine tuning elements of a photo's exposure and appearance. Brightness, contrast, saturation, and shadows are some key aspects that when adjusted a little, can make an image markedly better. Be careful not to get carried away, as adjusting too many settings to the extreme can make an image look less like a photo and more like a highly manipulated work of art. Unless you, of course, desire that appearance."

Related: Best Places to Take Family Photos in Detroit

Liz Parker is a freelance writer and a University of Michigan graduate with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Her work can be found at and
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