Shoot Like a Pro: 5 Tips for Taking Photos with Your Phone

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Even when they leave their professional gear at home, these five photographers can still get a great shot — by using their phones. Here, they share their secrets.

1. Rob Tringali: Aim for the Sky 

Phone cams tend to adjust the exposure of the entire image based on how light or dark the center of the frame is. When he’s shooting the action, Tringali keeps the sky from being blown out into a featureless white expanse by tilting the phone up to take the photo. “The initial result can be a properly exposed sky and a pretty underexposed subject area,” says Tringali. To correct that, he uses a filter in the Snapseed app, “to brighten up the subject a little and add saturation.” 

Tringali is a sports photographer who’s shot 24 Super Bowls and 15 World Series.

2. Jesse Burke: Expect to Correct

“Just as with DSLRs, you should expect to do a tiny bit of post-production,” says Burke. One simple prescription: an overall contrast boost and then an auto white-balance correction, both in Snapseed, and a final saturation tweak in Instagram to make it pop.

Burke is a RISD professor whose work deals with nature and masculinity.
3. Andrea Gentl: Go Retro

Go Retro: “I use shakeitphoto, an iPhone app,” says Gentl. “It essentially mimics SX-70, one of the original Polaroid cameras from the early Seventies, and automatically adds contrast and boosts the saturation.” 

Gentl is part of a professional duo that shoots food, travel, and still lifes.

4. Sam Horine: Be Prepared

“Bring some very minimal accessories, such as a reflector,” suggests Horine. This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds — Photojojo sells a super-portable reflector for $15. The idea is to bounce the available light, concentrating it on a subject’s face, while also distributing it, to eliminate harsh shadows. 

Horine is a street photographer who teaches digital photography at NYU.

5. Ben Lowy: Lock the Exposure

“If you want to control the lighting, you need an app,” says Lowy. “Pro Camera 7 lets you point at something and lock in the exposure, to hold those highlights and shadows.” 

Lowy’s iPhone shot of Hurricane Sandy made the cover of Time.