Spice Up Your Smartphone Photography with 5 Creative DIY Hacks.

Well I have a treat for you today.

It’s a treat for myself too, because I’m very interested in spicing up my smartphone photography, and often I find that there is still so much for me to learn about photography. It’s dizzying, but it’s inspiring. It’s overwhelming but it’s exciting.

smartphone photography

This was iPhone for me, but I was lucky to have creative enough subjects to not worry beyond pressing the shutter button.

Now I’m going to let my guest poster, Lindsey Leigh Graham, take it away about spicing up your smartphone photography. I found her post to be very educational for me, and I’m always looking for ways to make my iPhone photography better!

Take it away, Lindsey!

smartphone photography

Looking for a way to up your smartphone photography game? It’s always frustrating when you know there’s a photo opportunity about to happen but you don’t have your “good” camera with you? Perhaps you don’t even own a “good camera” but are looking for interesting alternatives to the standard point and click method for snapping pics.

If so, check out these tricks for expanding the capability of your smartphone camera and achieve effects that would otherwise require expensive add-ons. These quick and easy DIY ideas will explore the use of everyday items as tools for creatively enhancing photos.

1. DIY Tripod and Shutter Release

smartphone photography

There comes a time in every selfie taker’s life when a tripod becomes a necessity. You’ve exhausted the one arm pose and become frustrated with your phone’s inability to stand itself upright, endlessly looking for the perfect combination of books and balled up clothing to keep the camera pointing in the right direction for capturing your best side. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to the tricky balancing act we have all fumbled through.

Crafting the perfect topple-free selfie is as easy as finding some large binder clipsβ€”the larger the better. Attach one on the bottom of the phone for a vertical photo, or two on one side for a horizontal landscape shot. In addition, try using the volume control button on the headphones as the shutter release for a hands-free, shake-free photo!

2. Filter Alternative

Filters can add an interesting pop of color and can correct for over-exposed or dreary photos. Any Instagram whizz will surely have made use of all of the in-app choices. Instead of exhausting these pre-made filters, create your own and snap a one-of-a-kind keeper.

Sunglasses with colored lenses are the perfect tool for adding a unique hue. Yellow and pink lenses are widely available at most convenience storesβ€”you might even have a pair of your own Blue Blockers to add to the mix. Dark sunglasses simulate ND filters and can be helpful for darkening a bright image, or one taken into the sun. Pop the lenses out and stack them for an interesting effect.

3. Bokeh Effect

Add some flair to your photos with the visual appeal of bokeh. This popular effect is common when using a conventional DSLR, and can be recreated using your smartphone.

Find a clear glass big enough to fit your particular brand of smartphone, roll the outside edge of the glass in sand or sandy dirt, and place your phone inside the glass. Face the sun, and shoot through the dirty glass, the highlights from the sand will create a bokeh effect. The result will vary depending on the size and shape of the glass, and the size and shape of the sand or dirt grains. Be sure to use the headphone shutter release for an effortless capture. As you can see, the bokeh effect in the photo on the right adds interesting textural appeal to the blue sky.

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smartphone photography

4. Macro Lens

Create your own macro lens without the need for an expensive add-on lens clip. Fashion a pint size version out of a mini magnifying glass or laser pointer lens.

Check out the starfish below: the additional magnification really lets you get in close! Laser pointers contain a tiny lens that also makes for a great magnifier. However, once the lens is removed you’re not going to be able to put it back together, so be sure it’s not something you’re going to miss.

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5. Zoom Lens

As we all know, the zoom function on most smartphones significantly degrades the quality of any image, so finding ways to get closer to your subject without using this function is optimal. Lining up a pair of binoculars with a smartphone camera lens definitely takes some practice, but the winning combination of steady hand and intense patience ultimately allowed me to capture a unique close up of a surfboard captured off a local fishing pier.

Get creative and start looking for your own versions of these tricks! Think about how you can use clear plastic binder dividers, textured glassware, or even 3D lenses. Once you get the ideas flowing you’ll surely find endless opportunities to expand your tool kit!


Lindsey Leigh Graham is a beach-loving photographer based in coastal South Carolina. Her favorite subjects are the wildlife and landscapes of the Lowcountry, and she creates decorative and functional pieces of wall art to display her photos. Lindsey frequently contributes to the blog at Treat.com.

Tamara back. Thanks so much, Lindsey! I honestly didn’t know any of those tricks. I think it’s really fun and important to me to take my best photo with my iPhone, should that be the only camera on me. I love how easy these items are to find.

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer at http://tamaracamera.com/, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at http://tamaracamerablog.com and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. http://themotherofallmeltdowns.com, as well as Stigma Fighters Anthology (volume 1), and The HerStories Project: So Glad They Told Me. She is also a proud Community Lead/QA Reader with Sway, and a regular contributor to the SoFab Food blog, and the Target Made Me Do It blog. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter, son, dog, cat, and 11 chickens in glorious western Massachusetts.

Comments

Spice Up Your Smartphone Photography with 5 Creative DIY Hacks. — 118 Comments

  1. This is seriously great and have been using my iPhone so much more that I got the 6 plus, so most definitely going to try to take these tips to heart and test here. Thanks for the awesome guest post πŸ˜‰

    • I think they are totally awesome! Many people have smartphones and many people have those household objects around. This is much better than I could teach about photography!

  2. Oh my gosh treat indeed! Lindsey you are brilliant! These are such easy and awesome ways to make pictures better. I love the tripod idea. I am going to try several of these tomorrow. Thanks!

  3. Wow, I like that sand/glass trick! Who would’ve thought. I’m pretty amazed with how good quality some iPhone photos I take are, especially the outdoor ones.

  4. Whew back the spring of things – whatever you had must have traveled to me because I was rendered useless ALL last week with a flu. I didn’t even know it was a flu! My neck was stiff for a few days and after not being able to take it any longer I called my doc and told her about it and she’s like “are you feverish?” I’m like “as a matter of fact, yes” – she said I had to go to the e-room to make sure it’s not meningitis.. Pfft- thankfully just flu! Feeling much better.. On antibiotics and taking it easy. I slept SOO much it was EPIC! πŸ™‚ However, lots of things I didn’t do but rest was needed. I’ve been itching to get a DSLR camera and I’m not sure why the sudden itch, could be you as inspiration but they’re pricey O_o. If I’m going to get one I’d like to invest in a decent one so hopefully next year but school is also a priority sooOo certain expenses can’t be accrued right now. Hope you had a great weekend Tamara love!! -Iva

    • Yes they are certainly pricey! So are iPhones for that matter.
      I’m so sorry about the flu! Whatever I had wasn’t that bad. No fever at all. you poor dear!

      • haha yes but I’m an android lover so no iPhone for me – I’ll get one eventually . πŸ™‚ Eh better Flu than meningitis! Lol At least I feel a lot better – still tired but nothing new there, not for me anyways. πŸ™‚

        • I’m pretty sure these tips go with any smartphone. She never said iPhone! Just me.
          I had the flu twice in my life. It’s rough, but you’re right, better than meningitis! By a lot!
          Really glad you’re better. When I was sick, I watched Hallmark Christmas movies. I hope you made better use of our time than I did.

          • Nice – my phone is not known for it’s camera though. The camera REALLY needs to be revamped which is why I’m waiting for the M9 hopefully, way better camera. πŸ™‚ Haha exactly – I was happy with a flu diagnosis. I ate lots of ice cream and slept like a baby, it was awesome. Golden Girls is my go-to show for always.

              • You know it was Ok – I think the last few days I’ve had some uneasy stomach issues but I think that’s more the antibiotics than the virus. I’m pretty much good now – my body temp is off but that’s about it. πŸ™‚

                  • Yeah I feel I’m in that 2nd week where I”m not quite myself yet. I still feel mildly symptomatic all this week – still do today. It is rough – Still don’t want to get the flu shot though, lol. I feel justified in my desire to deny it. If it weren’t for sick, gross coworkers – I never would’ve caught this ish!!! >:O

                    • I always do get the flu shot, and so do my kids, but I know it’s very controversial. Either way, shame on your coworkers for spreading that filth!

  5. Oh wow, these are super clever ideas! I sadly hardly carry my nice camera with me anymore because my phone has some an awesome camera, but there are certain limitations to what you can do with it. I will have to try out some of these tricks!

    • I really use the phone a lot because my real camera makes me feel like I’m at work. Sometimes that just won’t do with family. I use my iPhone camera so much!

  6. These are great tips. I am Instagram fan and am always mesmerized by what pictures emerge after the filter. Technology and these tricks make an ordinary picture look extraordinary. Hope you are feeling better.

  7. I really have nowhere to go but “up” with my smartphone photos. Most of them are terrible. I think the binder clip tripod is something even I can do – and not only for selfies, but just for steadier photos!! Never heard of Bokey… but definitely looks cool. And a simple magnifying glass? So obvious… and yet, I never thought of it. I have one, though, so I’m definitely going to dig it out.

  8. LOVE these hacks!!! But I always forget to use them when it’s time ;). Your first photo reminded me that I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy. LOVED it and LOVED Groot. That costume of your husband’s has been imprinted on my memory.

  9. Wow – I didn’t know you could do all of that with a phone!!!
    BTW – thanks to you I knew that the phone booth thing on Dr Who is a Tardis!!! (Trivia Crack with Hunter)

  10. These are amazing tricks and tips! It’s worth a try! And I’m gonna see if I can recreate or do some of them especially that I mostly rely on my camera phone to take photos nowadays. πŸ™‚

    • I do a lot with just family fun. With the pro camera, I just am thinking too much. Less fun. I wish I had an in-between camera, but I think iPhones are getting so advanced that it IS my in-between now.

    • Yeah, these are SO awesome!! I have most of this stuff in my house. And these are problems I struggle with – wanting to zoom, wanting bokeh, wanted stability, etc.

  11. Love these tips! I do love my iPhone 6 and am amazed by the photo quality. No if only the smudges on my screen would create a cool photo effect, I’d be all set!

  12. Oh my goodness! I love these tips so much I almost forgot how to type. Garbled stuff was coming out of my fingertips. Fortunately, there’s a delete button.

    I’ve been meaning to get a tripod and shutter release… it makes the camera/phone so much more stable.

    Love these and pinned this post!

    Thanks Lindsey. Have a great evening Tamara!
    xoxo

  13. Wow that’s awesome! I always have my phone but not always my camera (which I don’t really know how to use anyway). Thanks so much for having this great guest on sweets!!

    • I think it’s fascinating that your smartphone can do a ton of stuff you don’t even know about!
      I mean.. I should have known, but I honestly didn’t know any of these.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I often only have my iphone with me instead of my camera, and I haven’t been very happy with my pictures. Super cool ideas!

    • I’m even thinking about it because we’re going to Disney soon and last year I went so crazy with my pro camera.. it was exhausting.
      This year, perhaps the phone is enough.

  15. Ha, how cool where these and where has this post been for me the past few years since I got my first iPhone!! I have definite problems with hand shaking. The suggestion I loved the post was the different ways you can release the shutter. I did NOT know the iPhone could do that! Awesome guest post, Lindsey, and thank you for sharing with us, Tamara! πŸ™‚

    • I have very stable hands, which I consider lucky. However, I am rough on my knees. I don’t know if I chose a profession that I’ll be able to do until I’m 100!

  16. Those are some neat tricks! I am not a big fan of color filters, but the magnifying lens or the ‘sand glass bokeh’ sound real interesting. I have heard about the cable release with the headphone cable and the binder clips before, but honestly have been too lazy to try them. What surprised me a little when I was in NYC these days was the fact how many people walk around with those ‘selfie-extendable-sticks’ – those have their place, too, but… still, there were a lot.

    • I have never seen anyone use one of those extendable sticks! Sometimes I am tempted to buy one.
      Glad you visited today because I was very curious to what you would think!

  17. I love these tips! You know how much I love taking photos with my iPhone. Binder clips as tripod is brilliant. I have to try that. I’m constantly propping up my phone in precarious situations! Can’t wait to test these other tips too.

  18. I don’t have an iPhone but I’m sure I can use some of these tips and tricks on my Galaxy S5. I don’t use it as much as I used to. I’m stopping by to say “Happy Holidays” just in case I can’t make it back from my trip. Sitting here in a JFK terminal and wishing it was my only stop. Have a fantastic week!

  19. 1. I often feel too old to take selfies, anyway.

    2. My iPhone 4 feels like cutting edge to me still. Photo quality in my sheltered world for this one seems magnificent. I’m glad I really don’t know better! But with three girls around, there are many, many sunglasses to be used as filters. Wait until I teach the kids a thing or two about smartphone photography.

    3. It’s best if you use an empty glass for that Bokeh effect.

    • I always make Cassidy do the one arm pose because he has such a long arms. However when he’s not around, I would love the extendable arm or the headphones shutter release!

      • Great ideas!…..Like yourself, I got tired of one arm head shots and/or not being in the photo. So I developed a little smartphone tripod the size/thickness of a credit card for my personal use. Several friends saw my tripod and said, “You know, people will pay money for that!”…..So I experimented with different engineered plastics to find one that was the most durable/fracture resistant, while still being cost effective. You can check-out Selfie Card Micro Tripod at http://www.microtripod.com. Selfie Card stores in you wallet, universally fits any smartphone, allows you to easily adjust the elevation of the shot, allows mounting for landscape, or portrait shots and, if needed, will mount to any traditional camera tripod…..The best camera/tripod in the world are the ones you have with you!

  20. Because I pretty much ONLY use my phone to take pictures, these hacks are SO helpful!! Thank you for doing this and helping the photographically challenged πŸ™‚

  21. LOVE these tips! And thank you for including a pic showing how the bokeh effect was taken, I was just not following until I saw the picture. Though, the idea of using colored sunglasses lenses to add color is fantastic. What a great way to use up my kids’ old broken glasses!

  22. the dirty/sand glass to achieve bokeh is brilliant!! I’ll have to try that. My recent trip to the tree farm was all iPhone photos because I forgot my Canon on the way out the door. I am still at the iPhone 4 level and the camera is.. meh. but these tips will certainly help up my game.

    • I went from an iPhone 4 to a 6, never stopping to have an iPhone 5, and the camera is a big difference. That said, you know how it is. You work with what you’ve got.

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