Phone photography 101: CNET’s guide to taking better pictures


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So you’ve got yourself a lovely new iPhone 12 Pro Max, Galaxy S21 Ultra or another great Android phone and you want to head out and take some beautiful photos with the powerful camera you’ve now got in your pocket. Or perhaps you’re using an older generation phone and want to squeeze everything you can out of your pictures while you debate whether or not to upgrade. Lucky you, as CNET has been busy testing every feature of today’s phone cameras, and we’ve put together a whole range of how-to guides and tutorials that will take you through everything you need to start taking incredible images using just your phone. 

If you’re keen to learn more, bookmark this page, as we’ll be updating it with new content as it gets published. So treat this article as your comprehensive guide to mastering cell phone photography.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In this guide, we take you through the main steps you’ll need to take to start shooting better-looking images on Android phones or iPhones, from composition tips to using manual control and editing for impact. If you’re serious about your phone photography, there’s more to using the phone’s camera than just pointing it at your subject and pressing a button. Professional photographers like me are regularly blown away by the shots I can get from my phone. Along the way, I’ve gathered some photography tips that anyone can use.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Taking the image is only part of the process of creating beautiful photographic art. These are our favorite apps for taking that shot to the next level, whether you want to create stunning natural scenes or more creative, dreamlike digital art and composites. This list includes awesome free photo editing apps, as well as ones that offer superb features for a monthly subscription fee. 


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With recent iPhones and Android phones packing amazing night modes, you don’t need to head home once the sun goes down. Here are our top tips on how to make use of night mode to get your best ever night time photos. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If snagging glorious landscape images is on your travel photography bucket list, this guide will explain how smartphone photography can use the weather, natural light and composition to your advantage when shooting with just a phone camera app. While some of the tips apply to recent handsets with multiple lens options, many are relevant whether your phone is three months or three years old, Apple or Android.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

More interested in the tiny world under your feet? In this guide we show what additional lenses you’ll need to capture intimate macro details of insects and other wildlife on any phone (a macro lens is a must). “Macro photography” is taking a photo of a subject in extreme close-up so it appears life-size or larger in the resulting image, all without compromising image quality. Close-up photos are popular especially for nature photography, because they can capture details of insects, flowers and more with incredible clarity. And you can achieve this effect even with your phone camera.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Whether you’re bored at home due to coronavirus lockdowns, or just looking for something to keep your creativity up, these projects are great fun to try. Better yet, they’re all things you can do at home, using just your phone, so there’s no excuse to not give them a try.


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If you love all things automotive, then step this way. We take an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera to some beautiful countryside to shoot the car with just the smartphone cameras on our Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. I’m going to take you through my top photography tips on how to get pro-level images of cars using just your phone’s built-in camera. Plus, how photographers use photo editing apps to turn a good shot into a great one (and we’re not talking Instagram filters).


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Heading out to the skate park with your mates this weekend for some street photography? Read through our photography tips on using light, angles and burst mode to capture awesome action photos. Snagging great action photos doesn’t require a pro-level dSLR. Your iPhone camera is capable of capturing some brilliant moments, as long as you put in a bit of effort too. We also share our favorite editing apps for action shots.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Maybe you’ve got tickets for a great concert and want to come away with some great visual memories. Don’t be that person spoiling the view with an iPad in the air — check out our tips for taking great iPhone photos at a rock show. Stage lights make concert pictures tricky, so we share an editing app trick that compensates for dim lighting, tips for using a wide-angle lens and zoom and a shutter button technique that makes it easier to capture fleeting scenes better within your camera app.

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