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How to Take Killer Instagram Photos Using Your Phone

How to Take Killer Instagram Photos Using Your Phone

With the recent release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 I did as I do most years and upgraded my phone to this latest model. Full disclosure, Samsung graciously gifted me this latest model.  Now with that being said though I have been a fan of the Samsung Galaxy line for 5 generations ever since my first purchase of the Galaxy S3.  Despite the fact that I’ve been approached by various other mobile manufacturers for paid ambassador opportunities I continue to stick with this incredible line of devices because the Samsung Galaxy line always delivers phenomenal camera quality. Plus I wouldn’t feel right being an ambassador for another brand of phones that I don’t actually use.  And if we’re keeping in line with the whole full disclosure thing Samsung did not ask me to write this. While they did gift me the phone there was basically no strings attached, no requirements for me to even make a post on a blog or on any of my social channels. I am writing this because quite simply I genuinely love this line of phones and it was a great opportunity for me to address one of the top questions I’m asked….how do you take a killer instagram using only your phone?

Now if you’ve every scrolled through my Instagram feed, most people also ask me if my photos are actually taken with my phone. I would say that 95% of the photos that appear on my Instagram feed were taken by some verision of a Samsung Galaxy. When I started my blog I started using my DSLR more, but majority of the photos on my social media were taken with my phone. In fact, it was taking casual snaps with my phone that made me fall in love with photography and only after did I start to get serious about it.

You don’t need to own a $10,000 professional camera to take an amazing photo. Everyone knows that it’s not the camera but the photographer that makes a good snap right? I mean, give me a top of the line airplane and it doesn’t exactly make me a pilot either. Catch my drift? Your phone is probably something you’ll always have on you and can take an amazing ‘gram using it. Hell, Instagram was originally founded for mobile photography so why not stick to it’s roots? If you’re a professional already this post will probably result in eye rolls. But if you’re just starting out, here are my three simple tips help you up your Instagram game (but in general these can apply to any device you use whether it’s phone, camera, super magic box).


1) Light

Any photography whether professional or hobbyist will tell you that light will make or break you. No matter if you have phone or a top of the line camera having good light makes magic and terrible lightning will destroy you. And no amount of photo editing will save you.

Try to find a place with lots of natural light. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and prettiest type of light to use. Sure you could invest thousands in lighting equipment but these are casual Instagram snaps not a full-fledged photshoot for a multi-million dollar conglomerate. I barely want to carry around my hefty DSLR most days and needless to say it’s not exactly practical to tote around lighting equipment as well. So shoot your subject in natural light and watch your ‘grams improve infinitely.

Top of the Rock NYC with Samsung Galaxy S8 at their #UnboxYourPhone event
Top of the Rock NYC with Samsung Galaxy S8 at their #UnboxYourPhone event


2) Get to Know Your Camera Functions

Both cameras and camera phones these days are stacked full goodies to help you get that perfect shot. Getting to know these functions gives you the tools you need to get the perfect picture under a wide range of conditions whether it’s a cloudy day, sunny day, pouring rain, indoors, outdoors, etc..

If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy like me, then you’ll want to get to know the functions in Pro Mode (other phone manufacturers may have a similar type mode) which let you essentially customize your camera settings, everything from exposure, to ISO, to white balance, and more.

I’m not going to go into detail about what each of these settings means or what they do. You have Google for that. But I will tell you that when I first started taking pictures with my phone I would test out each of these settings to see what they did. Select one of the settings and then push the lever slowly to both ends of the scale to see what effect it has on the picture. Take snap. Take 1000 snaps. They don’t cost you anything (other than memory space, which you can obviously delete after). Trying out each of these settings under different conditions is the best way for you to learn what to use and when.

Get familiar with your phone's camera settings
Get familiar with your phone’s camera settings


3) Turn on Your Grid Lines

Your phone camera should have an option to turn on grid lines, so go ahead and turn them on. The grid lines help greatly in terms of setting up your composition. For the most part I like to follow the Rule of Thirds (again, you can turn to Google if you’d like to know what that is). Having the grid lines on helps you apply this rule very easily. Like all rules, the Rule of Thirds can be broken with great success but for the most part it’s an easy way to get great and aesthetically pleasing composition. The grid lines also help if you have trouble imagining these cross sections (like I do) or when you’re switching between photo formats and sizes and need an easy way to re-position your subject.

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