Ep 47: Get smart! How to take great shots using your smartphone

Ep 47 artwork someone taking a photo of the taj mahal with their smart phone
You don’t need a fancy big camera to take great shots. Sometimes, all you have is your smartphone. How can you take awesome photographs with the little device in your pocket?

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss how you can make the most of your smartphone, how to pick the best light, what to avoid, what apps you should check out and much more.

#ginachallenge #smartphoneonly

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Show notes

Listener question

Kunal Prasad
“I need advice from you all regarding studio photography. When selecting a backdrop, how do you decide the color of the back drop … whether it should be contrasted to the subject’s clothes or if should be it be a grey/white or black. What color clothes best suit on subject if we are shooting on:
1. Park and
2. Beach”

Check out the answer in this week’s episode.

Shoutouts for last week’s #ginachallenge #street

Ronald Fritz, Melbourne
Ronald Fritz, Melbourne


Scott Stokhaug‎
Scott Stokhaug‎

I took this shot last halloween in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen. A great place to shoot on the perfect night.

Suzanne Sheridan‎
Suzanne Sheridan‎

This was taken in one of those “that would make a good photo” moments without checking the settings. I was using my X-T1 with the 18-135mm lens. I changed it to B&W later.

Shooting Wild
Shooting Wild

This is my contribution for this week. I had found the background and was waiting for the right subject to pass by… with the camera set to a slow shutter. This lady pushing her bike came in the frame and I am quite pleased with the result.

Paul Chapman
Paul Chapman

Another trick for candid shots – shoot reflections in a window when people think you’re shooting through the window.

Get smart! How to take great shots using your smartphone

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

Advantages and disadvantages of mobile phone


  • It’s with you 24/7, mobile phone photographers are always looking for the next shot, the more you focus on looking for great images the more images you see.
  • They are discreet, convenient, plus have the apps with you so you can shoot, process and share in seconds.
  • Wide fixed lens forces you to really think about composition.


  • It’s always with you.
  • Low res images compared to slr.
  • Can’t zoom.
  • Flash sucks.

A few basics

  • Clean the lens
  • Avoid shake
  • Make sure your phone’s camera is set to it’s highest setting

Using the flash on mobile phones

Summary: Gina hates the flash on smartphones

  • If you must use flash try and soften it
  • Mobile flash is very small and hard light

How to improve flash quality

  • Place a small piece of tracing paper or similar material over the flash to soften it
  • Use an external led flash.
  • Use a reflector instead of a flash for portraits outdoors

What’s the best light?

Look for contrasts

What light to avoid?

  • Flat, even, boring light
  • Avoid shooting when sun is higher in the sky because it ends up looking like a white hot hole in the image

What are the best angles to shoot?

  • Shoot worms eye to get really cool reflections
  • Bird’s eye to get really cool angles
  • I love shooting through car windscreens when it’s raining
  • Through cafe windows
  • Look for leading lines

How to focus

  • Compose your photo and tap the area of the screen you want in focus
  • Take lots of shots of the same subject
  • Watch out for lag time

Best postproduction apps

10 best iPhone camera and photo editing apps

Gina uses:

  • Snapseed
  • pro hdr
  • Tilt Shift Gen
  • Dynamic light

How to edit a photo using Snapseed

Gadgets worth using

7 Essential iPhone Photography Accessories

  • tripods
  • lenses
  • shutter release (buds)
  • portable batteries

Other creative uses

Time lapse


Gina’s iPhone images

I took this image using my iPhone 6 in Bali
I took this image using my iPhone 6 in Bali
I shot this image in Sydney using my iPhone.
I shot this image in Sydney using my iPhone.
New York capture on iPhone.
New York capture on iPhone.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.53.00 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.53.20 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.53.37 AM Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.55.25 AM

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About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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