A Guide on Getting Stock Photo Quality Images with Phone Camera

This photo below was taken with a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.


The color is straight out of the camera. I just did a bit of cloning off of the tiny pieces of the pastry that’s on the plate, just to make the photo a little better. I also did a bit of cropping to frame the subject better.

Here’s what you can do to get good photos from your phone camera.

The phone camera has to be decent

Usually low end phones have terrible image quality, you could get away with composition but the colors and details may not be as optimal. On new generation of devices, like say Samsung Galaxy Note / Note II, Galaxy S3 / S4, Apple iPhone 4 / 4s / 5, HTC One / Butterfly, LG Nexus 4, Sony Xperia Z, Nokia Lumia 920 / 808 or whatever else that costs above RM 1,000 – it’s very likely that your phone camera is miles ahead of what I am using.

With a good device, you can’t blame the hardware already. It’s all down to the user! It’s up to the user to find out what are the limitations of the hardware. Let’s get to point #2.


Ideally, your phone camera should have a function that allows you to focus. Some phone cameras only allow you to focus on the center, others may allow you to tap on screen to select the area of focus. The latter would be better as it you will be able to decide where the camera should focus to get the best out of the picture. A phone camera that allows very close focusing distance would be great too! If your camera has limited focusing distance, where you can’t get close. Just shoot further away and crop it.

White Balance

I normally put my phone camera white balance to auto but sometimes I set it to others to see the outcome. My phone is really bad under yellow lighting but a lot of the more advanced phone cameras have good white balance control.

Now that we settle the hardware details above, let’s get down to the other details.

Other Functions

Some apps allow you manual controls, they’re good but not necessary. I took the above setting on auto, all I did was compose and focus.

Work within your camera’s limitation

In my case, I got the photo in good exposure and color because I took the photo under conditions that my phone camera is comfortable with. If you want good photos with phone camera, generally it’s best to dine where the sun is still visible, before it starts to set. My camera is horrible in low light but not so with cameras like the one on Nokia Lumia 920.


Hardware limitations aside, it’s now all up to you when it comes to composition. When it comes to food, you should work around with angles. For food on plate as seen in the photo above, start at 45 degrees. For food in bowl, likely you need to go higher and perhaps closer, like the image below.

In Summary

Phone cameras have evolved, they were horrible in the past but they’re now way better than the compact digital cameras that we owned some 5 – 10 years back.

The key is to work within your limitation, and just keep on shooting. Once you get the hang of it, composition is easy.

If your phone camera isn’t good at getting nice clear shots, maybe you can try using Instagram. Not that it makes your photos clearer or sharper but the filters does make a not-so-good photo look better. 🙂 (oh, and I’m on Instagram too – find me if you like abstracts)

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