How to take great photos on your phone

"It’s most important for us to be present in our lives and with our loved ones."

How to take great photos on your phone

Written by: Michelle Hamstra
November 30, 2018


Pictures offer us the beautiful gift of memory. When I look through the archives of my images I am overcome with emotion. I remember the joy surrounding my sister’s wedding, the sweetness of watching my grandma read to my children or maybe the amusement of my poor fashion choices 15 years ago. In today’s world most of us have the ability to capture these moments right at our fingertips. There’s less need than ever to purchase a high-end camera or an arsenal of lenses, because smartphones already have sophisticated lenses and technology that make it easy to take high-quality images of our loved ones. 

Remember to make the effort to preserve these moments. Take the time to pull out your phone and freeze time so that for years to come you can revisit that memory and experience it all over again. However, sometimes we need to be reminded that posting on social media is not the purpose. Social media can be fun and offer friends and family a glimpse into our world, but it’s most important for us to be present in our lives and with our loved ones. So pull out your phone, preserve that moment, and put it away again to enjoy it fully. You can always edit and post later.  

I approach photography with the same attitude I have toward my Christmas tree. I like my pictures and my tree to be natural, lit up and tastefully decorated. I can’t imagine enjoying having a dark, bare tree in my home for a month! 

KEEP IT NATURAL
No fake trees for me! Perfect smiling little ones, flattering angles, fashionforward clothing and artful settings are not always reality. There’s nothing wrong with making staging choices for the sake of the picture, but authentic memories may mean more to you in 20 years. Perfectly staged images don’t always bring back the same emotional intensity that crooked smiles, yogurt-stained shirts or double-chinned laughter do. So take both. I love a great smiling picture, but I also love all those beautiful in-between moments. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
BEFORE
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
BEFORE

KEEP IT NATURAL
No fake trees for me! Perfect smiling little ones, flattering angles, fashionforward clothing and artful settings are not always reality. There’s nothing wrong with making staging choices for the sake of the picture, but authentic memories may mean more to you in 20 years. Perfectly staged images don’t always bring back the same emotional intensity that crooked smiles, yogurt-stained shirts or double-chinned laughter do. So take both. I love a great smiling picture, but I also love all those beautiful in-between moments. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
AFTER
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
AFTER

LIGHT IT UP
My family teases me because I put an inordinate
amount of Christmas lights on my tree. I feel the same way about my pictures. I like my pictures bright so that I can see all the detail of that memory. Natural light is the preference here. Have your subjects turn toward a window or toward a light source. Here’s an example of a moment I could have just captured a moment as is, but I think it was enhanced by moving my body and asking my subject to face a light source. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
BEFORE
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
BEFORE

LIGHT IT UP
My family teases me because I put an inordinate
amount of Christmas lights on my tree. I feel the same way about my pictures. I like my pictures bright so that I can see all the detail of that memory. Natural light is the preference here. Have your subjects turn toward a window or toward a light source. Here’s an example of a moment I could have just captured a moment as is, but I think it was enhanced by moving my body and asking my subject to face a light source. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
AFTER
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
AFTER

EDIT TASTEFULLY
Gaudy Christmas sweaters are a riot, but I like my tree to have garland and ornaments that accentuate its beauty, not take away from it. Have the same mentality about editing. In a world of Instagram filters and Snapchat beautifiers, keep yourself in line with the ultimate purpose of photos: to authentically remember our lives so that we can draw joy from them for years to come. Extreme filters and skin smoothing don’t help us remember what life was really like. Instead, I like to use editing software to help brighten or sharpen an image and maybe add a slight filter or convert the image to black and white. Here’s an image unedited, with a generalized filter, and one I edited myself. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
NO FILTER
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
NO FILTER

EDIT TASTEFULLY
Gaudy Christmas sweaters are a riot, but I like my tree to have garland and ornaments that accentuate its beauty, not take away from it. Have the same mentality about editing. In a world of Instagram filters and Snapchat beautifiers, keep yourself in line with the ultimate purpose of photos: to authentically remember our lives so that we can draw joy from them for years to come. Extreme filters and skin smoothing don’t help us remember what life was really like. Instead, I like to use editing software to help brighten or sharpen an image and maybe add a slight filter or convert the image to black and white. Here’s an image unedited, with a generalized filter, and one I edited myself. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
GENERAL FILTER
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
GENERAL FILTER
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
SELF-EDITED
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
SELF-EDITED

Michelle Hamstra is a photographer who specializes in weddings, commercial product photography and professional headshots. Her classic, modern portfolio is a reflection of her personal aesthetic and commitment to excellence. She and her husband live in Highland with their five wild kids and adorable puppy.  See Michelle’s work at michellehamstra.com.