Top tips to take better photos with your smartphone this summer

By Bonusprint on 28 July 2023

You don’t need to be a pro to snap those sizzling sunny days! Capture your summer adventures with your smartphone using these simple but powerful photography tips.

From family beach days and garden parties to road trips and tropical travels, sun-kissed summer days are bursting with photo opportunities. With most of us carrying fantastic cameras in our pockets, the great news is that you don’t need to be a pro with a big old DSLR to capture all of your best moments. All you need is your smartphone.

So, grab your phone and get ready to unlock its true creative potential with our fantastic tips to take better smartphone photos this summer.

1. Use the rule of thirds to create compositions with a kick

One way to instantly make your smartphone photos look professional is by implementing the rule of thirds. This simple but very effective method is a great way to compose your shots to lead the viewer’s eye to your main subject.

To get started, go to your smartphone’s camera settings and turn on the gridlines – almost all phone cameras have this feature. This will overlay two horizontal and two vertical lines over your camera screen, dividing the image into nine parts. Then, to use the rule of thirds to compose your image, simply position your subject on one of the cross-sections of the lines. In other words, + marks the spot! Whether photographing a portrait of your pet in the park or an action shot of your child playing at the beach, using the rule of thirds will help you tell better visual stories and compose shots that pop.

2. Lean into landscape mode

It’s only natural that we tend to shoot photos with our smartphones in portrait mode. This is, after all, how our phones were designed to be held. However, although portrait photos are perfect for capturing portraits and tall subjects such as skyscrapers, trees and waterfalls, landscape photos are often better for capturing the more epic scenes we encounter during the summer. Flipping our phones over to shoot in landscape mode allows us to create more spacious-looking images.

From large groups of people at a beach party to awe-inspiring landscapes on your travels, you can fit so much more into a landscape image. What’s more, landscape photographs look stunning when printed – whether in a custom travel photo book or gorgeous printed wall art to hang in your house.

3. Go big at golden hour

The secret to taking beautiful photos is not shooting with a great camera but shooting in great light. And as all photographers agree, you can typically find the absolute best light of the day during the golden hours. These are the delicious moments just after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and casts a warm, dramatic yellow glow.

To make the most of the golden hours for your summer photography, get started by positioning your subject so they’re bathed in direct sunlight. Whether the star of your photo is your children, your group of pals or your furry best friend, you’ll be amazed by how warm and glowy your portraits come out.

Another option is to position your subject between the camera and the sun. Lighting your subject from the back will result in a dramatic ‘halo’ effect and maybe even some artistic sun flare. Just be aware that the golden hours are fleeting, so you must be at your shoot location ahead of time and ready to snap away as quickly as possible.

4. Say yes to strong summer sunshine

The traditional photography rulebook often states that the bright light of summer is too harsh to create beautiful photos, as the contrast between light and dark is so intense. However, modern smartphone photographers have found fun and creative ways to capitalise on these high-contrast scenarios to create stunning images. By embracing shadows and shooting from interesting angles, you can create dramatic silhouette snapshots and images bursting with colour.

Try positioning your subject with the sun behind them, whether in the city, at the beach or even in your back garden. Get down low and frame up your shot. Then tap your phone’s screen on the sky (or the brightest part of the image) so that the exposure lights up the background and drops your subject into a totally blacked-out silhouette. Get them to strike some funny poses and prepare to capture images that celebrate the dance between light and shadow.

5. Try a tripod for next-level selfies

Tripods are fantastic for capturing sharp and crisp photos – especially when shooting in low light. But they have an even more useful purpose when it comes to capturing next-level summer selfies. Going to a festival with friends? Getting together with family for a BBQ at home? A tripod will help ensure you’re in your photos too, and not stuck behind the camera. Set up your phone on a tripod, hit the timer, and jump into frame!

When looking for a tripod for smartphone photography, grab a traditional tripod and remember, the lighter, the better if you’re travelling! A bendy Gorilla Pod-type tripod is also a great piece of equipment when travelling. These are small, easy to set up, and capable of clinging to all sorts of surfaces, including trees, fences, city benches, and more. And as a bonus, they’re even smaller and lighter than traditional tripods and will fit snugly into your bag.

6. Think outside the box with perspectives

Summer is the perfect time to spice up your images with creative perspectives and framing. Instead of facing your subject directly, have fun with it and try photographing them from ground level. Or climb a tree and shoot from an elevated position. Want to get a little abstract? Look for reflections in windows and mirrors and take unusual portraits in unusual places. Love the water? Why not invest in a waterproof case for your phone so you can take photos at the pool or in the sea! The beauty of using smartphone cameras is that they’re lightweight and highly portable so that you can take them anywhere and, with a little imagination, create photos that you can’t wait to share.

7. Let the summer vibes fuel your imagination

The summer is all about having fun with the people who matter most to you, and this sense of fun should carry over into your photography. Like the happiest memories we make, sometimes the best summer snaps are the candid shots we take without much thought or planning. There are no ‘rules’ per se, so don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with your shots. Smartphone cameras are perfect for this style of photography as they’re always with us. And unlike the chunky professional cameras, they don’t make people feel self-conscious – definitely an added bonus for the camera-shy amongst us.

From epic adventures in faraway lands to sun-kissed BBQs in your own backyard, let these smartphone photography tips inspire your creative journey this summer. Have fun and play with the options: there are no limits on your unique vision of the world. By the end of summer, you’ll have a camera reel packed with beautiful shots of your favourite memories – ready to print and frame at home, use for a customised photo book, or even personalised photo mugs for a cute and thoughtful gift. Looking for more photography tips? Browse our photography articles on the bonusprint blog and get ready to be inspired!