How To Take Good Instagram Photos With A Phone

Instagram-- the mecca of a vast number of photos taken with mobile phones today. In fact, as of the beginning of 2021, it is estimated that more than 50 billion photos have been uploaded to Instagram since it was founded in 2010.

With so many photos to contend with, it can be pretty difficult to draw attention to yourself on Instagram and stand out from the rest. However, if you upload good-quality photos to your account, your chances of exposure could increase.

In this article, we’ll look at a few things you can do to take good Instagram photos with your smartphone.

Get the best lighting

When it comes to taking photos for Instagram with your phone, lighting is of the utmost importance. Understanding lighting and how to use it can help you turn otherwise average-looking photos into stunning images.

The best lighting to use is natural lighting, but you need to be careful with it. The sun is a harsh source of light that can cast unflattering shadows on you or your subject. The worst time of day to take photos outdoors is midday on a clear, sunny day. At least on an overcast day, the clouds diffuse the sun and it creates a softer, even light.

A favourite time for many photographers to take pictures is during golden hour. This is the period during sunrise or sunset where the sun is low on the horizon and it casts a warm, golden light on your subject.

photo of dog in golden hour light

If you’re taking pictures indoors, it’s very important that you use adequate lighting because smartphones notoriously don’t perform so well in low-light conditions.

During the day you can take advantage of natural light indoors by taking photos near a window, skylight, door, or any other opening where light from the sun can come through.

light from outside illuminates man sitting by the window

Alternatively, you can use house lights if they provide enough lighting for your phone, or you can set up your own lights. But whatever you do, don’t use the flash on your phone. It ruins photos.

ALSO READ: Lighting Options For Smartphone Photography

Expose well

Once you have the right lighting, you need to check your smartphone camera to check if the exposure is okay. You don’t want your photos to be overexposed to the point where it’s so bright you can’t see details in the highlights, or too dark because it’s underexposed.

Smartphones do a pretty good job at automatically getting the exposure settings right but sometimes it’s best to use manual mode and adjust the exposure yourself, particularly in tricky lighting conditions. By adjusting the ISO and shutter speed, you can control the exposure of the photo.

Another method you can try is metering. If your camera app has a manual mode, you can select a metering mode that fits your situation. You can also change the exposure value (EV) to get the exposure you want.

ALSO READ: The Exposure Triangle: Does It Matter In Smartphone Photography?

Pay attention to composition

In photography, composition refers to the way different elements are arranged in a photo to make it look good, similar to how a musical composer arranges music notes in a way that sounds good to the ear.

One of the most well-known principles of composition is the rule of thirds, which divides the image into three sections where the goal is to align the point of interest in your photo with the lines and where they intersect.

rule of thirds grid lines

But that’s not the only composition technique you can use to make your Instagram photos look good. Using symmetry and asymmetry can also create some striking images. The same goes for the use of negative and positive space.

Rules are made to be broken. Once you understand the principles of composition, you can turn those rules on their head and break them to capture some unique and creative shots.

Change angles

Sometimes, to get the best photo, all you have to do is just move over a bit. A different perspective can give you great shot opportunities you would have otherwise missed had you just stayed in one position.

Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground or climb on top of things to get your shots. You might look crazy and some people might look at you funny in public, but the results will be worth it.

The angles you choose can also affect the way someone sees the subject. For example, shooting from a low angle can make the subject appear larger-than-life, whereas a shot from a high angle can make a subject look small and submissive.

So when choosing an angle, think about what you want your image to say and go with an angle that compliments that message.

Emphasize your subject

A photo without a clear subject can be confusing and seem to lack direction. To take good Instagram photos with your phone, you need a subject that is interesting and visually engaging. Your subject can be anything from a person to insects, animals, buildings, landscapes, and more.

The best photos are the ones where the subject grabs your attention. To do this with your Instagram photos, you can play with colours, scale, textures, lighting, etc. to make your subject pop. You can also use contrast and simplicity to make your subject stand out more.

To emphasise the subject is to lead the eye to where it should look. So, don’t be afraid to use creative and artistic methods to bring attention to your subject.

ALSO READ: Your Subject Matters- The importance of getting the subject right

Add depth

We live in a three-dimensional world, yet the photos we take with our cameras are two-dimensional. One way to take good Instagram photos with your phone, you need to add some depth to your images. How do you do so?

The best way to add depth to your images is to have some foreground, middle-ground, and background elements in your photos. For example, the image below creates depth by having the coffee mug in the foreground and other elements further behind it.


Not only will this create depth in your photos by adding layers to the image, but it also gives you an opportunity to use the camera’s focus to lead the eyes to the subject by blurring out the background and foreground elements.

ALSO READ: Fully Explained- How Smartphone Cameras Focus [UPDATED]

Plan your shots

Sometimes the perfect Instagram shot happens right then at that moment. Other times, to get the perfect Insta shot, you have to plan ahead. For example, if your Instagram grid has a certain aesthetic, then you need to plan your shots and make sure they fit in with the general aesthetic of your personal or professional brand.

Planning your shots doesn’t have to take days or weeks. It can happen within seconds, especially with street photography, for example. Planning a photo just about taking the time to think about the image you want to capture and how you can capture it as best possible at the right moment. What can you add or remove from the frame to create the best photo possible?

Planning your shot also allows you to pick the best background for your subject, include props that bring the image to life, pack extra gear, and get the best lighting possible. It’s very easy to see a planned and well-thought-out image, even if it’s a candid shot.

Use the right equipment

An important, yet often overlooked part of how to take good Instagram pictures with your phone is the phone itself. You can’t expect to get good Instagram photos from your mobile phone if the quality of the camera is poor. If you want to take good mobile photos for Instagram, you need to use a phone with a good camera.

Another important piece of equipment is a tripod. If you want to prevent blurry photos, take creative shots, or take full-body photos of yourself, then you have to use a tripod. There are no two ways about it. Every influential Instagramer uses a tripod, so should you.

And, as mentioned before, lighting is very important in mobile photography. You can get a tripod with a light ring that can help you get better lighting for your Instagram photos.

Otherwise, you can get special lights for your smartphone designed specifically for mobile photography. Remember, you need to avoid using the phone’s on-board flash.


Here are a few quick tips to help you take good-quality mobile photos for Instagram.

Don’t use the Instagram app

Odd as it may sound, it’s best not to use the Instagram app to take pictures or edit them. Instagram’s native camera is very limited in functionality and the photo editor compresses your photos after you edit them.

Rather use a camera app that has manual mode and a photo editing app that doesn’t compress your photos when you save them. You can just use the Instagram app to upload your photos.

Learn your mobile camera

A camera is only as good as its operator. So, to take good pictures for Instagram with your phone, you need to learn more about its camera. Because of size, smartphones have some limitations compared to dedicated cameras such as DSLRs.

Understanding these limitations and working within them will enable you to take the best pictures possible with your mobile camera.

Digital zoom

If your subject is far from you, it’s better to get closer to it if possible than to use digital zoom on your phone. That’s because digital zoom degrades the quality of the picture more and more as you zoom in. Some smartphones have a telephoto lens or a periscope camera that claims to provide 3x or 5x optical zoom, or 10x hybrid zoom.

Although these options provide results that are far better than those of digital zoom, it’s always better to zoom in with your feet.


One way to ruin a potentially good photo is by adding too many effects and filters when editing. It draws attention away from the image and makes the edit the focal point. Unless that’s what you’re going for, it’s best to keep the edit as simple as possible so that it’s not distracting.


For example, practice taking photos in different lighting conditions indoors until you get the hang of it and then practice outside. You can start in auto mode and work your way to using manual mode. Before you know it, you will be a pretty competent mobile photographer.


Taking good photos for Instagram with your smartphone shouldn’t be difficult at all if you have the right tools and you know what you’re doing. By following the tips above and practising constantly, you should be able to take good Instagram photos with your mobile in no time.

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