The mistakes everyone makes taking pictures with the phone!

Do you ever get frustrated because the photos you take on your phone just do not look that rad and you can not figure out how everyone else is doing it? Well, recently I was asked to speak to a group at adidas here in Portland about this very subject – How to take better pictures on our phones! So do not feel bad! Even top of the game creatives are struggling with this!

They asked some really great questions and we played around with my tips and I thought you guys might want to hear what we talked about, yes?

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The most common mistakes people make:

Making everyone look at the camera and smile. You guys. I talk about this so much. Nothing makes me sigh harder than when something really fun is happening and someone decides to take a picture of it, and they yell “You guys look here! Here! Look at the camera! Stop! Look here!” Like, way to ruin it. This is a sure fire way to get a lame photo. Do not do this! Just whip out your camera and snap a bunch of photos of the scene! No one needs to be looking at the camera. The life in the image is what you want. This is SO TRUE for kids. Man, most kids have the fakest smiles when they have to do it on demand right? And they are usually having so much fun that a photo of the action would be amazing! But what do parents do? “Harper! Smile! SMILE HARPER!!!” I die.

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If you really are in a posey sort of situation, just laugh. Tell everyone to laugh like it’s the funniest thing ever. Because joy. And how much better is this photo of Steph and I laughing than if we were just smiling at the camera? Way.



Face the sun. This is such a common mistake and it’s the classic wrong move that people think is right. I mean, sometimes sure it works fine. But definitely not every time so try both ways. Often people are squinting so hard their eyes look closed, and there are super unflattering shadows on their faces making everyone look terrible. Being backlit is usually way more flattering. Just tap on a dark spot on the person so the phone exposes for the face. And let the background get light. This is a stylistic choice so just go for it with confidence. OR get everyone in the shade. That looks good every time.

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Snoop is in the shade. For sure. See how even the light is? People seem to worry the photo will be dark if they shoot in the shade. It won’t, just try it. These phone cameras are pretty advanced. It will expose properly I promise, and just tap on the person to adjust the exposure.


Using lamps and weird inside lights. I’ve had so many people show me photos taken inside and wonder why they look terrible. I’ll tell you why. Because most interior lights photograph horribly. There is a reason when you see a professional shoot they don’t just use normal household lamps. They blast the scene with special lights. How can you get similar results? NATURAL LIGHT. That is it. So get near a window, or get outside (preferably in the shade).

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This amazing cookbook author and blogger friend of mine Andrea Bemis shoots every last image herself using not one artificial light. What does she use? A window. That’s it people! Natural light is what you want every time.


Showing too much. A little mystery please, am I right? We really do not need to see everything. Most photos would be way way better by just cropping in a bit tighter. So you can either do that when you are taking the photo, or after. Open a photo you kindof like and in the editing screen, see what it looks like cropped a bit. Probably better. See, that’s so easy!

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Most people would shot the whole room. But isn’t this cropped in photo way more interesting? I think so.

There you go! 4.5 super easy things you can start doing immediately! Your Instagram feed is about to get so good!

Be sure to share this post with your friends so they can take better pictures of you too! Use the buttons below to share!


responses to “The mistakes everyone makes taking pictures with the phone!” 2

  1. Wow, Jolie, this was so helpful! You are so right, the moment a parent stops a fun moment, those scowls or even tears emerge. I adore natural light when possible… That’s the magic of photography. Yet, I’m still intimidated by ISO’s, shutter speeds, f stops –your profession is so complex and beautiful all at once. Thank you! Adidas and Lincoln high are very lucky and smart to invite you into their creative circles!!

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