Camera quality has drastically changed since the explosion of social media over 10 years ago. Photos used to be taken with digital or in-app cameras that created a grainy product, but have since transitioned to smartphones and professionally processed photos with quality so clear, it shows every little detail – so much so that apps like FaceTune have become increasingly popular. It seems like no matter what platform you’re on, everyone is subconsciously competing to post the “best” photo or have the most “aesthetically pleasing” layout.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be models like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner who have professional photographers on speed dial, so how can you achieve professional-grade photos only using your phone camera? Here are five phone camera hacks that will make your photos stand out from the rest:

Understand Light

Lighting. Is. Everything. Good lighting can make or break a photo, that’s why it’s so important to be patient when taking photos with your phone and understanding how light can affect the subject matter in a photo.

If your photo has too much lighting, it’s overexposed and washes the subject out. If your photo doesn’t have enough light, it hides the subject and doesn’t grab the audience’s attention. Try shifting your location, such as avoiding standing directly under overhead lighting and not having the light source behind you, in order to get the best lighting on your subject.

To adjust the lighting in your photo, try tapping around on the screen to discover different focus areas where the lighting and shadows change. The sun/box icon on your phone’s camera screen is a helpful tool that allows you to adjust the exposure of light on your subject. You can practice by taking a photo of the same subject and angle at different times of the day to become familiar with the lighting.

And, there’s a reason why everyone is so obsessed with “Golden Hour.” It’s one of the best times to capture a photo due to the early morning or evening sun creating the softest glow (instead of harsh light) on your subject.

Add Layers to Create Interest

Simple and minimalistic looks are always on trend, so to switch up your feed and help you stand out from the rest, try adding layers to your photographs! Your subject will still be in focus, but layers add interest and guide the viewer’s eye to your subject.

Thanks to the development of technology over the years, adding depth to your photos is now easier than ever! Some phones are equipped with “Portrait Mode” which instantly brings your subject into focus and blurs out the background. If your phone doesn’t have this capability, apps such as Focos, Blur Photo, or Snapseed can create depth and unique portrait effects.

To add layers to your photo, try mixing in textures (like a plant), and have a foreground or background.  Tapping around on your phone screen helps bring different objects into focus and allows you to discover how it affects your final photo.

Follow the ABCs – Always Be Clicking

It’s no secret that candid photos are popular and fill our social media feeds. In their simplest form, they’re unplanned moments that capture life as it truly is. Candid photos provide a more natural feel that creates movement and allows the viewer to personally relate to it. Candid photos create multiple options to choose from and can capture a moment that you might not typically achieve through a posed photo.

To capture a candid photo, utilize the “burst” feature on your phone by holding down the capture button or consistently clicking the capture button. This way, you don’t have to worry about only having one chance to get the perfect shot and can sort through them afterwards to pick your favorite ones.

Utilize Rule of Thirds & White Space

The rule of thirds is a key composition guideline when it comes to capturing strong imagery. Divide up your frame with three evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines, which will result in a nine-square grid. Where the lines intersect is where the objects in the photo should be placed

To add the gridlines to your iPhone, open the Settings app, tap “Camera,” find the “Grid” options and toggle it on. If you have an Android, you can apply these gridlines by opening the camera app, tapping on “Settings,” and selecting “Grid lines.”

White space – or negative space – is the area surrounding the subject and provides “breathing room” for the viewer’s eyes. Too little white space results in a cluttered and busy photograph that has every object in the photo fighting for the viewer’s attention. Too much white space leaves the viewer confused about the purpose of the photo.

For some photos, you might even want to isolate your subject. That’s where you can combine the rule of thirds and white space to create a powerful result.

Mix Up Your Angles

Who doesn’t love a well-angled shot? It’s a great alternative to a straight-on shot that provides a different perspective of the subject. Before you take the shot, take a step back and examine it from various angles to determine which one looks best.

If you’re going to try a new angle, make sure that it’s deliberately not parallel to the gridlines utilized in the rule of thirds. Having it only slightly off will be displeasing and bothersome to the viewer (which is not a feeling you want to create for your viewer).

To mix up your angles, try moving your phone and body around to see how your shot looks from each perspective. If you have an iPhone, you can even utilize the .5 zoom feature to give your photo a unique angle that you wouldn’t physically be able to achieve.

There are hundreds of other ways to freshen up your phone photography skills, so one bonus tip to leave you with would be to gather inspiration from other photographers or accounts. Studying how they set up their shots can help you come up with new ways to take yours and mix up your feed. The only way to improve your skills is to practice, practice, practice – so grab your phone and start snapping away!

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