Phone-based Photography for Beginners: Capturing Memories with a Budget

“A little progress each day adds up to big results.”

– Unknown

Photography is a powerful tool. Photographs allow the ability to capture one moment in time that would cease to exist in the next minute. They capture some of our most memorable times, letting us relive our memories. Of course, investing in photography as a business can mean investing a lot of money. There are tons of high-end, technical cameras on the market today which will help you captivate beautiful moments. Starting can be quite overwhelming if you are unsure of where to start and which tools to use. And if you are looking to start photography as a hobby rather than a career, you can create beautiful images with the majority of modern mobiles. Photography on a budget? Yes, it’s possible.

My interest in photography has grown tremendously the more I have started to travel with my job. But ever since I had my first disposable camera and a flip phone, I must have taken thousands of photographs. Admittedly, the photographs I have previously produced have struggled to capture the beauty of reality. However, each photo is a learning curve. Like mastering all skills in life, practice makes perfect. The more often you take photographs, the better the photographer you eventually become. This is evident in the past year, where I have seen an enormous development in my photography skills.

Take a look at these photographs, taken only a few months apart. The first image looks okay, but definitely nothing special. The second image has a bit more character, don’t you think?

Well, that’s because a lot more after-work has gone into producing this photo. Both were taken on a mobile phone with only natural light. The difference is the second photo has been colour-corrected and altered to look brighter and have better contrast. These small changes really do make your photograph transform into something beautiful. And you can do the majority of these changes free using Adobe Lightroom for Mobile- my favourite accessible program for editing.

Here’s an image to show the extent of changes made using the basic version of this program:

With the subscription, you can do more professional changes such as masking- altering the light gradient and focusing on specific areas to alter within an image. You can also use a healing brush to change blemishes or discolouration with the skin. And one of my favourite features is the geometry feature which allows you to distort the image, making the subject appear further or closer away. You also access a greater variety of pre-sets to add filters to your photographs. I recommend getting the subscription if you want to edit images in RAW. However, if you are new to photography or have a smaller budget, the free program has some likeable features. For example:

You can alter the different tones of an image using colour-grading and the mix feature. For example, giving the sky more of a holiday vibe or changing the autumn leaves into a rustic orange. This feature helps inject a bit of vibrancy back into your captured moments. You can also choose to de-saturate the image or add extra luminance to the specific colours.

The effects feature tweaks your photographs to become sharper and apply a vignette. You can choose to make certain features of an image stand-out by adding texture or altering the photo to become clearer. I really like the Dehaze feature, which I use in every photograph. I feel like this adds some depth and contrast to the photos.

Pre-set creation:
Sometimes you make an amazing photograph and know that all your editing would look amazing on another photo with a similar theme or subject. This is where the feature of creating a pre-set comes in handy. I have several of my own saved pre-sets, which I use depending on the mood I wish to convey. This means you don’t have to keep creating a new pre-set from scratch every time you want to edit.

These are just some of the many features of Lightroom that I have fallen in love with to do my editing on both my mobile photographs and those taken with my camera. You can view an extensive gallery of my phone-based photography on my Photography Portfolio page. All these images have been edited with lightroom. However, I know there is now a variety of programs you can use for free or at a small charge through your mobile.

Do you think this could be the editing program for you? Let me know in the comment section what you think. Or if you have any alternative programs to recommend?

Tips for Phone Photography

  1. Turn the contrast down. An overly exposed photograph can be difficult to edit on mobiles and may ruin your entire shot. Better to have an underexposed photograph, that you can add exposure to and highlights if necessary.
  2. Be adventourous with your shots and angles: Try adding layers to your photograph, with adding detail to the foreground. For example, shots between trees or with an object closer to the camera to add extra detail to your photographs and a sense of perspective scenery.
  3. Optimise natural light and when in doubt add additional. Depending on the image you want to capture, the light will be a crucial factor to your images. You can use ring-lights and additional lightening. However, if you’re capturing outside in nature, choose a time where the natural light is at it’s best or golden hour for those muskier photographs.
  4. Practice: The best way to improve your photographs is to practice. Figure out what kind of photography you enjoy best by taking photographs of all sorts. For me, I love travel photography. However, if you want to do potraits, ask your relatives or friends to be models and help build up your portfolio.
  5. Learn from the experts: You can find several photographers online on platforms such as Youtube, that will be able to show you a range of techniques to improve your photography. Or you can find a range of courses online, sometimes free to help improve your skills. The more time you invest into learning, the better your skills will develop.

Ready for the Camera?

If you are looking to develop your photography skills further and you are ready to make the jump to a camera, I recommend that you invest in a starter kit where you can get a range of photography lights, mics and more to help you start up professionally. You can find these on platforms such as Amazon. If you are unsure about where to start, these can be a great toolkit to help you have an initial setup. I am pretty much focused on developing my phone-based photography at the moment and getting to grips with the camera myself. However, If you would like some recommendations on your first camera purchase, take a look at my partners Kevin Hilding’s Youtube channel specialising in Photography and Videography. His video: How to Choose Your First Camera in 2022 provides an in-depth review of cameras for beginners.

I would love to hear more about where you are with your photography skills and any tips and tricks you have to improve your photographs. Please feel free to get in touch in the comment section. As we move into the summer, I have some pretty amazing opportunities coming up which I am so excited to capture more moments for.

Wherever you are in the world- take care.

%d bloggers like this: