Before the days of smartphones — if you can remember such a time — taking a great photo was a labour-intensive process. Now, it’s easy to master how to take good photos with your phone — no fancy cameras or desktop editing software required.

So, what is the secret to taking great pictures with your smartphone, then? As it turns out, there are a few of them. Check out these tips below to improve your smartphone photography game. Here are my top 10 tips to take better family pics on your phone.



Taking family pics can be stressful, (believe me I know), especially when young children (or pets) are involved. In order to keep things simple, choose a spot that is familiar and comfortable for you and your family, both indoors and outdoors. The main aim is to keep everyone relaxed, so taking somewhere they’ve all been before will immediately help put them at ease.

If you’re heading outdoors, keep it simple, you don’t want too much going on, look for somewhere with a little bit of shade and a little bit of light, so the middle of the woods is a no-no, it’ll be way too dark, similarly, the middle of a field on a bright sunny day will be way too bright.



You can change the look of your images dramatically depending on the time of day you choose to take them. Ideally, when using your Smartphone camera you should try and opt for natural light. Without a doubt the best time of day to choose is known to photographers as the ‘Golden Hour’ But what is it really and how does it help taking family pictures?

Golden Hour is the time of day right before sunrise and, again, right before sunset. The timing and duration of Golden Hour vary based on your geography and the time of year; however, you can track both by doing a simple Google search or by using one of the many apps available on both iPhone or Android.

I personally use one called Alpenglow, you can choose your location, see the best golden hour timings, and check the forecast for the week so you can pick the best day to take your family out.


Alpenglow Example


However, and it’s a big however, if you’re looking at golden hour in the middle of summer, be aware that this is likely to be very early in the morning (around 4 am – 5 am) and very late at night (8.30 pm – 9.30 pm) so getting young kids to play the game at these times will be challenging. In this situation, I’d just say as early or late as possible whilst the sun isn’t too high in the sky.

In order to take advantage of the golden hour light, here are some good tips:

Face the sun: It seems counterintuitive but the soft golden light will actually place a warm filter on you and your family’s face. Since the light is low and diffused, you and your family will not have an issue with squinting at the camera and will also not have an issue with shiny spots on your faces.

Full sunny days are the toughest days to try and take pictures, the bright sunshine can cause extremely unflattering and harsh shadows along with making everyone squint. On these occasions, face your family with the sun behind them. And if you can wait for a bit of cloud cover then great. The cloud acts as a giant diffuser making the light a lot softer and a lot more flattering.

Always try and make sure your light is coming from above and ideally at a 45-degree angle. So for instance if you are taking a pic of your little one sitting on the floor, pop them with a window to the side of them, so the light coming through will light up their face from the top down.

Don’t forget you can always play with the exposure a little bit once you’ve taken the image in an image editing app.

Golden hour on the beach


Golden hour family photo

I love both of the examples above taken at golden hour



When you’ve got family in place, the next thing to do is make sure you have them in focus. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, open your camera app and tap the screen where you want the main focus to be – head as close to the eyes as possible.

Obviously one of the simplest ways to make sure you are getting your subject in focus is to make sure you are holding the phone still before you press the shutter button. This is even more important if you are trying to take images in the evening, as your phone camera will slow down its exposure time to allow more light into the lens, so any slight shake or wobble will show on your image. One of the best things you can invest in is a little travel phone tripod. From as little as under a tenner, you can pick one up on Amazon and use that instead (also great if you want to join the picture and pop your phone on a timer).

One of the main ways to get your subject out of focus is to zoom in too much. Although phones have developed in leaps and bounds over the years, they’re still not wonderful at zoom. The more you zoom, the more pixelated your images become. So whilst it may look great on your phone, if you try to print, it’ll look awful.



And no – it’s not what you are thinking. You can save that for couple time! What I mean is reduce the clutter. One top tip is to look at the 4 corners of your image, have you got random objects taking away the focus of your subject? Try to choose an area that is clutter free, make sure you’ve not got the washing on the line in the background, or the cat’s bum is just showing in the bottom right-hand corner.

Of course, you can edit these out at a later date, but the biggest thing they teach you in photography school 101, is GET IT RIGHT IN FRAME!

You can also think about using gridlines to balance your shot.

One of the easiest and best ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s gridlines. This then adds a grid over your screen which will be split up into nine parts. (See the example below)


phone camera showing gridlines


See how the face of the girl in the pic above is placed where the gridlines meet.

According to this theory, if you place your subject in these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced, level, and will be more pleasing to the eye. It also adds much more interest to the image rather than just popping your kids in the middle of the pic.

To switch the grid on …

iPhone: Go to “Settings,” choose “Photos & Camera,” and switch “Grid” on.

Samsung Galaxy: Launch the camera app, go to “Settings,” scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”



Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable — it tends to create an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out, since most mobile photos are taken either straight on, or from a bird’s eye view.

Try taking a photo directly upward and playing with the sky as negative space.

This is also fun when you’re on your hols and you can frame a landmark in your hands so it may look as though you holding it, or making the heart sign with your hands etc. See some fab fun examples below.

I love this image taken by of a grandfather and granddaughter walking arm in arm. 



A great shot of a family taken from low down.



There’s something so idyllic about seeing the sky reflected in a body of water. There’s a reason why we love seeing that — our eyes are drawn to reflections. So look for opportunities to play with them in photos. Found a large puddle? Get your kids to wander around it and stand in the best position to get a reflection of them and then take a pic of the puddle.

There are plenty of out-of-the-box places to find reflections — lakes, rivers, mirrors, sunglasses, drinking glasses, and metallic surfaces are just a few.

Below is a great pic of a little girl laying on a unit with a reflective surface.






The last thing your kids want is you placing them somewhere and shouting ‘for god’s sake smile’! Will that make them happy? Of course not. Will you get a fake big teeth eyes closed smile? Yes! So make them laugh, jump about, blow raspberries, tell fart jokes, whatever you can to get them to give you a natural laugh, and then bamn! Take your pic.



Rookie mistake. You’ve got a wonderful setting, the kids are enjoying themselves, the sun is glowing and you take a pic only to see it looking hazy and blurry. If you’re anything like me, your phone is touched 500 times a day, quite often by little squidgy dirty fingers. If your lens isn’t clean then anything you do above will be ruined by the grime on your lens. A small soft hankie or your t-shirt will clean it off and make all the difference.



I’ll be covering photo editing apps in a blog post soon, but even your phone image app has certain editing options, whether that’s cropping, adjusting the exposure or contrast or adding a filter to make the sea pop. There is so much you can do now on your phone that it’s fun to play around with when you have some time.



So you’ve got a load of lovely digital photos on your phone. And then your phone falls out of your back pocket when you sit on the loo and ‘splash’ your phone is not working. I’ve done it twice and I’m sure you all know someone that it’s happened to. There are so many options now for backup software, I personally use iCloud and Flickr to back up my phone, but you can use Google backup and many other options. Most come with a small monthly fee, but it’s absolutely worth it to make sure your pictures are safe and sound.

Secondly, and I think most importantly, print them into actual physical photos. Get them on the wall, be proud of them and show them off. The only person who sees them on your phone is you. There are wonderful options available now to print them off in a photo book or send them off to places like SnapFish or Photobox. Or get yourself a Google Nest or similar home hub that can display pictures. So you can upload as you go and they’re always on show.


If you’ve got a tonne of family pics on your phone but would like a professional family photo session, then please do get in touch. I shoot both outdoors and in my beautiful studio, and have many years of experience in taming kids and making them smile. Head over to my contact page to get in touch.



The quality of the photos are amazing, and the most beautiful memories to keep forever! I would highly recommend choosing Emma to capture special moments in your life or with your family.

Charlotte, Oxfordshire