9 Lighting Tips for Mobile Photographers, According to an Expert


Chances are your phone is never too far from your fingertips. Although some photographers may express the need for expensive, professional camera equipment, the good news is, there are countless photo opportunities with every passing moment, and most of them can be captured with convenience on a mobile device. Sometimes a spur of the moment desire will overwhelm you to snap away, or perhaps a more calculated passion will have you capturing moments meaningful to you. No matter, it’s important to remember what inspires you to photograph. And the one thing no great image can do without is light.

Because I travel often and I'm always on the go, I rely heavily on my iPhone when I can’t get to my digital gear or simply don’t want to lug it around. As mobile phone camera technology continues to improve, amazing pictures no longer are only produced by expensive equipment.

So what are some ways to help you immortalize moments? Here, tips on how to document your travels using light in every medium. 

  • 01 of 09

    Check The Weather


    If you are planning to shoot on a certain day, it’s always good to quickly check the weather, especially if you had a specific mood or idea in mind. Maybe a downpour will rain you out, or maybe that is exactly what you are looking for. Will you have to consider bright sun? Clouds? Fog? Snow? Weather can greatly change the mood of a photo. I love the heavy fog and clouds in this photo which conveys a mysterious, perhaps moody morning. Think about what kind of weather you want and what type of mood you want to capture, then venture into the world to document it. 

  • 02 of 09

    Wake Up Early


    There is always something really beautiful about morning light. There is always a sense of stillness and quiet that accompanies soft colors as the sun rises. This shot of the Amazon in Peru was taken around 6 a.m. as the sun was illuminating these pinkish hues. You know what they say, the early bird gets the worm! Plus, if you are up super early, chances are you will have the sky or landscape to enjoy all to yourself.

  • 03 of 09

    Take Time for Golden Hour


    As the sun sets, the colors in the sky shift with every minute. If you're looking to capture that perfect sunset, be prepared to be patient. I took this photo in Long Beach, California, after sitting for twenty minutes as I waiting for the tones in the sky to really feel brilliant. No need to rush the process. If you have a phone tripod, it’s not a bad idea to pack that for a great shot as less available light will be the case as the sun goes down.

  • 04 of 09

    Use The Sun for Shadow Play


    When the sun cascades itself onto objects, it can create exceptionally compelling shapes and shadows. I always love seeing what the absence of light can do to create an interesting composition. I took this photo while walking around the streets of San Francisco and loved the striking shadows on the walls. I tend to find the most interesting shadows in the afternoon as the sun moves through the sky and the shadows seem to stretch and lengthen.

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  • 05 of 09

    Consider Indoor Lighting


    Indoor shots can be tricky if you don’t have a lot of light, so I always try to find great moments near windows which create dramatic natural light that can highlight a subject as it flows through the window. Can’t find a window? Move towards any other form of light you may have in the space. Have access to light switches? Play around with those, sometimes people think all the lights on is the best idea, but consider that it may not always be the case. Fully lit rooms may not create dramatic light if that is what you are after.

  • 06 of 09

    Night Shots


    Night shots are where you must be really specific with your light metering. First, see what available light you have and meter accordingly. If you use too much exposure, the dark areas can appear grainy. Find the balance of exposing available light but letting the shadows remain dark as to not appear grainy. I took this shot at night in Big Bear, California, at the hotel I where I was staying, and I had just enough light to capture the hanging lights and reflection in the pool. You might need to take a few shots to find the right exposure.

  • 07 of 09

    Consider Light When Taking Portraits


    When taking pictures of people, think about what type of light you want on your subject. Do you want nice, even light? Then I’d suggest shooting in cloudy weather, or more even light. If you want more dramatic light, you can make use of directional or bright light. I love the dramatic light in this photo as one side of her face is lit, and the other side is a bit more in shadow. There’s no right or wrong way to do it; it’s just deciding what type of light you want. Think about how directional light might hit your subject. Will they able to open their eyes if they are in direct light? Will there be harsh shadows on their face? These are things to consider.

  • 08 of 09

    Have Fun with Silhouettes


    Don’t forget that very little light can create very striking images, or that you don’t always need or want detail of your subject. This is a self-portrait I took in a hotel room while a mirror reflected my silhouette. If I was illuminated, it would completely change the feeling of the photo. Remember what I said about ​the absence of light? Playing around with situations are great exercises to see which you prefer.

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  • 09 of 09

    It's Okay to Use Artificial Light


    Sometimes you need a little extra help when lighting conditions aren’t ideal. If you have access to an external lighting source like a LED on-camera light, feel free to fill in the light you need. Don’t have that? Use a friend’s phone light which can also do the trick. I used a LED light with this photo to help fill in light for a better exposure.

    Now that you have the tips, it’s time for you to go out and shoot. Remember that photography is like painting with light, so the more comfortable you are with it, the more impactful your photography will become.