How To Take Great Holiday Photos With Your Smartphone

Nov 29, 2018, 6:21 PM | Updated: 8:45 pm

The holidays are all about making memories and this season most of those memories will likely be captured on a smartphone.

“Smartphones are advancing so fast I can hardly keep up with the changes,” said photographer Druke Busath, co-owner of Busath Studio and Gardens. Busath has been shooting photos for decades and holds iPhone photography workshops. So, we asked him for tips on taking better photos that will make those holiday memories look sharp.


Most smartphones do a decent job of autofocusing, but Busath recommends tapping your phone’s screen to zero in on your subject.

“If you touch and hold the screen, you’ll be able to lock that focus,” Busath explained. “You’ll see a little AE or AF symbol that will tell you the focus is there.”

This keeps the subject in focus while you move around to compose the shot.


When the image looks dark, don’t be afraid to adjust the exposure.

“You’ll need to touch that screen and if we slide up anywhere on the screen when that little sunny symbol shows up, or on an Android the little plus/minus symbol, we can slide it up and expose for their face,” said Busath.


Have the people in your photo face the light so that lamps, Christmas lights or even the sun is not behind them.

“Look at the light source then aim those faces at the brightest light source,” Busath elaborated. “That’s really the best trick pros use: identity the light source first then think about what’s in the background.”

If you are taking a photo of someone in the middle of a room, the light tends to be flat and boring. Busath suggests moving that person close to a window.

“It can look really exciting and professional in a hurry without too much effort,” he said.


Even with smartphones, shaky hands lead to blurry photos.

“Anchoring your elbow against a wall helps a ton. Even anchoring your elbows against yourself helps a ton and then photographing in bright light.”

Use the phone’s self-timer so you do not shake it while pressing the shutter button.


Some smartphones have two lenses that allow for an optical zoom, but most zoom digitally which diminishes photo quality.

“Never do that pinch zoom because the quality just falls all apart. Better to zoom in with your feet and get close to the group and not count on that digital zoom,” said Busath.


Next, ditch the flash and try using the phone’s High Dynamic Range or HDR mode instead. HDR blends several photos at different exposures for a better shot, especially in low light.

“It’s super good for Christmas light photography, night work, generally or any time the contrast is really high.”


Most phones will allow you to flip on a 9-square grid. Line up your subjects where the lines intersect in that grid to help keep your shots straight and balanced.


It seems obvious, but phones tend to pick up a lot of dust, linen and fingerprints as we take them in and out of pockets. So, wiping the lens clean with a microfiber cloth can do wonders for getting a great holiday shot.


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How To Take Great Holiday Photos With Your Smartphone