4 Tips for Taking Surprising Mobile Photos

It doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone or an Android there are a few things you can do to get your mobile photography to the next level. All of the photos included with the tips were taken with my Google Pixel phone. I normally shoot with a big Hasselblad camera, but sometimes all I have with me is my phone. I’ve come up with some great tricks to make them look as surprising and incredible as possible.

1) Don’t hit that big circle on the screen to take the photo. Use the Vol Up button on the side! One, when you jab the screen with your finger, you’re causing camera-shake and it will make your photo more blurry. Two, using the volume up button allows you to hold the camera much more steady with one or two hands.

Image 1

This was taken an underground Turkish bath in Budapest, Hungary. This is Olya, my crazy Russian videographer, who traveled through Europe with us to make some inspirational and tutorial videos.

2) Experiment with the mobile app Snapseed! It’s free and available for Android and iOS. This is, by far, the best app for editing your photos on your phone. There are many tools in there and many different filters. One great thing about Snapseed is you can layer many different filters together to really give your photo a unique look. People will wonder how you did it!

Image 2

Here’s a fun family photo from a few months ago when we rode camels near the pyramids in Egypt. I used Snapseed filters to give it this “look.”

3) Take some cheeky street photos. If you’re like me, as you walk around the streets, you often see interesting people, crazy outfits, or just kooky things you find interesting. It can sometimes be embarrassing to blatantly aim your phone at these things, so get used to using the Volume Up button to take the photos. On the Pixel phone, for example, I can turn on the camera by double-clicking the power button. Then I move my finger to volume-up to take the photo. Your horizon will probably be off, but you can fix that later.

Image 3

Here’s a cheeky street photo I took in Budapest, Hungary. This is my assistant Tane. He’s not posing; this is literally how he looks all the time.

4) Try combining your phone with an iPad or tablet to edit your photos to the next level. Professional photographers know that a photo reads differently on a larger screen. Next time you’re at a coffee shop, why not zap your photo over to your tablet (via Google Photos or Airdrop), then use Snapseed to edit it there. A good photo always looks better bigger on a tablet, so don’t feel like you’re forced to use that tiny little screen.

Image 4

This a photo I took in Aruba. I was jogging on the beach, and of course I had my mobile phone with me. I was able to cover a lot of ground quickly, and there’s no way I would go on a jog and carry a Hasselblad! But it’s nice to always have the phone with me and take a ton of photos, picking out the best after I sit down to relax.

Image 5

Near my home on the south island of New Zealand, there is this amazing place to watch the sunset called Lake Hayes. I forgot my big Hasselblad camera, so all I had was my phone. There’s a saying that the Best Camera is the one you have with you!

Image 6

Here’s a panorama of three different photos I took while on a walk here near my home in New Zealand. Since I have an Android, I use Google photos. One great thing about Google Photos is there’s a little AI assistant that will “gift” you a panorama if it senses you took a lot of photos close together.

Egypt Remix!

Just for Passport Members

I did a little behind-the-scenes while here at the pyramids in Cairo. If you’re not a Passport member, then why not?!? 🙂

A Remix

Here are some of my favorite photos from Egypt!

Exploring Around The Pyramids

Looking up at the Mosque

The Pretzel Man Cometh!

Camels across Egypt

Tips from the Pyramids

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Egyptian Islamic Chandelier

Tip for Egypt

This is a pretty good tip for most places, but it’s a good idea to get a private guide. I don’t like the “big tours” where you’re on a bus with a bunch of other people. You can get a fairly reasonable rate for a private tour for just you, your family, or your friends. On the plus side, you usually get to hear a lot more history and get into smaller places where the big tours are not allowed. TripAdvisor is a good place to find private tour guides… that’s how I got into this place below in Cairo!

Daily Photo – Egyptian Islamic Chandelier

Here's one of my new favorite tricks inside mosques or catherdrals or museums or anything with a cool ceiling. It's a bit of a ropey trick and it only works half the time. You'll have to make sure it's not too crowded… Anyway, set the camera flat on the ground with a wide-angle lens. Set up for a 2-second timer, click it, then run away! You gotta get pretty far to get outside the frame… It's hard to line up too, so sometimes I'm a few degrees off the orthogonal, so you'll have to rotate later on in post-processing.

Egyptian Islamic Chandelier

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-03 16:39:31
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4
  • Aperture5
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length12.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

Lamps in Cairo Bazaar

Abstract on Netflix

Here is another great Netflix suggestion: Abstract! It’s all about designers from various disciplines. I just finished episode 4 which was about a Danish architect… all are recommended! I wish I could make “playlists” on Netflix… I wonder if they are working on that?

Daily Photo – Lamps in Cairo Bazaar

Here's one of many lamp stores I visited with my family in Cairo. Of course, my daughters just HAD to have a lamp, and it was quite a selection process. I don't know if you've noticed this, but little girls can be both incredibly decisive and indecisive at the same time. I was trying to figure out what kind of behaviors to reinforce so that they become more decisive as they get older, but I am probably doing the wrong thing and encouraging indecisiveness! 🙂

Lamps in Cairo Bazaar

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-03 21:59:37
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/160
  • Aperture4
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Single RAW Pretzel man

Strangest Photo Name Ever

Oh, don’t forget to sign up for the PASSPORT here on the site to see today’s making-of video!

Anyway, I’ve never quite come up with a Daily Photo name as strange as…

Post-processing the Pretzel Man

Enjoy this making-of! I went a little over-the-top on this one, but I still like it… see how I went so extreme in this how-to video! 🙂

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Daily Photo – Single RAW Pretzel man

Look at all those pretzels! If you are watching how I made this photo (from a single RAW file) in the “Passport” below, you'll see how I asked this guy if he had any low-carb pretzels. I got a very strange look in return… By the way, a few of those lamps on the left side ended up back at our home in New Zealand thanks to my little girls! 🙂

Single RAW Pretzel man

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-03 21:58:29
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/160
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Lamp Market in Cairo

Photo Tip – Vertirama

When I tell you today’s photo is a vertirama made by stacking three vertical shots, you may see it! The bottom lamps are a little warped, but I quite like the effect. I had to do it because I had a 28mm lens and could not fit in the whole thing. I really wanted to get the top of the structure that I think is so beautiful. Even though a vertirama takes more time, you are rewarded with a much higher-rez photo than usual.

Hot Passport Tip! Often in the new HDR Tutorial (which you get with Passport) I process different images when you compare the Mac/Windows videos. So even if you’ve seen one version, skip the live action from the other OS and you never know what you might find!

Daily Photo – The Lamp Market in Cairo

When I was walking through the Bazaar with my family, we saw all sorts, shapes, and colors of lamps. Regular readers know that I love these things and I want all of them. Of all the places we visited, this was my favorite display… sort of dueling merchants on either side of the walkway. The placement is interesting too, inside an old ruined vestibule.

The Lamp Market in Cairo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-03 21:58:29
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/160
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Streaming Light in the Mosque

Local Guides

If you’re a Passport Member and you see the bonus video below, you’ll see the incredible value of having a local guide. In this case, he found a gentleman in the mosque that sings the verses and stories inside of this beautiful old room. You can also see me talking about taking photos in the same mosque as today’s Daily Photo!

Amazing Singing in the Mosque

And here is that video I mentioned from above. I sent this to our man Stu that helps out around here and he said it was his favorite passport video so far! I hope you like it too… it’s a bit different!

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Daily Photo – Streaming Light in the Mosque

How pretty is this place? This is one of the oldest mosques I've ever been inside. It's the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan and it began construction in 1356! The back room has this enclosed area where the light goes absolutely crazy when you use a tripod.

Streaming Light in the Mosque

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-03 16:14:38
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time2
  • Aperture5
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length12.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

Exploring around the Pyramids

Pyramid-bulding slaves?

I was talking to an Egyptologist there and I brought up slavery during the pyramid times. He has a theory that he was able to back up on many ways that the builders were not slaves. Instead, everyone had a vested stake in the building. Since they were built to give the kings an eternity above, it’s thought that they offered to extend this eternity to the team that helped build it.

Daily Photo – Exploring around the Pyramids

I didn't get to spend much time at the pyramids, but I decided to make hay will the sun was shining. And boy was it! A bright bluebird day for sure. But, much to my surprise, a visit here in late January was not hot at all. In fact, it was about 19/65 degrees with a light breeze. I had to wear two layers to stay warm. I did a lot of studies of people and the pyramids, and this is one of my favorites.

Exploring around the Pyramids

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-02 15:54:26
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1250
  • Aperture8
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-1

Across the Deserts to the Pyramids

Arabic Party!

Hey if you know Arabic, you’ll really enjoy this interview. If you only know English, well then it will be a tad confusing .

I’m here in Egypt visiting the Pyramids and now being interviewed on National TV by Ossama Kamal on the DMC network. Join me behind the scenes here on Facebook Live 🙂 I don’t know if he is more like Egypt’s Anderson Cooper or Egypt’s Stephen Colbert, so let’s find out together. Thanks again to my new Egyptian friends Walid El Batouty & H E Minster of Tourism Yehia Rashed.

Daily Photo – Across the Deserts to the Pyramids

On the very first day here, I took my family to visit the pyramids. They were even more awesome than I expected! I have SO many photos… I could not figure out which one to work on first, but I really liked the interplay of the tree figures in the foreground with the pyramids in the far distance.

Across the Deserts to the Pyramids

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-02-02 16:31:25
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1250
  • Aperture8
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-1

Exploring the bazaar district in Cairo

Facebook LIVE from the Sphynx in Cairo, Egypt!

A few days ago we spent the day exploring all of the amazing sites of Cairo with our very own tour guide Dr. Zahi Hawass! What an incredible experience! Take a look at the highlights…

Daily Photo – Exploring the bazaar district in Cairo

Three ladies in the Cairo bazaar hand over their phone to a friend to get some photos. It was a great day in the bazaar, and we saw some kids playing music in the street and singing… they were's even looking for money or anything, just singing and having fun!

Exploring the bazaar district in Cairo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-11-09 04:23:28
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • Focal Length
  • Flash
  • Exposure Program
  • Exposure Bias

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