Good photography techniques are crucial regardless of what camera you’re using. No amount of megapixels or color science will save a poorly captured image. In this video, I’ll show you how to take and edit great images on the go with these mobile phone portrait photography tips.

Video: Back to the Basics: Mobile Phone Portrait Photography Tips

I wanted to get back to the basics take another go at mobile phone portrait photography again. I love minimalistic challenges like this because it helps us break from our reliance on flashy and expensive gear. Keeping our gear minimal forces us to learn to work with what’s around us. I encourage you to try the same and focus on honing your technique. I’ll be photographing my friend Alyssa, and I’ll also be editing right in my phone using Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Let’s jump in.

Image #1: Dappled Light

Dappled light can provide great dramatic highlights and patterns in an image. Here, we have a location with dappled light shining through the trees behind me. I’ll begin by showing you dappled light done wrong with this plain walk-up shot.

Instead, I moved Alyssa to the stairs and positioned her face right in one of the sunbeams.

mobile phone portrait photography low angle
Flipping your phone upside down helps get a lower angle.

Rather than taking an image from my own height, I angled from below. I flipped my camera to get the lens closer to the ground.

Editing the Image

Lightroom Mobile isn’t the place to be editing an image from scratch. Rather, I recommend using presets to start and fine tune using the editing tools provided. If you install your presets on Lightroom CC Desktop, they’ll automatically sync with Lightroom Mobile. I selected Visual Flow’s Modern Pack > Hard Light. Then, I added a radial gradient and pulled the exposure down to create a vignette.

mobile phone portrait photography before and after

Here’s the final before and after.

Image #2: Flat Portrait Lighting

Notice the even and flat lighting falling on Alyssa.

The shade provided a lot of soft light and I wanted to use that for our next image. The flat lighting at this location was perfect for a simple portrait. The trick is to face the open sky while standing in the shade.

For our composition, I had Alyssa sit on the windowsill. The window creates a natural frame for our image.

mobile phone portrait photography adobe lightroom mobile
You can adjust the f-stop even after taking the photo.

To demonstrate portrait mode, I had Alyssa stand in front of the wall and took some images. With portrait mode, you can adjust the f-stop by clicking the “f” in the corner after taking the image. Since the bokeh is artificially generated, you have a lot of flexibility as to how you want the final image to look.

mobile phone portrait photography flat light portrait

I applied the same technique to the composition against the windowsill. I flipped the camera again in order to get a low angle. Before jumping into Lightroom, I set the f-stop on the image to f/1.4, as you won’t be able to change that after importing.

Editing the Image

I selected the Modern Pack > Soft Light to start. I lowered the exposure and added the vignette using the radial gradient.

mobile phone portrait photography soft light portrait

Here’s the final image.

Image #3: HDR Portrait

For my next image, I chose a location with a high dynamic range. I also wanted to use the ultra-wide angle lens. I had Alyssa sit on the stairs with the sun behind her.

Notice the visible hairlight on the right image. On the left, the highlights blend in to the bright background.

However, if I just take a simple picture, I could lose the hairlight if her head is in front of a bright area. Instead, I angled so her head is in front of a dark part of the building to let the hairlight stand out. Notice the difference.

mobile phone portrait photography hdr portrait

Here’s the final composition.

Editing the Image

I began with Modern Pack > HDR Natural. I adjusted the exposure and created a slight vignette.

mobile phone portrait photography hdr image

For this image, I bumped up the clarity and de-haze for the extra pop for this final image.


The phone is a powerful tool. We captured and edited all of these images in a very short time span. By limiting my gear to just the phone, I was able to focus on taking compelling images rather than worrying about gear. I highly encourage you to try the same challenge and put your creativity to the test. For a complete course on mobile phone photography, check out Creative Photography 101 from our Premium Channel. Also, be sure to check out Visual Flow for intuitive lighting-based presets like we used here.

I hope you enjoyed this article/video and stay tuned for more photography tips, tricks, and challenges!