Taking good pictures with just your phone

Scrolling through social media sites, sometimes you can’t help but wonder: “How did this person capture such a great picture? I’m jealous!” Well, I’m here to share a few of my personal tips on capturing decent pictures wherever you explore. For this post, I will only focus on the use of a mobile phone’s camera. Most people nowadays own a mobile phone with a camera feature in one way or another. An excellent picture does not revolve around the use of a fancy camera, but it does rely on:

  1. Composition
    What to be included in a picture matters. A great picture is what that pleases the eye. How elements of the scene are arranged within the image frame defines the composition of a shot. The most basic and common composition principle that most photographers live by is the rule of third. With the rule of thirds, you have to imagine that the frame is split into nine equal sections by two horizontal and two vertical lines. The idea is that you position the main focal point of the image on one of the four points where these lines intersect. By achieving this, you give th subject in focus a more defined placement and keeps the photo interesting.
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  2. Distance
    How far should you be away from your subject matter in the shot? When taking landscape picture, you’ll definitely want to back up a few steps to get the whole scenery in your shot. But when you want to take a close up picture, do you stand a few inches away from the subject matter or would you stand far away and use zoom? I would suggest a little bit of both. Phone cameras have good megapixel features in itself but once zoomed, the picture might look grainy or blurred. The best way to take a close up shot with your phone camera is to stand a good distance away from the subject (let’s say a rose), then try closing in to the appropriate distance. Once you can see the rose details clearly, tap on your phone screen again to lock on the focus and snap the picture, leaving the background a little blurred for that depth effect.
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  3. Angle
    To take good picture, sometimes it is good to crouch down low to the ground or stand at a high place to take the picture in a bird eye’s view. We usually see things in eye-level, so it is nice to capture pictures in a unique angle, creating a new perspective. For this example, I have used the close up shot technique and laid down on the sand to capture this newborn sea turtle.
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  4. Filters
    Our world is colorful! Do not be afraid to choose a color as your main focus or even strip off all the colors and leave it in black and white. Monochrome pictures bring out the most subtle details in a photo and can make the picture look more lively than if it was colored. It does not matter if you change the filter before taking the picture or add on a filter when editing it, it is useful to play around with different filters to give it a “wow!” effect.
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  5. Steadiness
    All the above four tips will be meaningless if your hands are unsteady while taking a picture. When your hands are shaky, the camera phone will have a hard time in focusing on the subject matter and will fail to capture the shot in its utmost clarity. On newer Samsung phone cameras, there is a manual mode built into the camera and this allows users to manually adjust the shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed, the longer the camera needs in order to snap a shot. Thus, a steady hand is the key to win this shot. This feature is great when you and a bunch of friends have hand sparklers and would want to do light writing.
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Capturing a good picture does not 100% rely on the tools you use. All those fancy DSLRs can be a waste if the person behind the lens did not learn the skills to utilize it to its ultimate potential. Just remember that composition, distance, angle, filters, and steadiness makes a difference when capturing pictures, even if you only use the camera on your mobile phones!

Now, go and explore more places (especially in Milwaukee) for all those insta-worthy shots!

*All photos are taken by me throughout the years.




How to use the tools of persuasion in advertising?

Advertisements hold the power to persuade readers into buying the products it is promoting. The keyword here is persuasion. Advertisers uses persuasion everyday to influence potential consumers into buying their products / services.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, best known for his 1984 book on persuasion and marketing, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, writes that there are six principles of persuasion that we can utilize in order to influence others at our will.

First, there’s reciprocation. All of us are taught since young to repay others whenever we can. Most people will find ways to avoid being called a freeloader, or a moocher. In the perspective of advertising, this tactic is used often. Free samples or free trails are often offered to potential customers to persuade them to buy the products / services. A sense of indebtedness can be formed when uninvited “first favors” such free samples are given. With that sense of guilt, the potential customer will feel the need to reciprocate and in return, buy the product / service, which is the goal of the advertisers. For example, supermarkets or stores would have sampling stations near the product advertised to hand out free tastings and will preach about the product when the potential customers are enjoying the samples. When potential customers accepts the free samples, they automatically would be “in debt” and will try to reciprocate by buying the product that’s being offered to them.

Second, there’s the principle of commitment and consistency. When users have made a choice or taken a stand, they are more likely to stick with their decisions until the end. The desire for consistency is the new way of advertising. Many companies such as Amazon, Spotify, Blue Apron and other subscription based services will use discounted rates or free trials to lure potential customers into commit to their services. For example, gym advertisers would offer free-month-at-the-gym trials for new customers to lure them into signing a gym membership. Once they have completed the free trials, the need to be consistent will motivate them to sign a one year gym membership deal with the company.

Third, social proof is a powerful principle that let us identify and follow a certain “correct” behavior. If everybody around us behaves a certain way, we will assume that it is the right thing to do. This principle is very effective because most people in society follow norms. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts has a tagline that reads “America runs on Dunkin’.” By emphasizing America as a whole in the slogan, potential customers will think, “well, the whole country is eating Dunkin’, I should be too.” Advertisers uses the power of norms in slogans such as Dunkin’ Donuts to influence more people to make the common decision of buying that certain brand of product / service.

Fourth, liking is the key to saying “yes”. People have been known to trust and be influenced by people that are similar to them. Most people loves flattery, even when they are unaware of it. Advertisers would use this tactic to “get on the good side” of potential customers to get them to buy their products / services. Like a car salesman, if he sees a mom pulls up with two kids in the back seat and a golfing bumper sticker on the car, the salesman would casually talk about his own kids and golfing hobbies to establish a comfort level and familiarity in that encounter, leading the mom to buy a car from that salesman because he is appears so similar to herself.

Fifth, authority has the power (no pun intended) to influence us. Degree of compliance varies according to situations but most people grew up with a respect to authority, no matter if it is real of implied. Advertisers uses this aspect to their advantage by hiring professionals or celebrities to promote their products / services. Potential customers are more willing to comply when the person making the offer looked the part. For example, toothpaste commercials often features the testimonials coming from dentists because potential customers would trust the words of a professional when making purchasing decisions.

Sixth, and lastly, there is the principle of scarcity. Cialdini mentions that opportunities seem more valuable when they are less available. Advertisers love using the term “limited” to make their product more interesting that it actually is. Hard-to-get items are perceived more positively and more desirable just because it is more difficult to be obtained. A fine example would be Milwaukee’s Summerfest organizers. Summerfest have used the appeal of scarcity to increase the crowd volume during the festival week by offering tickets at a limited amount or time. When Summerfest festival goers see the daily admission promotions, they will think the limited number of tickets available as a sign of rarity and show up early, then typically spends the whole day within the grounds, spending on food and merchandises, which ultimately will profit Summerfest.

Shown here are all the six principles found in the ways persuasion can be used in advertising and how dangerously effective it can be. Reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity are some of the ways advertisers can apply to influence potential customers into investing in their products / services.


Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. NY: HarperCollins.