12 Tips To Achieve Professional Portrait Shots Using Your Mobile Phone

Instagram photography tips

A quick scroll through the feeds of IG influencers and you’ll come across next-level shots of them that seem straight out of a fashion magazine. Meanwhile, most of us are probably used to more basic shots like standing against a wall and looking straight-on.

Here’s how you too can get a piece of that Instagram action – no profesh cameras needed.

– Before your shoot –

First and foremost, planning is crucial and hey, you’ve already done a great job by clicking on this article cuz we’ve made a checklist for you. 😉

1. Bookmark inspiration on Instagram

Trawling through hashtags and location tags are a must.

It’s important to get inspiration whether it’s a specific photography style you like, an outfit inspo or just learning how to get that great “booty pop” pose like Kylie Jenner. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so don’t be shy trying to recreate a look you like. It’ll actually be a good way to learn the tricks of the trade!

Here’s an Instagram hack not many people know: You can actually create albums for photos you like on Instagram – it’s super simple and keeps everything organized.

All you have to do is hold down on the bookmark icon, click the “+” button and viola! To add posts in the album, again, hold down on the bookmark and select the relevant album.

2. Put together your outfit in advance

The right outfit can make all the difference. We opted for a bright ruffled red dress to really stand out and add a vibrant pop of colour.

Note: Avoid whites, as this can make you appear overexposed in photos, and blacks that don’t catch light well.

Accessorizing will definitely help sell the lie look. Carry a cute little clutch, pop on a pair of shades and bold tassel earrings that scream major vacay vibes.

For footwear, go with tan/nude sandals or comfortable slip-ons that give the illusion of long legs.

3. What to bring for your shoot

Here’s a little checklist of things to bring to survive throughout the day:

  1. Portable charger and cables so your phone doesn’t run out of juice
  2. Water bottle – modelling is serious work!
  3. Wide angle lens add-on if you have one
  4. Friends to take your photos for good company

– During the shoot –

Now onto the good stuff. Here are 5 easy-peasy tips to master the art of deception – you’ll have your friends fooled you’re a fully fledged fashionista with a professional photographer in no time.

1. Play with perspectives

Changing the perspective of the camera can drastically change the scale of the objects in your photo. Taking a picture from up high makes everything look teeny-tiny while, taking a photo from a low angle does the opposite.


  • A very meh looking photo taken straight on with tourists in the frame.
  • The flowers at the bottom left corner that aren’t cropped away
  • The castle tops are chopped off


  • We easily avoided a meh photo by dropping it down low.
  • Work out those glutes and take the photo mid squat to create an illusion of a landscape that seems larger than life.
  • Cheat a little with the panorama function on your phone’s camera, giving you an epic looking shot
  • Capture the full castle and ceiling from a lower angle

2. Find the right poses

Doing a boring touristy pose is so passé. Instead, werk yo body like the models on America’s Next Top Model by introducing movement to your poses.


  • Standing with your hips squared to the camera, like a plank of wood
  • Being cheesy: showing people that you can count to 2


  • To get an illusion of a slimmer waist, tilt your body at a slight 45-degree angle away from while leaning a shoulder towards the camera
  • Appear to be more candid by looking away from the camera. This can mean looking into the sun (JK,  please don’t) – remember to keep that smile
  • Don’t know what to do with your arms? Get that itch behind your ear or try grabbing an elbow

If you’re like me and still look like a limp ragdoll in the wind, we’ve got a little cheat for you: Capture yourself in motion.


  • Turn your head in a quick snappy motion.
  • When shooting, use the burst mode to get that Kodak Moment.

3. Get good lighting

The most important aspect of photography is… lighting! It’s crucial to get a well-lit photo as you need not worry about fixing it later.


  • The flowers may look gorgeous but the lighting between the thickets aren’t doing you any favours
  • The lighting here is dim and makes an unflattering cast on the face

A little sunshine never hurt anyone.


  • Like a sunflower bloom that follows the rising and setting of the sun, locate the light source and turn towards it.
  • This helps to illuminate your beautiful face and avoid a ghastly cast or harsh shadows.
  • Make your own sunshine: we manually adjusted the brightness on the camera phone when taking the photo – especially useful when it’s an overcast day

4. Avoid distracting objects

Just like a PSLE Oral examination, be sure to study what’s in the foreground and background. Taking a good portrait means having the focus on you and not on the distracting objects that lurk about.

Can you spot the 3 distractions creeping about?


  • Distractions abound in this picture: Lamp in the bottom left corner, the windows of the castle and the glass panelling at the top right


  • We used the flowers in the foreground to cover part of the image
  • We also shifted the camera’s position to leave out the lamps and windows.
  • For those with a dual camera phone, use portrait mode to get the gorgeous blurry backgrounds that create a sense of depth in your photos

5. Frame the shot and find the best composition

Go that little extra mile and learn how to frame your shots! This quick triple combo kill tips add a dash of professionalism to your photos.


  • Make sure your subject fills up one-third of the frame
    Familiarize yourself with the rules of third, by activating the gridlines on your phone. For iPhone users, go to Settings > Camera > turn on Grid.

As a general rule of thumb, your subject should fill 3 of the rectangles you see on your screen.

Insider tip: Instagram restricts certain aspect ratios when uploading portraits and landscapes – 4:5 and 1.91:1 respectively – so take note when framing your images

  • Keep your subject in focus
    Look out for lines in the environment that lead attention. We used the lines of the Yellow Brick Road to guide the viewer’s interest to the beautiful subject – rather than the crowd and humongous pumpkin at the back.
  • Don’t crop at the limbs
    For those vertically challenged (like me T-T”) avoid cropping out your limbs, especially at the joints. Doing so makes you lose a couple of inches.
*Bonus* Get a bird’s-eye view where possible


  • Shoot from above for a gorgeous bird’s-eye view effect.
  • This is a good time to use a wide angle lens camera add on if you have one.

– Apps to edit your photos for Instagram –

So you’ve got the shots, just some final touches before hitting that upload button. Here are 4 apps you can download for photo-editing to nail the Instagram game.

1. Snapseed – Fix skewed perspective shots

Sometimes we don’t get the camera angles quite right, making our images look like they were italicized.

Case in point: Dorothy’s house seems to be sucked into an invisible vortex at the top left corner. 

Thankfully, SNAPSEED has a simple quick fix with the Perspective tool, under the Tools tab. We tilted the image along the vertical and horizontal axis, then used the Free tool to pinch in the bottom right corner.


2. VSCO – Picking the perfect filter and lighting settings

Did you know that our darling app VSCO has so much more to offer other than their gorgeous selection of 150 over filters? The “Edit” tab is a hidden treasure trove of tools that professional photographers use. It’s especially useful during an overcast or hazy weather.

For this underexposed photo, we increased the Exposure to brighten the picture and upped the Contrast to really make the colours pop like an Andy Warhol piece. Use the Sharpen and Clarity sliders bring out the details in the picture. Don’t go ham on the sliders tho, overexposed photos can come off as looking fake.

Tip: Our fave part about VSCO is definitely the fact that these tools already come free with the app!

3. Lightroom – Set the vibe of your photos by playing with colours

Tyra Banks once said that “the light is your best friend”. Well, I say “Lightroom is your best friend” – and yes please feel free to quote me on that.

Apart from being able to adjust the brightness and contrast, Lightroom has the added capability of tweaking colours – setting the mood for a picture. Using the “Colour” tab’s Temperature and Vibrance, we opted for warmer tones, ensuring we stay true to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s technicolour vibes.

Saturation refers to how intense the colours show up, while Luminance refers to how light the colours are.

For the control freaks, click the “MIX” tab to individually colour correct 8 colour profiles. Here, we reduced the saturation & luminance of the green stalks, allowing the bright yellow petals to really shine through.

4. BeautyPlus – Final touch-ups and beautifying yo face

For beauty related fixes, try BeautyPlus – from the same people who brought us MeituXiuXiu. This app is intuitive and easy to use.

Under the Retouch tab: Use the Brighten or Whiten tool around the eyes to hide the fact you’ve been up till 3AM re-watching episodes of Riverdale.

Zap away those pesky zits with the spot heal Acne tool or explore the Filter tab also provides a plethora of soft filters that brightens up the picture! 

Add some pizzazz to your IG feed

With a little help from these golden nuggets of info, you don’t need a fancy camera to look like you’ve stepped right outta the pages of Vogue. So go forth my pretties, go forth; and most importantly have tons of memory space on your phones for all those photos!

Update: Pictures were taken at GBTB’s The Sunflower Surprise exhibition. It is no longer available, but you can check out other Gardens by the Bay exhibitions.

Gardens by the Bay admission:
Singapore Residents
$12/ entry to Flower Dome
$20/ entry to Flower Dome + Cloud Forest

Standard Admission
$28/ entry to Flower Dome + Cloud Forest

This post was brought to you by Gardens by the Bay. Photography by Huy Pham.
Originally published on 28th Sep 2018, updated on 29th May 2021.

Isabelle Ong

I like turtles (and memes).

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