3 steps to capture a WOW photo on your Smartphone

The transition from taking a snapshot and recording a moment in time to capture a WOW photo can be attributed to how you:

  • Set up the photo - pre-planning the photo capture
  • Photo editing - enhancement after the photo


We are going to cover three easy to implement steps to dramatically improve the way you set up the photo. To make certain your photos stand out and give your audience the ‘WOW’ factor, there are three elements to consider:

  1. Grab your viewer’s immediate attention;
  2. Clearly communicate the subject or story;
  3. Demonstrate strong composition techniques.

1. Grab your viewer’s attention

Technical elements of a photo can instantly grab our attention:

  • Bright and vivid colour
  • Contrast - black and white
  • Very sharp incredible detail
  • Extreme close-up
  • A dominant colour
  • Different angle or perspective
  • Upside down photo
  • Strong emotional connection

The opposite of what grabs our attention also deters our interest. An example of this is the incredibly sharp detail you see in macro photography - compared to a portrait photo where you intentionally blur the background. This is a common technique, resulting in your attention going straight to the person's face.


See article: Close up macro photography on your smartphone

See article: Blur the background on your Android & iPhone photos

Bright and vivid colors (iPhone 5, NightCap Pro & SuperImpose app)
Extreme close up, contrast and sharp detail (iPhone5 and Olloclip Macro Lens)

2. Clearly communicate the subject or story

Photography is an art form, capturing light, colour and movement in an attempt to tell a story for immediate enjoyment, communication or future recollection.


To effectively tell a story – you need to be conscious of what you are trying to communicate. Why did you pull the smartphone out of your handbag or pocket?

Is it a message, a mood, an emotion, an idea or a combination of any of these? What I love about photography is that the viewers can interpret your image differently based on their own experiences and memories.


In our mobile world, we have an incredibly short attention span as we scroll through our feeds on social media etc.  Photos are interpreted 60,000 times faster than text.  It takes only 13 milliseconds for your brain to interpret a photo!

You do not want to leave your viewer confused about what you are trying to tell them - they will move on and look at the next photo!


When you pick up your Smartphone, think about what is motivating you to take the photo. This will help you concentrate on structuring your photo in order to best communicate that story or moment.

See article: 20 question pre-photo photography mental checklist

3. Strong composition

The composition of the photo is how the main subject and other elements in the image interact with each other.  Effective composition can guide the viewer through your photo and ensure they focus on the correct element/s. Knowing how we interpret a typical scene will help us to create an image that is easily understood and increase viewer engagement.

Sounds very manipulative - doesn't it?

These considerations will make a big difference to capture a WOW photo.


Rule of thirds

You may have noticed that you have an option on some Smartphones to turn on gridlines. These form two horizontal and vertical lines on the screen to create nine imaginary squares on the screen. The idea is to guide your placement of the main subject matter in your photograph.  The rule of thirds tells us that the ideal location is directly on one of the four points where the lines intersect. This allows the viewer’s eye to locate the main subject matter, but also have sufficient space to move their attention around to see what else is occurring in the scene.

Capture a wow photo by using rule of thirds to better compose the image
Capture a wow photo by using rule of thirds to better compose the image
(Slow Shutter Cam app)


A symmetrical photo is one that can be split in half either horizontally or vertically and mirrored. This technique produces an aesthetically pleasing image that is intrinsically free of distraction offering balance, harmony and proportion.

Capture a wow photo by implementing symmetry into your photos
Geelong Wading Pool - Better Mobile Photos

Leading lines

Lines occur everywhere. Strategically capturing them in your image will lead your viewer’s attention to the main subject or simply further into the scene. This provides depth and a three dimensional look to a photo. A well constructed photo may even have further lines included, leading our attention in a circuitous route around the photo.

Capture a wow photo by using leading lines

Mike James hosts regular group workshops, workplace training and is a sought after speaker at photography clubs and social media training events. Get in touch with Mike here.

These articles are great to learn a mobile photography specific technique or tip. The fastest transition into the confident and creative smartphone photographer is this structured course 'Strategically edit WOW images on your smartphone'
The Smartphone Photography Club is where you can hang out with like-minded photographers. Club members take part in weekly photo themes in our closed Facebook group. You also get the full course, tutorials,  photo critiques and club sponsor discounts.

Also published on Medium.

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