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How to Take Better Photos with your Phone

X-Games Gold Winning Photographer Peter Morning shares his best advice for action cell phone photography.

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Peter Morning’s images have graced the pages of SKI Magazine for years. From working with the most notorious skiers in the world like Glen Plake and Mikaela Shiffrin to, most recently, snagging an X-Games gold medal for his photo of Chris Benchetler during a shoot for “Fire On The Mountain,” the Grateful Dead inspired film from TGR, Morning has photographed almost all niches in skiing.

Chris Benchetler night skiing
The X-Games Winning Shot of Chris Benchetler.Photo Credit: Peter Morning

The Mammoth Lakes native grew up the son of a ski coach and photographer, inheriting a love for both passions. As a child, Morning was a ski racer but his passion for photography started shortly after he started racing. He continued to study photography in school before being hired as a photographer by Mammoth Mountain where he paved his way to photographing national and international events. 

Surprisingly, a lot of his iconic shots were captured on a cellphone. So, Morning decided to share his tips for shooting on snow for those looking to boost their cellphone photography game. 

Shoot with the Light

This is the most common mistake. With a DSLR camera, you want to be facing your light source, but cell phone photography is different. Position yourself with the sun or light at your back. Once you’re comfortable with that, play around and try positioning the light source at a 30-45 degree angle for some added depth. You can certainly mix in those great sunspot images when you’re shooting directly into the sun, but there’s a much higher degree of difficulty there.

Never use the Zoom Feature

No two finger pinching! Digital zooms are not your friend. treat your cell phone like a prime lens and physically position yourself closer or farther away to create the frame you’re after. You can always zoom in later when you edit, but you can’t zoom out later. Digital zooms are all downside, don’t use ‘em.

Go Low

Peter Morning demonstrating cell phone photography tips
Morning dropping it low to get the shot.Photo Credit: Peter Morning/ Mammoth Mountain

Getting creative with angles is an easy way to add some variety to your shots. Start out by shooting really low. Because of their small size you can get much closer to the ground with a cell phone lens than you can with a traditional DSLR lens. Those worms-eye views are so much different than our typical perspective that they often turn out really well. I love shooting groomers this way.

Work Around the Flash

The close proximity of the flash to the lens on most cell phone cameras results in blown out images. Instead, use a different phone in flashlight mode, holding it two or three feet away from the phone you’re taking the picture with. You can create some really cool dimension and shadow with your shots and your image quality will improve drastically. Just be careful not to get the light source in the frame. 

Get up close!

Peter Morning demonstrating a closeup shot
Getting close can add a creative element to photos. Photo credit: Peter Morning/ Mammoth Mountain

This is a big one. Whenever you hand someone a phone to take a picture invariably they stand five feet farther away than they should. With portrait mode and some of the macro features on today’s cell phone cameras they’re much better equipped to take pics at close range. Take advantage of it.