Mastering Phone Photography: Poolside Edition
Photo by Jesper Stechmann

Mastering Phone Photography: Poolside Edition

Published on July 11, 2022

With summertime in full swing, there's no better place to at than the pool. All the splashes, drinks, and memories---naturally you'd want them to last beyond summer. Luckily, you do not need to be a professional photographer or use a DSLR near the water; all the incredible photo ops are possible via your smartphone.

Before smartphones ever existed, people had to bring along a bulky camera and worry endlessly about it getting wet. But thankfully camera tech walks with the times. Nowadays, it's super easy to take high-quality photos and let your phone do the technical work. Read on for some awesome tips to get the best summer poolside photos with only a smartphone in hand.


Photo by Toni Cuenca

Water Resistant Doesn't Mean Waterproof 

As you probably know, a lot of the smartphones made nowadays are water-resistant. However, this does not mean they are waterproof. And while water resistance is helpful while taking photos by the pool, it is important to note that it never completely protects against water damage.

Water resistance in itself implies that your phone can withstand a water splash or even a quick drop in the pool. It does not ensure your phone's survival during an extended amount of time spent underwater. If you want to fully protect your phone, you're going to need to invest in a waterproof case. This is essential if you want to dive into the world of underwater phone photography.

Above and Under 

Underwater photography is obviously a unique perspective on poolside adventures. Shooting with your phone underwater, however, is no easy feat. You're going to want to do a bit of experimenting before you get it right.

Keeping lighting conditions in mind is very useful, for instance. Given how much light varies during the day, the way sunlight hits the water naturally varies as well. Shooting when the sun is at its brightest is best for achieving a vibrant look in your photos; the best times for that are somewhere between 10 am and 2 pm.

Another thing to take note of is that the deeper you go in the water, the less color and light you're going to capture in your images. This, however, is not always a bad thing. Play around with various perspectives between you and your subjects. This can be done by putting the phone lens halfway underwater or fully submerging it in the pool. Experiment with different angles and distances, and find new ways of shooting underwater.


Photo by Jakob Owens 

Set up Your Grids

One of the quickest ways to get better at shooting underwater is to turn on your smartphone camera grids. This will show you a series of intersecting lines that'll help you follow the rule of thirds theory. Known as a compositional guideline that breaks an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), the rule of thirds gives you nine pieces and four gridlines. According to the rule, by positioning key elements along the gridlines, you can end up with better compositions. By putting your subjects into these grid intersections, your image automatically becomes more visually pleasing.

How to Get Started Using Grids on Your Phone

On iPhone: Go to Settings, choose Photos & Camera, and switch Grid on.

On Samsung Galaxy: Launch the camera app, go to Settings, and switch the grid lines option to on


Photo by Taylor Simpson

Avoid Zooming as Much As Possible 

Although advances in phone camera tech are growing at a rapid rate, relying on them is not always going to bring you the best result. Zooming in too far always carries the danger of a blurry or pixelated image.

It sure can be tempting to zoom in when you're further away from your subjects. It can be challenging to get the right composition while at the pool, but it is better to take a photo from a distance and crop it later on to maintain better resolution.

Candid Action Shots are Where It's At

There's no shortage of action going on around the pool. The best photos, therefore, usually come from those unposed, spontaneous moments, so be ready when those opportunities present themselves. Pay attention to people jumping into the pool, making splashes, and other such quick poolside action.

Quick action requires rapid-fire shooting. On an iPhone, you can always continuously shoot by dragging the shutter button to the left and let go when you're done shooting. By snapping many photos at once, you'll have a larger variety to choose from.

Photo by Lavi Perchik

Editing Pool Pictures 

Once you've captured all the fun, it's time to do some editing magic. You can either edit through your phone camera app directly, or you can use external apps like Create, Snapseed, ColorStory, Lightroom, VSCO, or Photoshop Express.

A lot of these apps offer easy-to-use filters. Keep in mind that less is usually more when it comes to editing and, luckily, undoing is very easy with smartphone technology.

Usually, you'll have to work through some shadows and harsh light when you're shooting on a bright summer's day. Under these conditions, it is key to adjust your highlights and shadows. If you want to soften everything up, decrease your highlights and brighten up your shadows. For a more dramatic look, do the opposite and see how that turns out.

In general, shooting with smartphones offers us way more flexibility; but that notion cannot be more true when it comes to the poolside. Since much of the technical work can be completed from your phone anyway, you can focus more on having fun and creating in those spontaneous, candid moments.