5 tips from an Instagram pro that have drastically improved my S22 Ultra photos

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra photo tips
(Image credit: TechRadar / Stephen Lambrechts)

Forget what you may have heard: you don't need one of the best DSLR cameras to take striking photos for your Instagram feed. In fact, today's multi-camera smartphones are more than up to the task – and far more convenient, at that. 

When it comes to smartphone photography, Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra boasts one of the most advanced camera arrays you'll find on any handset, offering unrivalled zoom, excellent stabilization, a wealth of features and a remarkable night mode for low-light snapshots.

In an effort to show just what the Galaxy S22 Ultra is capable of, Samsung invited me to join digital creator Rob Mulally for an evening tour of Sydney's Cockatoo Island, in which the Instagram pro would teach me a handful of useful tips that would help me up my photo-taking game – here are the top 5 shooting tips I learned. 

Turn your phone upside down for more dynamic shots

Unlike with bulky DSLR cameras, the lenses on your average smartphone are small enough that they can be placed remarkably close to the ground when the handset is flipped on its head. 

This helped me achieve the incredibly dramatic shot below, in a sense giving the shot the kind of perspective that only Ant-Man usually sees. 

Additionally, the S22 Ultra's flat top and bottom edges mean the phone can actually stand upright on its own. This, combined with the S22 Ultra's Bluetooth-enabled S Pen, allowed me to take this snapshot from a distance without worrying about knocking the free-standing handset over.

And, thanks to the S22 Ultra's focus enhancer, the phone was smart enough to know which object in the frame should be in focus (in this instance, that would be the person standing off in the background). Of course, focus enhancer can be switched off, allowing you to place the focus wherever you want.

S Pen + Night Mode are a match made in heaven

It's well known that the S22 Ultra's Bluetooth-capable S Pen can act as a remote shutter, which gives users the option to take snapshots from a distance. What you may not know is that this feature can drastically improve the quality of your Night Mode shots.

Normally, the S22 Ultra will automatically adjust the exposure time of Night Mode shots depending on how steady the phone is and how dark your surroundings are. For most handheld shots in 'Auto' mode, the camera app will usually reduce its long exposure countdown timer to around 2-3 three seconds in an effort to minimize blur.

However, by tapping on its countdown timer and setting it to 'Max', the S22's long exposure time can be extended all the way up to 30 seconds when the handset is perfectly still – all you have to do is prop your phone against something sturdy and activate its shutter using the S Pen. This will allow your phone to capture far more light, turning dark and gloomy environments into bright daytime-like shots.

Bring your own light source

While it's always good to scout locations for well-lit areas, you can achieve some very striking results by bringing your own light source. And no, that doesn't mean you have to run out and buy professional lighting equipment – even a portable flashlight can have a big impact on your mobile photography.

If you'll take another look at the first embedded image up above, you'll notice the silhouetted individual in the photo is simply standing in front of an upright flashlight which has been placed on the floor behind him – an effect which could not be simpler to achieve.

Additionally, it's worth mentioning that the S22 Ultra's Night Mode will amplify any light you do bring with you – something which works exceptionally well with colored lights. To demonstrate this, our Instagram pro Rob brought a portable blue LED light which offered very little illumination to my eyes, but managed to look incredibly bright and vibrant when captured using Night Mode's long-exposure setting.

In the first of two images below, the blue LED light source was placed in front of the man being photographed, lighting up the whole room as a result. In the second photo, you'll notice the light source has been placed behind the subject, making him look like he's just stepped out of the intro for the 1980s TV series The Equalizer and onto a Kavinsky album cover. In other words, a small portable light can make you look pretty badass.

3x zoom is closer to how your eyes actually see

Have you ever taken a photo with your phone's default 1x zoom and wondered why everything looked so small and far away? Well, according to my new photographer friend, your phone needs to zoom in a little in order to more closely match its focal length to that of the perspective of the human eye.

Unlike the human eye, which is curved, camera sensors are flat, which means in order to approximate how the we perceives things, a camera's focal length needs to be adjusted. In the case of the S22 Ultra, this can be roughly achieved by using its 3x zoom option, which should only be slightly more zoomed in than how you naturally view things. 

So, next time you want to take a picture of someone standing in front of a landmark, don't move closer to said person – stand back and use the 3x zoom functionality to capture an image that's closer to what you're seeing with your own eyes. This will ensure your background landmark stays large and prominent, rather than small and distant.

To test this out for myself, I took the two photos below. The first was taken using the 3x zoom feature while standing further back, while the second was taken while standing closer to the big door frame using the 1x zoom. Notice how the crane in the background looks tiny compared to said frame in the second photo? Well, now you know how to avoid that photographic faux pas.

Don't be afraid to look a bit stupid

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my time with an Instagram pro is that if you aren't willing to look a bit stupid while taking your shot, the result probably won't be very interesting.

The best photos will always be the ones which take a bit of time to set up, and will often make you look silly to the people around you. That said, it's this willingness to experiment and get creative which will invariably produce the best results. So remember, don't be afraid to embarrass yourself a little while taking your photos, because while you may feel ridiculous for few moments, a great shot could last forever.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.