Celebrity photographer Rankin: How to use your smartphone to take great pictures

Celebrity photographer Rankin, who grew up in North Yorkshire, has curated a new photo book about Britain with images taken by ordinary people. Sarah Marshall reports.

Rankin is one of Britain's most successful photographers - but believes anyone with a smartphone has the ability to capture amazing images.

Anyone can be a photographer these days, and even if we can’t reach the higher echelons of A-list snappers, we all have the ability to capture a moment in time.

That was the challenge photographic community Photobox set users when they invited submissions for their This is Britain project.

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Published and produced by Photobox, the coffee table book features images of the colours and characters that make up our society, all taken by members of the public, with a final selection curated by celebrity photographer Rankin.

More than 300 pictures reflecting the passage of the day sit alongside essays by personalities such as Kelly Hoppen MBE, Ben Fogle, Lorraine Kelly OBE and Denise Van Outen.

Rankin’s illustrious career has seen him travel the world and even photograph the Queen back in 2002 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations and he has a strong belief in the idea of photography being open to all.

“You don’t need a big expensive camera – use a smartphone. They’re perfectly good enough to take great photos. The phone is just a tool, so use your imagination, get creative and take risks,” he says.

His other top tips for taking memorable pictures are also simple ones.

“The first and most important thing for photography is light. Whether you’re on the bus or in your kitchen, think about light and where it’s coming from all the time to help sculpt the world around you,” he says.

Rankin adds another key to successful photography is enjoyment and a willingness to try new things.

“There are no rules. Photography isn’t meant to be prescriptive or strict. It’s supposed to be fun, so get out there and enjoy it,” he says.

Born John Rankin Waddell, but working under the name Rankin, the photographer grew up in Glasgow until the age of 10 before his family moved to Thirsk in North Yorkshire for four years.

After the family moved to Hertfordshire, Rankin initially went on to start an accountancy degree at Brighton Polytechnic but dropped out of the course after realising his true love was photography.

He went back to study photography at A-Level and eventually went on to start the magazine Dazed & Confused in 1992 with Jefferson Hack. It became known as the “hipster’s bible” for its focus on music, fashion, film, art, and literature and Rankin’s career saw him go on to photograph the likes of Kate Moss and Kylie Minogue.

He has said in the past that it is difficult to name his most memorable shoot during his illustrious career.

“There are so many fun and memorable things that have happened to me. I get to jump between very bizarre worlds all the time, from Buckingham Palace one day to hanging out with rock stars another.

"One of the most surprising shoots was The Rolling Stones because they were so young at heart and so enthusiastic about everything. You get a lot of bands that are photographed a lot and they are really serious and quite mellow and a bit grumpy.

“I think that the Stones even at their age now were excited that they were still doing it and excited about life which for me was a surprise.”

Among his favourite images in This is Britain is one of a rainbow over a fishing port, as well as one of a family on a beach at dusk.

“We’re so lucky to have an amazing coastline in the UK which provides a natural canvas for photographers to get creative,” he says.

This is Britain is produced and published by Photobox, in aid of BBC Children In Need, and available now. It’s priced at £25, with more than 40 per cent of the sale price donated to

the charity.