10 tips to improve your smartphone photos

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – Do you have a love-hate relationship with your smartphone camera?  We know the feeling.  We’ve got enough stuff to lug around in our purses, let alone having a bulky camera bag in tow.  The smartphone camera is a great option but the dozens of blurred pics can leave you feeling frusterated.

While most smartphones don’t have long zooms, fast lenses, or large sensors, there are ways to get around these drawbacks to take fantastic shots. We found and tested 10 tips for taking better pictures with your smartphone.

Tip #1: Avoid putting your subject dead center

This is a common mistake. Maybe you want to take a picture of your friend on a beach. Frame the person so they are off to the left or right with the beach as the background, if you are unsure about balance just turn on the grid view. Go into the camera settings menu to access this feature. This feature splits the camera view into nine squares according to the rule of thirds.

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Tip #2: Be sure you fill the frame

If you really want to get a great photo, turn your smartphone sideways. For example, if you want to snap a picture of a friend with gorgeous scenery as your background, get it all in the frame. It really helps to tell a story or a narrative. Taking a horizontal photo extends your frame so you can include the whole scene.

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Tip #3: Try using burst mode for action shots

Smartphones have shortcomings when the shot you want to take is an action shot. Maybe you want to take a few shots of your child playing in a sports game. If you want to capture them in motion, try the burst mode. This mode allows your phone to shoot around 10-20 frames per second, increasing the chances of getting an awesome, clear, action shot. To start burst mode shooting with an iPhone, hold down the shutter button. If you have another smartphone, you might need to switch to this mode in your camera settings. Get snapping to try out this fun feature!

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Tip #4: Good lighting is paramount for clarity and color

Smartphone cameras capture less light and less detail due to small sensors. It isn’t super noticeable on your phone screen, but when the picture is printed or blown up on a computer monitor, you can see some blurriness. To avoid this common problem, make sure you have good lighting. The best natural lighting can be found in the morning or in the late afternoon. The lighting in the middle of the day is typically harsher.

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Tip #5: Adjust the exposure setting

As discussed in Tip #4, it is not always possible to avoid dim lighting. Perfect lighting isn’t always going to be an option. If your shot is too dark, increase the exposure to allow more light into the sensor. Also, if your shot if too bright, decrease the exposure. If you have an iPhone just tap and hold on a specific area of the image until a yellow square appears, then tap the sun icon at its right and drag the slider until the image brightness is to your liking. If you have an Android, tap the sun icon and adjust the slider between -2 and +2.

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Tip #6: If you are stuck with low lighting, use HDR mode

Smartphones do not typically handle low lighting due to the small sensors. If you are trying to snap a shot of a candlelit dinner or friends around a campfire, the HDR (high dynamic range) mode makes your camera take three shots at three different exposure settings when you press the shutter and them combines them to get the best level of detail in each area of the shot.

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Tip #7: Create depth-of-field with Auto-Focus

On a DSLR camera, you can adjust the area that your camera focuses on which is related to the size of aperture. Most smartphones are not technically advanced enough to do this. This means the default setting is a small aperture, meaning that the camera focuses on a large area where all objects are in focus. There is a little trick to get your smartphone to focus on a particular object in the frame. Just tap the screen on an object in the foreground or background and your phone’s auto-focus should cause the rest to blur a little. This trick typically doesn’t work that great if everything is at a similar distance.

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Tip #8: Skip the zoom feature

Although almost all smartphones offer the zoom feature, we recommend skipping it. Digital zooming hurts the image quality in a major way. If you are trying to capture a sunset or a particular building with the zoom feature, your photo will lose detail quality. We recommend that you leave the zoom setting alone. Instead focus on filling the photo with a backdrop that shows what you are trying to get across about the specific landmark or natural wonder. Include more in your scene to add to your story.

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Tip #9: Veto the straight-down shot for food

Sharing images of food has become a major trend. Everyone shares pictures of their fun meal, but it always seems to be shot at the same angle. A unique and interesting way to switch up your photos is to shoot on a bit of an angle. Try taking a picture on the level of the food at a 45-degree angle. Most restaurants are typically dimly lit and by taking a picture of your food at this angle helps the image quality.

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Tip #10: Download a photo editor

While these tips will help to get the best photo in action, you should also consider downloading a photo editor. Although, some smartphones include editing functions such as cropping, rotating, or removing red eye, a photo editor app can help in a big way. A lot of enhancements are available to make your photos even better after the photo is taken. If you are looking for filters, Snapseed and VSCO Cam are the best free apps available. If you want to take it up a notch, download the app Afterlight. This app is the perfect image editing app for quick and straight forward editing. It has a very simple design that is paired with powerful and snappy tools that will give you the look you want within seconds.

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