Smartphone Photography Tips

If you're going to walk around with a camera that's also a cell phone, you might as well learn how to maximize its picture-taking potential. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

If you're going to walk around with a camera that's also a cell phone, you might as well learn how to maximize its picture-taking potential. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

It’s the camera we have with us the most, isn’t it? So we might as well learn to use it as well as possible. That thing in your pocket can shoot an occasional decent photo, as long as you pay attention to a few details. Here are my tips for maximizing that lousy point-n-shoot that’s also your cellphone.

  • Motion/camera shake is the most common problem for smartphone camera shooters. The best technique is: steady yourself. If you are standing, hold the camera in two hands and jam your elbows into your sides. This will create a ‘human tripod’ that will help your overall image sharpness.
  • Recognize that the lag time (usually about a half second or so) is a fact of life with these point-n-shoot machines, so try to anticipate it: plan ahead, and if you’re trying to shoot that shot of the bride walking past you down the aisle, learn your camera’s lag time so you can shoot a bit early and catch the action.
  • Check your camera phone’s settings to see what quality options are available to you. You’ll probably want to shoot at the highest option most of the time, unless you know what you’re shooting is only for quick email/messaging use.
  • Make sure to keep your fingers out of the front of the camera’s lens! This can be a big problem if you’re not careful. I usually hold my camera phone by my fingertips to take care of this problem.
  • Droid specific tip: if you’re shooting an outdoor scene and the result looks too light, a good trick it to reshoot with the camera’s flash turned on. The flash will fire, not affecting the image, but the camera will use a smaller aperture because of the flash, darkening your image by about 25%.
  • Clean that lens off! It’s been in your pocket, or your purse, after all. It’s gotten sweated upon, dropped, lost and found. It leads a pretty tough existence, so it stands to reason that the camera lens isn’t going to be pristine. Check it for smudges and dirt before you shoot, and wipe it off if dirty.

I plan a followup post that will look at a bunch of the cool apps that are out there for your smartphone enjoyment…but they’re only enjoyable if you’ve shot a decent photograph! So if you haven’t taken the time to master the photographic quirks of your smartphone, what better time than now.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

5 Comments on "Smartphone Photography Tips"

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  1. Katrina Tanglao says:

    I’m glad to see that you’re not too much of a photo snob to adapt to the changing landscape of photography. I suppose it isn’t that different from the 1960s when everyone started to run around with an SLR camera, only in this case it’s much much easier to take pictures, and even easier to take bad ones. The smartphone camera doesn’t look like a sophisticated device, and people don’t feel like they have to use their brains when they use it. So your post is especially helpful… I think that’s enough of a rant for now.

  2. Eric says:

    I used to carry a nice Sony Cybershot, though after years of use it finally gave up, and I replaced it with a smartphone. Much less hassle to carry only one device. I have thought about stepping up to a camera with changeable lenses for years now. I used to use crinkled up cellophane and other oddball materials over the lens to get different effects, but I am a bit bored with that. I know there are options for 3rd party lens addons available for the iPhone that could be retrofitted to nearly any other smart-phone with a little creativity. Get a hard-case and glue the proper thin, fine-thread bolt to it, and screw on your attachment when needed! (?)

    I would like to see what you come up with as far as favorite camera apps for Android, as well as 3rd party lens attachments. I myself use a camera app scavenged from the Miui ROM and like it over the stock cameras available, though it seems far from the tool a professional might expect.

  3. Dan says:

    Hi Andrew, I agree with your comment that it is important to clean off the lens many times that is forgotten.

    One other issue I encounter is I run out of space in the camera memory, probably taking too many pictures. One App I found helps me deal with the fact that I run out of storage space. It automatically sends any new photos I have taken to my hard drive when I get home. Helps me avoid using he cloud which I am not so sure is secure. Check out if you wish


  4. Thanks Dan, I’ll check it out.

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