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Do It Better: Take Better Photos with your Smartphone

By Joyce Venezia Suss

A smartphone is primarily a communication tool for most people, used for texting and phone calls. But many people also rely on smartphones to take photos. Some would insist that professional photographers are able to achieve higher quality photographs with DSLR cameras and a variety of specialized lenses. 

But modern smartphones offer instant satisfaction, and the newest models are so sophisticated that they make automatic adjustments (contrast, skin softening, background blur, color saturation and more) so that almost every photo looks professional.

People of a certain age may have taken photography classes and learned how to develop film, then create prints with photo paper and chemicals in a darkroom. It took trial and error to sharpen details, make faces brighter and tones warmer. For some, it was a fun hobby; for others, it was pure frustration. 

Today, newer smartphone cameras are designed to take practically perfect photos in a second, without the expense of film, chemicals, and precious time. The bonus: a smartphone is lightweight, fits in your pocket instead of hanging from a strap around your neck, and has easy editing tools. 

Still, there are tricks to make your smartphone produce even better photos:

1. When you get a new smartphone, take some time to learn what its camera can do. The newest models are like toys, with fun modes such as Slow Motion, Portrait, Panoramic and more. Test each mode to see what it does and practice to get it right, and check the settings button in your smartphone camera to find more. Visit the manufacturer’s website for instructions and suggestions, to refine your skills.

2. The best feature of a smartphone camera is the delete button. Unlike the days of film that required developing every photo – good and bad – you can take as many photos as you want, then keep only the good and delete the rest. For subjects that are moving, try the Burst mode, which lets you take many photos at once.

3. Avoid using zoom features, which usually reduce the resolution. It’s often better to crop the photo so it shows a closer view of your subject. Go online to learn about the “Rule of Thirds” to compose your subject in a flattering, interesting way.

4. The best photos are usually taken in daylight. The hours before and after sunset are considered prime time for beautiful golden light. Sadly, most smartphone cameras struggle in dark venues; try resting the phone on a flat surface like a table or wall to avoid shaking. Some dark photos can also be rescued by adjusting the brightness level.  

5. One fun mode is hyperlapse (a picture shot on a moving camera that creates a time-lapse video). Online videos show a variety of ways to shoot in hyperlapse mode with incredible results.

6. Foodies may be hungry for a camera that offers Food Mode, which enriches the color of an amazing meal and can blur the edges if desired. 

7. If your camera has Director’s View, you can change video scenes by tapping different thumbnails on the screen. It’s not Hollywood, but it’s a lot of fun.

Ultimately, great photos start with the photographer. A smartphone can make many things look good, but you also need to have a good eye for things that are interesting. You also need the willpower to sort, crop, keep and share only those photos that are the best.

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