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If you’re like many people, the days of carrying both a camera and smartphone to special occasions are over. Today’s smartphones can take pictures that rival all but high-end digital cameras and take up way less space in a pocket or purse.
Smartphone cameras are now capable of taking much better photos compared to years ago, and with more than 40 million photos being uploaded to Instagram each day, sharing photos has never been easier.
While phones with better cameras still don’t guarantee great photos, tweaking the settings and knowing a few tricks can make all the difference.
1. Get the lighting right
One of the major challenges with cellphone cameras: They’re not ideal in low-light situations. To fix this, take extra care so you don’t end up with shadowy subjects.
Natural light works best, with cloudy days ideal for even lighting. For bright conditions, put your back to the sun and let your subjects face the light. When indoors, have subjects face the light source and move them away from windows and walls.
2. Use the flash with care
While a flash helps solve the lighting limitations of cellphone cameras, a flash that’s too bright can make people look like ghosts.
If you’re on the fence with the flash, snap one photo with flash and one without. View and edit later and choose the best result. Or skip the flash altogether, as explained next.
3. Try a longer exposure
Instead of turning on the flash, try adjusting the exposure time for low-light environments. Longer exposure time will provide brighter photos with better color when the environment is a little too dark.
For the iPhone, you can lock the exposure by tapping and holding on a certain area of your screen and waiting for the box to blink. With other apps, simply adjust the brightness settings on your camera app to get the desired effect.
4. Use HDR mode to replace flash
Another option for flash-less photos is to use the High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode. A built-in feature on many phones, using HDR will capture a wide range of tones and colors that often results in better-looking photos than using your phone’s flash.
5. Clean the lens
While normal cameras may protect lenses when they’re shut off or stored in cases, cellphone cameras tend to have lenses exposed and may get touched by oily fingers.
Give the lens a wipe, or you’ll risk crummy photos no matter what techniques you use.
6. Turn up the resolution
For high-quality photos, make sure to max out the resolution settings and set your camera to take the largest-sized images. High-resolution photos will fill up your phone’s memory faster, but you’ll be able to enlarge images without risking a grainy photo.
7. Don’t digital zoom
While an optical zoom will actually magnify the subject of your photos, digital zoom does nothing more than blow up the existing image. You’re better off moving closer, and you can always crop and enlarge the image later with the same effect as digital zoom.