Old Dog-New Tricks: Better photos with your smart phone


Okay … we’re really behind the times and we openly admit it. Having been away so long and in countries where it made more sense to buy a cheap disposable phone and a pay-as-you-go service, it took us awhile to catch up with technology once we got back to the States.

Marcie’s sister, Lin, could’t stand our antiquated flip phone and gave Marcie an iPhone for her birthday in November 2015. New technology … bah! Now, unfortunately, we can’t live without it! We’re on the verge of becoming nomophobes … oh, my!

iPhone 6s Kate S billboard.jpg

It’s taken us awhile to remember that our phone is also a camera. We foolishly thought it was a phone. I’ve missed several photo opps when I didn’t have my camera with me and forgot that we could just use the camera to catch a photo. Duh! I’m so used to sticking my little pocket-sized Canon in my pocket or carrying my larger Canon around with us, that relying on the iPhone just never occurred to me. I’m changing my tune, however, especially since I’ve realized that the cameras on phones are really pretty good. Not as good as the Canon, mind you, but not bad. Although … if you’ve seen Apple’s “Shot with my i-Phone” billboards lately, I’m wondering if phone technology isn't quickly catching up.

I’ve been reading up on some tips for taking better phone photos and thought I’d share them with you. Some relate to photography in general … like don’t shoot into the sun … and others are specific to smart phones. The tips aren’t new or original, but if you’re like us and hadn’t really embraced the phone-camera thing or gotten particularly good results, these tips might change your mind and maybe result in your pic on an Apple billboard (or not)!

1. Avoid the zoom. It crops and enlarges the image, but diminishes the quality. It’s better to move closer to your subject.

2. Horizontal is better than vertical even though vertical is the way you usually use your phone.

3. Here’s a biggie … clean your lens every once in awhile. Stuffing your phone in your purse or pocket makes for grunge on the lens. Give it a wipe with a soft cloth for clear, more crisp results.

4. Use the high dynamic range option (HDR) because it balances out the light and shadows in your pics. On an iPhone in camera mode, just tap HDR and select “on” or “auto”. I leave it on pretty much all the time now and like the result.

5. Try different filters to obtain interesting images. On an iPhone, tap the photo you want to modify, tap the edit icon (on my phone it’s three horizontal lines with little dots) and then play around with the photo. You can brighten it up, crop it, or if you choose the icon with three balanced circles, you can make your photo B&W or all sorts of tones in between. Kind of fun to experiment.

Experiment with different filters ... e.g. black and white.                      Photo Credit: Lin Lemay

Experiment with different filters ... e.g. black and white.                      Photo Credit: Lin Lemay

6. Take lots of shots. It doesn’t cost an extra penny and you’re bound to get a few great photos from the lot and you can trash the rest. I just discovered Burst mode and for action shots, it’s awesome. Just hold down the volume button and the camera fires off shots as long as you hold it down.

7. Don’t forget the rule of thirds to make your photos more visually appealing. I’ve turned on the camera grid in Settings on my phone to make it easier to keep this in mind.

8. Use the volume buttons for taking photos. There’s less camera shake than if you poke the screen. I’m told you can also use the controls on your ear pods to activate the shutter, but I haven’t tried this yet. You can also set up a shot and use the self-timer to avoid camera movement during your shot and for longer exposures in low light situations

9. Don’t forget you can do video, slo-mo, time lapse and panoramic shots, too. Experiment in advance to perfect your technique.

Tap on the screen to change the focal point.

Tap on the screen to change the focal point.

10. Focus on the subject you want by tapping anywhere on your screen. A yellow square shows what is being focused upon. Many times your camera will automatically focus on a face or object, but it’s not what you want to focus upon. You can control the focal point and your camera will adjust and concentrate both focus and exposure on the point you wish.



11. Check out some of the apps available for editing. My favorite is Snapseed. It’s free, easy to use and renders good results.


This may be old hat for many of you, but for this old dog ... I love new tricks.