As well as being portable computers, music players and games consoles, smartphones are also starting to replace entry-level digital cameras.

It’s easy to see why – they are small, conveniently in our pockets most of the time and are so easy to use.

Here are some tips to help you take better pictures using your smartphone. 

Tip 1: Clean the lens

iPhone 5S camera close up

Look at your smartphone. Where has it been today? Bedside table, bag, pocket, train carriage and desktop?  Mobile phones go everywhere and it’s easy to forget you are carrying around a powerful camera with an uncovered lens which will pick up dust and dirt.  So make sure you wipe it down with a soft cloth before you take a picture.

 

Tip 2: Use both hands

When you are making a phone call, firing off texts or listening to music, you can generally manage with one hand.  If your phone is fairly light it can be tempting to take a photo with one hand as well.

Don’t.  Unless the shutter is incredibly quick, it’s likely your hand will shake and your shot will be blurred – particularly if the light is dim. The easiest solution is to hold it with two hands to keep it steady.

If your camera phone has a dedicated shutter button rather than an on-screen icon, use it. As you are already gripping the camera, your finger should already be hovering over the button, which means there will be less movement than if you were reaching back and tapping the virtual shutter.

 

Tip 3: Turn the flash off

Some people always take photographs with the flash turned on. From our experience this is particularly evident at family gatherings where faces are bleached and red-eye in evidence.

With a few exceptions like the Nokia Lumia 1020 (which includes a Xenon flash), smartphones have LED flashes, which are thinner and use less battery than compact camera flashes, but are fairly weak, so can’t illuminate large areas, resulting in increased image noise.

Learn to use the flash sparingly. Use it indoors in dark conditions to help ensure sharpness, but be very careful when photographing people – faces can look bleached and burnt out.  Avoid photographing reflective surfaces and try and make sure light sources are behind you.

 

Tip 4: Think about composition

Phone cameras are simple to use – almost deceptively so.  It’s easy to take a photograph and not really think about what you are shooting, because you can just delete.  Spending a couple of seconds thinking about the scene in front can turn an average photograph into a great one.

Tree with hanging tyre TS

Many smartphones include a grid called the Rule of Thirds (or Golden Ratio) comprising of two vertical and two horizontal lines. Try and ensure the focal point of the scene is where the lines intersect and the horizon is near the top or bottom line – but not in the middle. This should result in a photo that is more natural and means there’s less empty space.

 

Tip 5: Controlling the exposure

The exposure is the quantity of light that falls on a sensor, which determines how light or dark a photo will be. Some phones offer more extensive exposure controls than others.

Most phones include filters and a HDR mode, which will be more than adequate for people who are happy just want to point and shoot.

Smartphone interface with camera features

Smartphone users wanting more control should download an app. Snapseed for Android and iOS offers a plethora of exposure tweaks and Camera+ includes scene modes and self-timer.

 

Tip 6: Digital zoom and cropping

Optical zooms are very rare on smartphones, because they are expensive to make and significantly bulk out the phone.

Most cameras zoom in on images digitally, where the pixels are simply made bigger - this apparently gets you in closer, but reduces the quality of the final image. 

Step 2: The Crop tool part 2 before and after

Avoid using digital zoom where possible. One solution is to crop the photograph after you have taken it. Many smartphones shoot at 12-megapixels, which means you can edit out half the picture and it will still be big enough to use, particularly if you are emailing it or uploading it to Facebook.

 

Tip 7: Experiment with filters

Two pictures of Westminster Abbey with different camera filters Two pictures of Westminster Abbey with different camera filters

Filters are a great way of adding atmosphere to a picture. More and more phones have filters built in, or you could download an app like Snapseed or Instagram which come with a wide range of filters

Check out the video below to find out more.

Do you use your smartphone to take photos? Let us know in the Comments below.