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Take great holiday photos from your smartphone

Nowadays, we all travel everywhere with a camera thanks to the great advances of smartphones in recent years. This can be fantastic for holidays as you won’t always have a dedicated camera to hand when you just have to capture a moment.

Whether you’ve invested in a fancy DSLR or solely use your smartphone for pictures, learning how to use your smartphone camera effectively can yield some fantastic results.

Clean the lens

Before you do anything with your smartphone, you first have to make sure that the lens is clean and dust free. Unlike most cameras, smartphone cameras don’t normally have any protection from dirt and dust when they’re not in use, this can make pictures look grainy and blurry so should definitely be addressed. Usually, this can be done simply with a clean dry cloth, although if something is stuck on you can use a cotton swab and some distilled water.

Set up your smartphone camera correctly

You will want to make sure that your camera is set to the highest quality and resolution and that you have turned off any effects, filters, or frames. These effects can always be added back in through editing apps if you really want them, but you shouldn’t have them set to default.

You will also want to turn on auto HDR so the camera can balance the exposure for you on photos that need it – like when you’re taking a picture of your family while simultaneously trying to capture the scenery. You should also set the flash to manual, as there it is rare that the smartphone flash can improve shots.

Composition

Generally, for a good photo, you should focus on one subject, i.e. your family or child with a backdrop that gives your photo context.

One of the best ways to make you photo look balanced is to follow the rule of thirds, something that many camera apps have inbuilt as a grid feature. This rule says that if you divide your image up into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, then you should have your feature points at the intersections of these lines. Having a grid superimposed over your screen as you take a shot can be a great help in making this work for you.

Also, consider taking photos from unexpected angles and make sure that you are close enough to your subject that they are clearly visible on the screen without zoom – being too far away is a very common mistake in phone photography.

holiday pic

Lighting

Good lighting is essential for good photos and doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve, simply getting your subject to stand out of the shade or waiting a few minutes for the sun to come out can be enough. One great feature of smartphone camera apps is that they allow you to pick a focus spot so you can the exposure balance and avoid areas being too dark or too bright.

You should always avoid low light photography with smartphones as the flash almost always makes these photos look unrealistic and the quality is normally very low. Low light photography is something that requires equipment to do properly and is simply not something that smartphones are good at. You should also try to avoid light-source reflections – particularly problematic on metal – as this can disrupt the exposure of your picture.

Post processing

Cropping your photos to change to balance or focus can be incredibly effective, you should always do this over using a digital zoom to take the photo as this will decrease the quality of the picture and you will lose details. Some smartphones these days allow for adjusting the white balance of your pictures which can be fantastically effective for correcting colours.

There is now a fantastic range of photo editing apps available to help you make your photos stand out whether you’re wanting to just make a few tweaks to the brightness and saturation, to customise it with filters, or do some in-depth work with levels.

Top tips for great phone photos

If you’re really keen to get the best snaps possible then you might want to get an external lens for your smartphone. These lenses just clip onto your phone over your camera and allow for optical zoom without risking any loss of resolution.

When taking photos, you will need to have steady hands to make sure your picture doesn’t blur. If you know your hands aren’t the steadiest then set up your shots so you can get support using posts, walls or benches to keep your shot steady. To help with this it’s best to set up your camera so it works on a physical button such as the volume control as tapping the screen can cause the phone to move at exactly the wrong moment.

Finally, don’t simply take photos of the landmarks. If you’re doing that you might as well just buy a postcard, get photos of your family visiting and immortalise a memory not just a place.