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7 Steps To Better Smartphone Photos

In the last couple of years there have been dramatic improvements in the quality of smartphone cameras. More megapixels (for higher resolution), LED flash, autofocus, improved stabilization, face detection and built-in photo editing are just some of the features that have allowed the better smartphones to compete with more traditional stand-alone cameras.

But unfortunately, many of the pictures taken with smartphone cameras continue to be of poor quality. This could still be about inferior equipment but more often it's the result of lack of familiarity with the camera settings and poor photographic technique. Here are 7 tips that will help you get the most out of your smartphone camera – and make you proud of the results:

1. Light your subject well

The number one reason for poor quality smartphone photos is poor lighting. Despite the often-limited camera settings, we put extra strain on the equipment by shooting indoors or in poor light. Try to shoot your subject outdoors or turn up the lights if you have to stay indoors. If your smartphone has optional flash, always use it to boost the amount of light. You can always edit out red-eye later.

2. Get closer

One of the most common mistakes with smartphone photos is that the subject ends up being a tiny unrecognizable object in the distance. Fill up your view finder to save having to zoom in on the subject when you edit later (which can dramatically decrease image quality).

3. Keep still

As with all digital photography, the steadier your camera is when taking the shot, the clearer the image will be. This is especially important in low-light situations where the camera may select longer shutter speeds to compensate for the lack of light. Even if your smartphone camera has image stabilization, lean against a solid object or steady your phone with two hands. Keep in mind that many smartphone cameras suffer from 'shutter lag', which means you have to hold the phone steady for a little longer before moving it away from the shot.

4. Use the camera settings

Most smartphones have a number of easy-to-use camera settings. Spend a few minutes to find out what they are and use them when appropriate. Almost every smartphone will allow you to vary the resolution (go for the highest setting available), the shooting mode (single or multi-shot), the brightness settings, and allow you to zoom in or out. Experiment with the various settings to see what produces the best images. Smartphone cameras are particularly good for experimenting with new angles and perspectives – up high, down low, close up, etc. You can shoot and delete at zero cost until you know what works best for your particular smartphone.

5. Keep your lens clean

Smartphones spend a lot of time in bags and pockets and get treated very differently from cameras. Make sure the lens is clean and not scratched. Fingerprints are a common problem, especially if the smartphone doesn't have a lens cover. Give the lens a wipe with a soft cloth before you start shooting.

6. Use editing software

While some newer smartphones come with built-in editing tools, editing pictures later on your computer will usually produce much better results. Photo-editing software like Photoshop or Picasa can work wonders for your pictures and can be a lot of fun to use. Make sure you take your shots in color and high resolution to keep your options open on how best to deal with them later.

7. Use Instagram

This popular social network can do wonders for your photos by applying a variety of weird and wonderful filters to give them anything from a sepia-toned Butch Cassidy look to a futuristic glow. The Instagram app is available for iOS and Android devices and the latest release includes Photo Maps, which allows you to feature your geo-tagged photos on a map.

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