THE BEST CAMERA, as they say, is the one you
have with you.
Oh sure, your digital-SLR-toting friends might
get their lanyards all tied in a knot about you hoisting your iPhone or Android device. But smartphone
cameras have some advantages when it comes to
editing and sharing your work. To help you get more
out of your summer “phone-ography,” consider the
following tips and tricks.
Turn the phone sideways. Unless you’re taking
a picture of the Empire State Building, use the horizontal (“landscape”) orientation when taking a photo,
as it will look much better on a computer or television
later on (that is, no vertical black bars on each side of
the photo). Besides, a landscape photo is better for
group shots and scenery, as it gets more into the
frame. Speaking of scenery, play around with your
phone’s panoramic mode for ultrawide photos.
Get up close and personal. Don’t be shy. Unless
it’s a large, growling dog, there’s no reason to be 5
feet away from your subject. Fill the whole frame
with your subjects.
Going in closer also means you can capture
more facial detail, such as light freckling, a charming dimple or soft, pale blues of the iris. Don’t use
your phone’s digital zoom, as it might make your
photo look pixelated—get closer yourself. Play
around with how close is too close, though, as that
“macro” shot of a flower petal might look blurry
when you look at it later on.
Use the light around you. Avoid using the flash
wherever possible; instead, try to use the light that’s
accessible, whether it’s overhead lighting while
indoors or, preferably, the sun outside. Cloudy days
are great for photos, as they diffuse the sun.
If the sun is out, be sure your back—and not
your subject’s—is to the sun or the subject will look
like a blacked-out silhouette. The hour before and
after sunset creates gorgeous light for photos.
Be a human tripod. If you can help it, don’t hold
your phone at arm’s length when taking photos.
You’ll probably shake the phone more than you
think, which could result in blurry images. Instead,
turn yourself into a human tripod by holding the
camera with both hands and pulling your arms into
your chest or stomach. You might look a little silly,
but you’ll see the difference with your sturdier grip.
Position for composition. Instead of placing your
subjects in the center of the frame all the time, move
them to the left or right to make your photos instantly
more powerful and beautiful. Better yet, go in on an
angle to add extra energy to the shot. Also, try to
match the height of the subject, such as by kneeling on
the ground to snap a picture of a toddler, to ensure
you’re at eye level instead of angling up or down.
Have fun with filters. Phone cameras usually
include filters as part of the software, but there are
numerous apps that can help you easily edit and
share photos and videos. Some automatically tweak
your shots for better color and brightness. Apps like
Instagram can add fun filters, such as a sepia finish
or a retro ’70s look. Snapchat adds fun animated
effects to your pics. Literally thousands of apps are
available, for all platforms, so experiment away.
Back up, back up, back up. There’s nothing
worse than losing your smartphone and never having backed up all those photos on it. There are many
ways to back them up. One is to plug your phone
into your PC or Mac every night to charge it up, and
check off the option to back up everything onto the
Another option is to take advantage of a free
password-protected “cloud” service—like OneDrive,
Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive or Google Photos—
and have it upload all of your phone’s photos whenever you snap them. To save cellular data, you can
select to upload only over Wi-Fi.
Finally, some USB thumb drives are wireless
and let you back up photos and videos from a
phone. It’s worth safeguarding your memories. C
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes
to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of
15 books. He’s on Twitter
Saltzman will answer selected
questions in this column.
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The Costco Connection
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Tips for (great) smartphone photos
The Costco Connection
Consider an upgrade for your phone in the Wireless
Center at your local Costco or at Costco.com. Also,
Costco provides a wide variety of photo services
at the Photo Center in the warehouses and on
Costco.com. For prints and canvas prints on the
go, download the Costco app for iPhone and select