It’s easy to take better photos with your Android smartphone, you just need to break out of the comfort zone that is Auto mode. Here are KtsSolution’s best tips and tricks for taking better pictures with Android, which we’ve updated following some great suggestions in our comments.
Clean your lens
As KtsSolution reader Jim Davidson pointed out, the first place to start when trying to take a good picture is to clean your smartphone’s camera lens. These frequently become dirty and the results will be a blurry image. Every time you go to take a picture, give the lens a quick wipe on your T-shirt first to sweep away any grime.
Shoot in landscape
We have become accustomed to a 16:9 media format and as a consequence, pictures shot in portrait just tend to look awkward now. Unless there is an important reason that you would need a taller shot (like, say, shooting a picture of theFernsehturm from a close distance), pictures are almost always better in landscape. Thanks to Sean Stockemer for the suggestion.
Avoid using the flash (most of the time)
Even on a DSLR camera, the flash function is generally best saved for emergencies. If you can use natural light to illuminate your picture, you always should, because you want your pictures to look natural, don’t you?
There is a time and a place for the LED flash on smartphone cameras, but because it tends to be located very close to the lens, it can have a nasty glaring effect. If natural light isn’t quite enough, increase the exposure value (EV) and ISO on your camera. Bear in mind that increasing ISO will also increase the graininess or ‘noise’ in your pictures.
The exception to this rule, as suggested by BruinGuy, is when taking pictures in daylight when the sun is behind the subject of your picture. Of course, where you can help it, the sun should be behind your camera, but when you can’t avoid this, try using the flash to illuminate the faces or details that would otherwise be in shadow.
Don’t use digital zoom – EVER!
Digital zoom is notorious for destroying smartphone photos. Unless your camera has an optical zoom, where the camera lens actually protrudes out of your device (like the actually-not-great Samsung Galaxy K Zoom), all zooming does is enlarge and crop the picture.
“Can’t I just do that after I’ve taken the photo?” I hear you ask. Well, yes, you can – that’s the point! Digital zoom merely narrows the editing options for your picture. Take fully zoomed-out photos, then crop them manually if you want to.
Check details of your best, worst and Auto photos
We all have some photos that come out incredibly well and others that are pretty awful. Whenever you take either a great or terrible photo, check the ‘Details’ of the photo to see what ISO, exposure time and aperture it had.
This way, you’ll slowly learn which settings on your smartphone work best with which light conditions. This is particularly useful for ‘Auto’ photos, so you can get a feel for the settings your camera resorts to by default and adjust them accordingly.
Use HDR mode
HDR is a great mode for taking photos of stationary objects, as long as you have steady hands. HDR (high dynamic range) mode ensures that the lighting and shadows in the photo are evenly exposed. This is particularly useful for photos with high contrast.
HDR mode takes two or more pictures of varying exposures almost simultaneously, then combines the best and brightest bits of both into one photo. You need to keep the camera super-steady, otherwise, your photo will come out blurred.
Use the post-processing filters
There are plenty of people out there who pour scorn onto all the lovely filters you can enhance your photos with. But for casual smartphone photographers, those retro, black-and-white, Windmere, Islandia, and other hipster filters can really add character to a photo. Most Android smartphones come with a great selection of filters, but if you’re running a bit short, try Pixlr (formerly Pixlr Express) for a great selection.
The ‘reflective sunglasses’ trick
If you have a pair of sunglasses with a reflective coating on the lens, you can use them to capture a good perspective for your shots, like in the example below. The light source should always be reflected off the lens to help you better capture the scene or action that’s in your view.
Make one subject appear several times in a Panorama shot
The Google Camera app has been available in the Play Store for some time now, so anyone running Android 4.4 KitKat or higher can grab it for their Android device. In the app, you can use the Panorama function to pan horizontally across a scene and capture an entire landscape.
For a spooky effect, get the subject of your panorama shot to move with the camera so that they appear more than once in the image. The key to making this work is holding the camera steady while you’re also moving the subject, so it’s good to have someone helping you.
The rule of thirds
This is one of the simplest rules for photography, yet it’s invaluable for making your photo compositions look great. The idea is that our eyes are naturally attracted to images that are divided into thirds, where the subject of the photo is slightly off-centre.
To help you achieve this, most smartphone cameras let you use a grid of two horizontal and two vertical lines when taking photos. The subject of your photo should be at one of the four intersections of these lines to theoretically get the most visually pleasing photo. Give it a go!
Augmented color reality
Colorify Augmented Reality is a fairly unknown app in the Google Play Store. With it, you can change the color of a garment or object to anything you want. The more contrast in the photo, the better it works.
It’s also worth noting that Colorify will replace the color on all objects in the photo from the same palette, as can be seen in our example photo below, where the app changed the color of the denim as well as the trainer.
This is one of the cooler photo-editing tricks. You can turn your panoramic photos into globes, in an effect known as Tiny Planet. We recommend two apps that you can use to accomplish this effect.
The first one, Tiny Planet FX, isn’t free, but has some spectacular options for customizing the effect. The second app, Small Planet, is free. It takes a little fiddling around in order to get used to it, but once you do, you can create some truly spectacular snaps.
There are hundreds of ways to boost your smartphone photography. Which are your favorites? If you have a tip on how to take better photos with your Android phone that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below.