Genius Guide: Master your cameraphone

With the latest mobiles rocking pin-sharp cameras that put most compacts to shame, you can no longer blame your smartphone when your photos are a blurry mess. If your shots are brown, grainy messes, chances are you need a few photography tips. This guide will set you straight in just a few minutes, so start flexing that trigger finger and get ready for photography infamy!

Once you've browsed our guide, you might want to check out our Best Cameraphones Round-up, and our Photo App Watch for playing with your pics.

Pump up the megapixels

Nokia Lumia 710 Camera

Most modern smartphones come with a minimum resolution of five megapixels, often stretching to eight-megapixel  and beyond. It's a fair argument that these higher resolutions are a little excessive if you're just planning on sharing photos over Facebook, but you might as well use the finer detail levels if you've got storage space to spare. Some phones use a lower resolution by default, so check the camera settings to bump it up.

Of course, if your phone's built-in storage or memory card is filling up fast, you'll want to knock the megapixels down a notch. Around three megapixels still gives you crisp photos when viewed on a TV or monitor, and uses less space.

Light it up

The Nokia N8 boasts a powerful Xenon flash


Most phone cameras struggle in low light, resulting in grainy or dark shots. Thankfully a lot of modern smartphones also have a built-in flash which helps considerably, but if your phone is missing a flash, there are other options.

Many phones come with a night mode, which keeps the shutter open longer to let in more light. The only problem is that even tiny hand motions result in blurry shots. Try resting your phone on a ledge or some other solid surface to keep it steady, or maybe invest in a tripod (see ‘Accessories' boxout) if you take a lot of evening shots.

You should also think about lighting when you're snapping in the daytime. If you're shooting a person, try to keep the sun off to one side. Your subject will be a shadowy blur if the sun's behind them, or will end up squinting painfully if it's behind you.

Perfect portraits

Get up close to your subject!

Don't stand miles away from your subject so they're a tiny blob in the photo. Get up close and try to capture them in a natural state, which always makes for more interesting pictures. Never use the digital zoom function, as the resulting shots will be grainy, pixellated and generally pants. Avoid using a flash unless absolutely necessary, as your victim could end up flinching or appear washed-out.

Also consider the background of the shot. A busy, complicated scene behind your subject will make for a messy portrait. You want the focus to be on the person, so try to shoot them against a plain background, and especially avoid shooting against bright lights or banners.

Holiday memories

If you're on holiday, try to expand beyond the usual clichéd photos of famous monuments (especially with red-faced family members pretending to push them over or balance a finger on top). Look instead for interesting details and scenes that highlight the difference in culture – a food stall filled with colourful spices or an impromptu street football match can make for an excellent photo, and bring back vivid memories of a fantastic day.

Don't forget that many phones can also geo-tag your photos using GPS. This gives an exact location for each shot, so you can show the world where you've roamed and remember precisely where those drunken bar crawl pics were taken.

Editing your shots

Edit your photos with PicsArt for Android

If you own a Windows Phone or Android handset (pre-Ice Cream Sandwich), you'll have to download an app to edit your snaps direct on screen (see ‘Photo Apps' boxout). However, the latest version of iOS allows you to mess around with shots directly in the iPhone's gallery.

Open a photo in the gallery and you'll see an ‘Edit' button in the top right corner. Hit this and a toolbar appears at the bottom of the screen, with some basic tools for editing the photo. The arrow icon rotates the photo, while the wand icon is an ‘auto-enhance' feature that brightens and sharpens dull, fuzzy shots. The third icon removes red eye, and the fourth allows you to crop out unwanted details, like that drunken uncle gurning at the edge of a family portrait.

Edit photos directly on your iPhone

For best results, you should wait until you get home and edit your photos on your computer. Some pics that look decent on a tiny phone screen often appear grainy or blurry when viewed on a larger display, and editors such as PhotoShop give you a wide range of tools for cleaning up ropey shots.

Keep it clean

If your camera lens gets dusty, it could ruin your photos

Your phone no doubt spends a lot of time nestled in your pocket or handbag, covered in dust and fluff - the biggest nemesis of camera lenses. A smattering of dust can ruin a photo, so make sure you clean off your lens before each shot. We're not saying carry a cloth around, but a quick wipe with a sleeve helps to clear any debris and keep your pics sharp.

Battery blues

Taking photos all day is a massive drain on your mobile's battery, especially if you're using the flash a lot. Video saps the power even quicker, so if you're exploring a new place and want to capture plenty of precious memories to bore friends and relatives back home, make sure your phone is fully charged before setting off.

Alternatively, you can use a portable battery charger like the PowerFreakz Evolution Solar 3000 to top up your battery on the move.

Tablet snapper?

Motorola Xoom 2 camera

We were surprised on a recent trip to the States, when we noticed lots of people using their tablets to snap photos of touristy sights. For one it looks ridiculous, wielding a cumbersome rectangular device to shoot your other half as they pose awkwardly beside a statue. Why use a tablet when you could snap away with your smartphone instead? It's like climbing into a tank just to drive to your local Tesco.

Tablet cameras are also renowned for being rubbish. Even photos taken with the mighty iPad 2 are grainier than a Shredded Wheat sandwich. However, we have to admit we were impressed by the Motorola Xoom 2: Media Edition, which captures surprisingly sharp and vibrant images, even in low light. Tablets can also be useful for editing your pics, thanks to the spacious screens and dedicated photo editing apps.

If you're ready to take some photographic masterpieces but your mobile isn't up to the task, check out our guide to the Best Cameraphones for 2012.

Written by Mobile Choice
Mobile Choice

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