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BEACON Senior News

6 tips for getting the most out of your camera phone

Jun 01, 2022 11:46AM ● By Adam Cochran

My grandpa was an unofficial photographer in the Army during World War II. Although he was officially a stenographer, he took a lot of pictures of the airfield and the places he was stationed.

Standard fashion in my family has always included a camera hung on a strap around the neck.

My mom and dad were both photographers for their high school student newspaper. 

My grandpa took a lot of photos of parked airplanes and scenery, but also chronicled every family moment with a formal group photo.Birthdays, Christmases, vacations and anywhere else that could be remotely defined as memorable always included a ceremony where we stood for Grandpa as he took five to 10 pictures. 

Then, he would announce, “Now a few more with my slide film.” And a second camera would come up to his face for a second round.

When he finally bought a video camera, it added a third rite to this ceremony.

One of my favorite family gatherings as a kid was going over to Grandpa’s for a slideshow of recent events as well as really old photos from the late 1950s and early 1960s when my mom was my age. When I watched these slide shows, I noticed that I always loved the candid pictures he took far more than the posed pictures. There weren’t many of them, but the candid pictures always had stories in addition to people and places.

When I was old enough to get my own camera, I fell in love with candid photography. I loved how it captured moments that would never happen again and gave me the ability to remember entire days with a single image.

Like most people, I scoffed at the idea of a camera phone when they first came out. I had barely acquired enough faith in digital photography to sell my film camera. But, like everyone else, I quickly adapted and realized that my phone camera was just perfect.

When photographers are asked, “What’s the best camera?” The standard answer is, “The one you have with you.” 

The features of camera phones are fairly limited, but the ubiquitous availability makes them superior to the Polaroid, Kodak Brownie or that 110 camera with the cube flash you had in 1982.

The versatility and constant access to a camera phone also means that you can use it differently than any previous type of camera. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your camera phone.

1. Shoot horizontally for horizontal subjects. This is especially true of video, but your picture will be far more spectacular and the composition will be better if you learn to shoot horizontal photos. Your computer screen is horizontal, so photos that need to fill the screen should be shot that way, too.

2. Apply filters later. Many apps allow you to shoot pictures in black and white or apply cool special effects filters. Most programs also allow you to apply the filters to existing photos. If you apply the filter after you take the photo, you will have both the altered and unaltered photo in your archive.

3. Only zoom as much as your optical zoom can handle. If your camera has two lenses, then you can probably zoom in 2x. If your camera only has one lens, then you actually can’t zoom in at all. When you pinch to zoom, it doesn’t actually zoom the subject closer than 2x, it just makes the pixels in the image larger and more distorted. You will get better results if you take the photo using the highest lens magnification and then crop and enlarge the photo afterwards. 

4. Take stills while shooting video. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you want to film a video or take still images of a once-in-a-lifetime memory. If you shoot a video, you don’t have to choose between the two. All camera phones that shoot video have a button that allows you to take still photos while filming. On less expensive phones, this is sometimes just a single frame from the video, but most higher-end phones actually take the still photo at higher resolution. HD video is only 2 megapixels, so getting the full 10+ megapixels can only happen with a still image.

5. Back up your photos. Amazon Prime subscribers get free unlimited photo backup. If you are a Prime subscriber, make sure to download the Amazon Photos app. Every time you open it, all of your photos will be backed up to your Amazon account.

6. Use your camera as a tool. The best piece of advice I can give you is to remember that your camera can act as a photographic memory. When you can’t read a label, use your camera phone and zoom in on the small text. If you buy an item from the store and the tag is missing, take a picture of the sign with the item number. If you need to remember where you parked, take pictures of the surroundings, signs and landmarks to help you find your way back.

Click here for more smartphone camera tips

You have one of the greatest inventions of all time on your person every waking hour of the day. Always try to get the most out of it. Smartphones can be frustrating and difficult to figure out, but the more you use your phone for activities that enrich your life, the sooner you will learn how to use it efficiently.  

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