How to Take Better Smartphone Photos

May 18, 2015 • Devin Partida


The modern smartphone’s camera has put a digital camera-quality machine in nearly everyone’s pocket.

However, while the camera on iPhones and Droid devices are certainly much higher quality than their flip phone predecessors, that doesn’t mean that they’re perfect.

Here a few tips to make the most out of your smartphone’s camera:

Press the Volume Button to Take a Selfie

In a hundred years, when historians are examining the rise of the smartphone and its photography capabilities, they may have trouble figuring out if the need for the selfie created the rear-facing camera or if the rear-facing camera created the selfie. Either way, the selfie craze does not seem to be going away anytime soon, and if you want to have even a chance of keeping up with all of the snaps your friends send you, you need to stop struggling to maintain a pose while straining to reach the on-screen button with your thumb.

The solution is simple, but a total game-changer: Just press the volume control button on the side to take a picture when the rear-facing camera is on. I can confirm this trick works on the iPhone 5, and it apparently works on other iPhone and Droid devices as well.

Take Photos From Far Away …

One time, I was out on a clear night and the moon looked absolutely incredible. It was a full moon and through some astronomical phenomenon I am completely ignorant of, it seemed closer to Earth than naturally possible. I instinctually took out my phone, lined up a nice shot and pretty much got a picture of the immense dark sky and a shiny dot that my friends later bemusedly assured me they could definitely tell was the moon.

If I had access to a telescope, or even a pair of binoculars, it could have been a totally different story. All you need to do is line the lens of your smartphone up with where you’d put your eye and suddenly you have a decent telescopic camera.

taking a photo

… and From Way up Close

Of course, this trick also works when you want to see something other than distant objects. If you want to get microscopic, here are some tips on how to build your own microscope attachment for your smartphone for only $10. It’s capable of magnification up to 375x; a little higher than you get when you try zooming in after you’ve snapped a photo.

Focus Better

If your phone keeps focusing on the wrong thing – an irrelevant piece of scenery in the foreground, an irreverent photobomber in the background, etc. – then there is another simple fix that might work depending on what you phone you have. When you have your screen up, ready to take a picture, simply tap the area you want the camera to focus on before you take it. This works wonders when you want to send someone a picture of a paper or form they need to be able to read.

Take Multiple Photos

Remember – although there’s a good chance you might not remember this at all anyway – you’re not using a film camera anymore. There is no need to make everyone stand there and pose, take one shot and then discover later that someone’s eyes were closed or that the annoying photobomber was back. When you have everyone standing there, just take four or five shots and then pick the best one to save on your phone. It takes seconds to take more pictures, so you might as well increase the chances of snapping a good one while you have everyone together.

What are your smartphone photo tricks? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!