Five tips for taking professional looking photos with your smartphone

Want to take better photographs with your iPhone or Android smartphone? Here are my top tips.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

iPhone 6 Plus panorama taken in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

The smartphone has become the camera that everyone has on hand. And it is a very capable camera. But the following tips will help you take your photography to the next level.

Ditch the stock app

The stock photography app that comes with the iPhone and Android handsets it good, but choosing a better app will - usually - result in better photos.

For the iPhone, my favorite app is Camera+. It's not a free app - the iPhone version costs $2.99 - but it offers a wide range of professional grade features such as separate exposure and focus control, stabilizer and burst mode, and even a long exposure features.

For Android, an app worth taking a look at is Open Camera. Not only does this offer a wide range of pro features, it's also free, open source, and feels no ads.

HDR can really help

Most photography apps have a feature called HDR - which stands for High Dynamic Range. It can help pull out detail in certain situations. For example:

  • Landscape photos
  • Low-light situations
  • Backlit scenes
  • Portraits taken in sunlight

Try it. Most apps offer the ability to take an HDR and a regular photo, so you can choose the best and learn when HDR helps and when it doesn't.

Burst mode

Burst mode is another awesome feature that most camera apps have. It allows you to press the shutter button to take a stream of photos, which you can sort through to find the best shot later.

For fast-moving scenes, burst mode can make the differences between getting the shot and missing the shot.

Use a tripod

You can fix most things, but if your photo is blurry - or as the pros call is, soft - then there's not much you can do to save it. This is where a tripod really comes into play.

There are two different kinds of smartphone tripod:

  • A small "pocket" tripod that you can put on a table or the hood of our car to take a quick shot. Something like the GorillaPod.
  • An adapter that allows you to attach a smartphone to a full-sized tripod, such as the Manfrotto Universal Clamp.

Clip-on lenses

Another way to take your photography to the next level is to use clip-on lenses that fit over the existing camera lens. There are a variety of lenses available, including telephoto, wide-angle, and macro.

For an idea of what's available, take a look at a kit such as the Olloclip.

Essential Android and iPhone accessories

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