This is a secret: You do not want an costly digicam to get nice images. Positive, it will probably assist, and there are some images solely a “real” camera can take. Nevertheless, you may be shocked at how good your images could be simply using your phone or an affordable digicam. Studying the following pointers and methods will provide help to should you ever improve to a giant digicam too.

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Who am I to offer this recommendation? I am a journey author and photographer, with over 150 photo galleries here on CNET taken all around the world. I’ve an costly digicam, positive, however I additionally use my telephone greater than you’d count on. 

There’s an overused, however nonetheless true, adage: The most effective digicam is the one you have got with you. So if you may get images you want with out spending cash on a digicam you would possibly solely use a few times a yr, even higher.

Whereas every telephone is barely completely different in its {hardware} and digicam app, I’ve saved the next ideas normal sufficient that they need to work on nearly each gadget. Dearer telephones can typically take larger high quality pictures than cheaper phones, however it’s best to be capable of get nice outcomes it doesn’t matter what you have got. Additionally, should you’re confused by any of the terminology, there is a glossary of some often-used digicam phrases on the backside.

For extra, here is how one can take great vacation videos with your phone camera and a few tips for getting great shots even if your phone is old. Plus, listed below are the seven things you should always pack if you journey and what journey veterans suggest before leaving on vacation.

1. Clear the lens

Fingerprint smudges on a smartphone.

Does your telephone display screen appear like this? I wager the digicam does too. Few issues can enhance the standard of your images greater than a clear digicam lens.

Serhii Shleihel/GettyImages

I can not stress sufficient how vital that is. Properly, I suppose I can stress it since I am placing it first. I am amazed how usually I see washed out and smudged pictures which might be the results of fingerprints or different schmutz on the digicam lens. Simply cleansing your lens will enhance the standard of your pictures most likely greater than some other tip. 

How usually? I actually verify my digicam lens earlier than each group of images. Vital ones, anyway. Telephone comes out of my pocket, I verify the digicam lens. 

Ideally, you will use a microfiber cloth, the identical type that comes with glasses/sun shades. If not, even a gentle shirt can be nice. Nothing tough or coarse. 

You probably have an actual digicam, all the time (all the time all the time all the time) use a lens cap. I get such anxiousness once I see individuals pull a digicam from a bag, or have it dangling round their neck, and there is not any lens cap. Scratches are even worse than smudges since they completely lower the picture high quality potential with the lens. Lenses are the eyeballs of your digicam. Deal with them as such. 

Should you’re frightened about shedding your lens cap, or hate juggling it whilst you’re dealing with your digicam, check out cheap lens cap straps. They’re nice.

2. Faucet the display screen

A photo of the camera app on a Google Pixel at sunset.

The digicam app on a Google Pixel


This all the time appeared apparent to me, however I’ve usually triggered “ah-ha!” moments giving this recommendation. When lining up your shot, if it would not look proper, faucet the display screen. Most telephones are fairly good at determining what you are attempting to {photograph}, however not all the time. Tapping in your topic, an individual, animal, factor, no matter, and modifications the main target and publicity.

This is an instance. Say you wish to take a photograph of your associate on the seashore at sundown. Three lovely issues in a single photograph: associate, setting solar, ocean. The seashore too I suppose except you don’t like sand. That is known as a backlit photograph, and it is extraordinarily exhausting to do. Most frequently, your associate can be underexposed (see the terminology part under), as in they will look darkish/shadowed. 

With most telephone and digicam apps, you possibly can inform the digicam the place to reveal the picture. On this case, in your associate. The solar will then be overexposed (blown out), however you will nonetheless get the thought it is a sundown and you’ll see your associate, which is mostly the purpose, proper? In case your telephone is ready to take HDR photos, this picture will look higher than if it will probably’t. 

There’s some enhancing you are able to do to make a photograph like this look higher, however that may solely go to this point. We’ll get to enhancing a little bit later. 

3. Do not use the flash

A man taking a photo with his camera and flash.

Should you’re this near your topic, positive, attempt the flash. Most telephones and cameras have first rate low-light capabilities, so the picture would possibly look higher with the flash turned off. It is value checking.

Jenner Photographs/Getty Photographs

There is no such factor as digicam flash on a telephone. They’re all horrible. Even the massive add-on flashes for full-size cameras solely work in sure conditions. Consider it or not, generally you will get a greater photograph turning the flash off utterly. Not 100% of the time, nevertheless, so it is value attempting each choices. 

That is very true should you’re utilizing a full-size digicam with built-in flash. In each scenic place I’ve ever been there’s at the least one individual attempting to take a panorama photograph and their flash fires. Flashes, even the perfect, solely work inside a couple of ft of the topic. Not solely will they do nothing for landscapes, they will wear down your battery faster at finest, and mess with the publicity at worst. 

You may flip off the flash in your digicam app’s settings. Extra on that under.

There’s such a factor as a Slow Sync Flash photography that may be nice when attempting to {photograph} individuals in entrance of a twilight or night time panorama. I would classify this as a bit extra superior, however with a little bit of apply the outcomes could be nice!

4. Get a selfie stick

Grandparents getting ready to skydive taking a selfie with a selfie stick.

Grandma’s gonna discover that reindeer and enact revenge.

Geber86/Getty Photographs

Selfie sticks are good. I’ve apishly lengthy arms and I nonetheless have one, although I usually use it for my 360 camera. My 80-year-old dad has one. They’re nice. Individuals ought to take extra images of themselves, of their household and buddies, the whole lot. I truthfully do not get the hate. Photographs are nice! Protect no matter reminiscences you possibly can. Future you’ll thanks. 

To place it extra pragmatically, a selfie stick will allow you to get a wider area of view of your self, the individuals you are with, and the place you might be. It simply makes for a greater photograph. 

Once you’re utilizing them, definitely be cautious of your instant environment and the individuals close to you. Some places, particularly crowded or harmful ones, have a tendency to limit selfie stick utilization. Preserve an eye fixed out for signage.

5. Get a greater angle

A picture of a sleepy pug in the sun.

That is Smeagol and he’s a Very Good Boy.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Most individuals simply deliver the telephone or digicam as much as eye degree and take the photograph. Typically that is nice, however you possibly can usually get much better outcomes with a special angle. Attempt holding the digicam above your head and goal down. Photographing individuals from under tends to be somewhat unflattering, however barely above usually seems nice. Should you’re taking an image of a child or animal, get all the way down to their degree. A canine’s-eye-view of a canine is sort of all the time a extra fascinating photograph than a human’s-eye-view of a canine. 

That is a facet the place a selfie stick helps. Prolong it out and you’ll simply body that epic photograph of you and the fam on the Grand Canyon the place you possibly can see you, the fam, and the Grand Canyon as an alternative of you, elements of the fam, and a sliver of the Grand Canyon.

6. Study your app’s settings and modes

The different menus and screens of the iPhone's camera app.

Altering the default settings in your telephone’s digicam app can have huge outcomes.


Almost each telephone’s digicam app is able to a wide range of completely different photograph types. I am all the time shocked to see how many individuals don’t know. Portrait mode, landscape mode and night mode all allow you to take vastly extra fascinating images than the fundamental mode, all with only a few faucets on the display screen. Test them out, see what they do. 

So far as settings go, typically the inventory ones needs to be nice. It is value checking to ensure it is taking the highest-resolution it will probably and that the flash is turned off (see No. 3). Some apps allow you to shoot RAW, extra information on that within the phrases part under.

I would additionally suggest enabling handbook controls, if out there. They’re going to simply take a couple of minutes to be taught and they need to provide help to get the photograph you need when, like described in No. 2, the digicam itself is struggling to take action.

Enjoyable truth: Many digicam apps have the choice to make use of one of many telephone’s buttons because the shutter. If it is too exhausting so that you can faucet the display screen whereas holding the telephone, maybe utilizing the amount button as an alternative can be simpler. There are additionally timer features that provide you with a countdown of some seconds to get your pose and folks prepared.

Learn extra: How to Use the iPhone’s ProRaw Mode to Make Your Photos Look Better Than Before

7. Modifying

Observe the completely different enhancing prospects biking via on the correct.


Almost each nice digital photograph you have ever seen has gone via some quantity of enhancing. Colloquially that is known as “Photoshopping” however you needn’t pay Adobe for a subscription to that particular program. The truth is, there are a variety of free choices. Your telephone might need some inbuilt to its gallery already. Instagram has some nice changes too. Past these, try CNET’s best free and paid photo editing apps for iPhone and Android.

The simplest method to be taught is to simply decide a photograph and see what all of the choices do. Visually, it is going to be fairly apparent what issues like distinction, brightness, and so forth really do. Most of them do the same thing on your TV, should you’re . 

Slight tweaks to distinction, brightness, and shade will do wonders for any picture. You may “slap a filter on it,” positive, however beginning with a greater base picture will often make it look higher after you apply a filter too.

Bonus! Cloud backup

Apple iCloud icon on a smartphone


Whereas not a digicam tip per se, I very strongly suggest getting some kind of cloud backup on your images. Built-in together with your telephone which means that everytime you’re on Wi-Fi all of your images will get backed as much as the cloud. With an actual digicam you possibly can obtain them to the digicam’s telephone app, and often they will get despatched to the cloud from there. Typically, like with GoPro, there’s an additional step required to save lots of them to your telephone’s gallery.

With a cloud backup should you lose your telephone or digicam, you will not lose your images. This saved me in a giant approach once I obtained robbed on an in a single day prepare in Italy, and one other time when a tough drive crashed on me. 

Additionally, always remember, there are solely two kinds of exhausting drives: People who have failed, and people that can fail.

Try our six ways to keep your photos safe in case of an emergency and best cloud storage services for 2022.

When to improve

As you get to know your telephone’s digicam, you will begin to discover its limitations. A restricted zoom goes to be the obvious, adopted by noise within the picture, a scarcity of settings, and so forth. A few of you’ll begin wanting extra. It is a logical development, one I bounded via myself, from cheap choices to increasingly more costly choices. It is a expensive passion, to make certain. Buying used can help.

I like to recommend trying out my Best Camera for Summer Travel article as a subsequent step. It is aimed in direction of trip/journey choices, however ought to provide you with an concept what’s on the market and what the improve steps appear like.

Phrases and phrases and stuff

You will discover these phrases when studying about precise cameras, in addition to about telephone cameras and inside apps.

Vast angle: A sort of lens that usually captures greater than what you’d see together with your eyes in a single look. The entire forest as an alternative of a single tree, so to talk.

The Root Glacier between the mountains in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

A large angle photograph, taken with my telephone, of the Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias Nationwide Park. Observe the tiny individuals within the decrease left.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Telephoto: The tree, not the forest. Telephoto lenses allow you to seize pictures the place you appear proper up near a topic however have been really distant.

Hikers make their way across a glacier.

Standing in the identical place because the above photograph, however with a 135mm telephoto lens on a Canon R6. These are the identical hikers, a couple of minutes earlier, as they made their approach throughout the glacier. Observe how a lot nearer they appear.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

SLR/DSLR: Single Lens Reflex/Digital Single Lens Reflex. Traditionally the “huge, actual digicam.” Often a shorthand for a digicam the place you possibly can change the lenses. Step by step being changed, even amongst costly cameras, with mirrorless variations.

Mirrorless: Missing the transferring mirror present in all SLR/DSLR cameras. What this implies for you is the cameras are barely smaller and lighter. Provided in all kinds of costs. On the prime finish they’re changing skilled DSLRs. 

35mm equal: Refers to 35 millimeter movie, the outdated customary, as a method to describe how broad, or telephoto, a lens is. For instance, a 35mm-equivalent 12mm lens is broad, a 100mm lens is telephoto. Used as a relative reference for the reason that precise focal size will differ relying on the scale of the picture sensor. 

Optical zoom: That is the one actual zoom. Makes use of glass or plastic lenses to make a topic seem nearer. 

Digital zoom: Greatest to think about this as “faux” zoom. It merely crops the picture, after which upconverts it. Does not make the topic extra detailed, simply bigger. OK if there is not any different possibility, however the picture high quality is vastly inferior to optical zoom.

Underexposed: A topic or picture that is darker than desired.

Overexposed: A topic or picture that is brighter than desired.

RAW: A picture format that is simply very evenly processed information from the picture sensor. On the skilled degree, RAW information are used nearly completely as there may be extra vary out there to edit. Nevertheless, you should be educated with photograph enhancing and have an app/software program that may edit your digicam/telephone’s RAW information. Not for newcomers.

In addition to protecting TV and different show tech, Geoff does photograph excursions of cool museums and locations around the world, together with nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips, and extra. Try Tech Treks for all his excursions and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, together with a sequel. You may observe his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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