Take better photos and videos on your smartphone with these tips


No more family and friends, the kids tearing up their presents and the table is beautifully set – so how do you go about immortalizing those cherished vacation memories?

As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you – and for about 85% of Americans, that would be a smartphone.

If so, while these devices are a lot more impressive than smartphones from even, say, five years ago, you could probably benefit from some simple ‘phonography’ tips to make sure those magical moments are captured. exactly the way you want it.

After all, your digital photos and videos will not only be viewed throughout your life, but also by future generations.

Some simple suggestions:

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Do not use digital zoom

Get closer by walking towards your subject with your smartphone or using the camera’s optical zoom to magnify the image. Avoid digital zoom, however, which is a software trick that can simulate getting close to the subject, but can cause photos to appear blurry or pixelated.

Get up close and personal

On a related note, fill the entire frame with your topics – as opposed to too much headroom around them. Unless you’re trying to get into a lot of scenery, getting up close also means you can capture more detail on the face, such as slight freckles, a charming dimple, or the soft, pale blue of the iris.

Go left (or right)

Memorable photos need great composition. Instead of always placing your subjects in the center of the frame – which most amateur photographers do – move them left or right so your photos instantly become more powerful and beautiful. You might hear professional photographers refer to a “rule of thirds,” which involves dividing a scene into two vertical lines and two horizontal lines and placing your subject where the four lines intersect (think y as a tic-tac-toe); our eyes naturally look at one of these intersection points.

Turn the phone on its side

Unless you are trying to capture a large Christmas tree, use “landscape” orientation when taking photos and recording videos to enjoy them more, especially with group photos. Holding your phone horizontally will also create more beautiful photos when viewed on a computer or widescreen TV (i.e. without vertical black bars on either side of the image).

The Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone (left) and the Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphone.

Enjoy the cloudy days

Outdoors, try to resist the use of flash if you can, as natural light is much better. Cloudy days are perfect because they diffuse the sun. If the weather is nice, however, make sure your back is facing the sun – not your subjects – otherwise they will look like a figure. The same goes for shooting indoors near a window. Review what you have taken afterwards and do it again if necessary.

Hold your phone steady

Have you ever held your camera at arm’s length to take a photo? Try to avoid this as your hands might shake a bit. To get a good sharp image (photo or video), hold the camera with both hands and pull your arms towards your chest or stomach to stabilize the shot. You can also grab a cheap tripod or put your phone on a table and set a timer.

Angle is everything

When taking photos or videos, try to match the height of the subject, for example, kneeling on the floor to take a photo of a toddler (for example, enthusiastically reaching for a stocking). You will get better photos at eye level rather than tilting the phone up or down which can feel awkward when previewing images.

Free kicks are keepers

Do not always take pictures of people posing for the camera, as their expressions may appear forced and predictable. Some of the best photos of subjects are taken when they don’t realize they’re being photographed, but be sure to get their permission before uploading to social media.

Apply it

These tools are already included with your phone, but there are also third-party apps to help you easily edit photos and videos, and share them with your friends and family. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat can add fun filters as well, ranging from a sepia brown finish and retro ’70s look to fun augmented reality effects. There are thousands of apps available, for all platforms, so experiment.

Don’t forget the sound

Don’t underestimate the importance of loud, clear sound when recording videos. It could be as important as the picture. As above, get close to your subject to capture good sound, or consider investing in an external microphone (wired or wireless). Or, if you have a second smartphone (which doesn’t need a SIM card), place it closer to the source, then change the two together later.

Happy Holidays!

Follow Marc Saltzman on Twitter for his “Tech of the Day” articles: @marc_saltzman. Or subscribe to his weekly Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts.


John C. Dent