Don’t want to spend tons of money on a professional-grade camera, but still want to capture the moment? Believe it or not, smartphones offer up everything you need to take awesome shots and edit them in one compact device.

Here are some top tips for taking photos, cropping pictures, lightening up the subject, using filters, adjusting color balance and more to make your shots something truly special.

Taking Your Photos

Most smartphone cameras have a variety of pre-installed settings designed to help capture that great shot so you don’t have to mess with any manual adjustments. It’s one of the reasons they’re so perfect as your photographic buddy.

For example, use the portrait setting for focusing on a face, or night mode if you want to lighten up the subjects in a dark place.

But don’t get carried away and over think which mode to use, because you’ll end up missing the actual moment. Portrait photographer Sarah Evans says you’ll get much better shots by being spontaneous, rather than worrying about which mode to switch your camera to.

She says try to find a new angle, don’t just stick to the same spot. You can even find unusual angles by lying on the ground or moving round in a circle to get a completely new perspective.

Although you might find that your smartphone has more features than you’ll ever need, the focus option is your secret weapon. If you tap the screen on the subject of the photo, it will focus in and sharpen on that particular part of the photo.

Editing Your Photos

Once you’ve captured the photo, it’s time for some editing. Most smartphones feature preinstalled editing suites, but your app store also offers a wide selection of options, and many are free. The majority of these tools include similar editing options, so I’ll highlight the most useful options for perfecting your photos.

Filters

Want to add a vintage touch to your photos or make them more vibrant like the 1980’s without spending hours manually tweaking them? Use the filter tool to apply this look with just a simple tap of your finger. Filters are effects that can be added to your photos to make them appear more stylized. These tools include different color washes and blur effects.

Filters should enhance your photos in a purposeful way. Take the photo with the filter in mind, rather than taking your shot and adding a filter just for the sake of it, Evans explained. They should be there to add something to your photo, not hide blemishes or a bad shot. It’s important to make sure the style of the filter matches the subject of the photo. After all, adding a pop art filter to a Wild West scene would just look wrong.

When selecting a filter, make sure to view the photo in preview mode. This will allow you to apply the different types of effects to the photo and not make permanent changes until you find the most pleasing option.

Crop

Did someone photobomb your shot and ruin the memory you tried capturing? The crop tool allows you to crop them out and forget it ever happened.

On most smartphones, when you select this tool, you will see an adjustable rectangle on your screen that frames the photo. You can change the size of this rectangle to highlight the parts of the photo you want to include, and cut out everything else. Remember, if you’re trying to get a beautiful, focused shot less is more, so avoid cramming too many details into one frame.

Light

There’s nothing worse than taking a picture and then finding that the subjects are enveloped in darkness. Light is a key aspect in a photo. It refers to the amount of brightness captured in a shot. The light tool allows you to brighten, darken, or add more contrast to make shadows darker and highlights lighter.

On many smartphones these settings are controlled by one slider tool. You can slide your finger to the right or left to adjust the level of light. More advanced apps allow you to change these values independently.

You should be aware that over-lightening an already dark picture can result in a grainy finish, called “noise.” Although most desktop editing suites can smooth out this noise, most smartphone editing apps don’t offer this feature.

Color

If you want to change the tone or temperature of your image, the color settings are your first port of call.

Color saturation can make a big difference to the mood of the photo. Making colors more saturated can enhance upbeat scenes, while making them less saturated can convey the feeling of starkness. So if you have a shot of a snowy mountain, add more blue to make it feel really cold, or if you’re trying to recreate the heat of summer in the desert, add oranges and reds. Adjust the levels according to the message you want to get across in the photo.

In summary

If you’re just developing a taste for photography, a smartphone offers a great alternative to a professional grade SLR. The filters, color, and light-balancing tools on these devices all help to enhance the moments captured in your photos. The best part is that you don’t have to break the bank to get some top-quality shots.

Just remember, the key is getting the photo right in the first place. Smartphones are so compact compared to professional cameras, so play around with angles and don’t feel limited by your surroundings.

Share This

Clare Hopping

Written By

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been writing about consumer technologies for 12 years. She began her career writing about smartphones and now writes about everything in the tech world, from TVs to consoles, servers to security.

Read more articles by Clare