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How to take better photos with your Android phone

Update: New tips added!

It's easy to take better photos with your Android smartphone, you just need to learn the tricks. Below are some simple ideas that users of any level can try out with their device. Improve your smartphone photography skills today with these top tips.  

1. Clean your lens

The first place to start when trying to take a good picture is to clean your smartphone's camera lens. These frequently become dirty and the results will be a blurry image. Every time you go to take a picture, give the lens a quick wipe on your T-shirt first to sweep away any grime. 

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Step one: clean your device's camera lens. / © ANDROIDPIT

2. Use touch-to-capture or volume shutter for selfies

When shooting a classic selfie, it's all-too-easy to drop your phone when attempting to press the capture button. By enabling touch-to-capture, it's hard to miss the trigger: it becomes the whole screen. 

Alternatively, depending on which is your preferred hand, it may be easier to reach the volume controls. This option isn't available on every device, but if it's on your handset you should find it in the settings menu under volume control function, or use volume control as.

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Camera settings differ from device to device, but they should all include tap to take pictures or volume control options. / © ANDROIDPIT

3. Never miss a shot with quick-launch

Many Android smartphones have a shortcut to launch the camera, rather than entering the dedicated app. The native Android solution to this is a camera icon located at the bottom of the lockscreen which you can swipe but on some devices all you need to do is double-tap the power/lock button.

On later Samsung phones, a double-tap on the home button will do the trick. 

These shortcuts are there to help you access the camera as quickly as possible. Though they won't guarantee your pictures will be better, they could help you capture a shot you would normally miss.

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See the camera icon at the bottom of your lockscreen? Swipe it to quickly launch the camera. / © ANDROIDPIT

4. Shoot in landscape

We have become accustomed to a 16:9 media format and as a consequence, pictures shot in portrait just tend to look awkward now. Unless there is an important reason that you would need a taller shot (like, say, shooting a picture of the Fernsehturm from a close distance), pictures are almost always better in landscape. 

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Some things require a portrait shot, but it's usually better to take them in landscape, from further away. / © ANDROIDPIT

5. Avoid using the flash (most of the time)

Even on a DSLR camera, the flash function is generally best saved for emergencies. If you can use natural light to illuminate your picture, you always should, because you want your pictures to look natural, don't you?  

There is a time and a place for the LED flash on smartphone cameras, but because it tends to be located very close to the lens, it can have a nasty glaring effect. If natural light isn't quite enough, increase the exposure value (EV) and ISO on your camera. Bear in mind that increasing ISO will also increase the graininess or 'noise' in your pictures.

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Natural light is the best light for photos: avoid using flash (like in the picture above) when you can. / © ANDROIDPIT

The exception to this rule, as suggested by BruinGuy, is when taking pictures in daylight when the sun is behind the subject of your picture. Of course, where you can help it, the sun should be behind your camera, but when you can't avoid this, try using the flash to illuminate the faces or details that would otherwise be in shadow.

6. Don't use digital zoom

Digital zoom is notorious for destroying smartphone photos. Unless your camera has an optical zoom, where the camera lens actually protrudes out of your device (like the actually-not-great Samsung Galaxy K Zoom), all zooming does is enlarge and crop the picture.

"Can't I just do that after I've taken the photo?" I hear you ask. Well, yes, you can – that's the point! Digital zoom merely narrows the editing options for your picture. Take fully zoomed-out photos, then crop them manually if you want to. 

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Digital zoom on the Moto E (2015) is disastrous, but it's not much better on high-end handsets. / © ANDROIDPIT

7. Check details of your best, worst and Auto photos

We all have some photos that come out incredibly well and others that are pretty awful. Whenever you take either a great or terrible photo, check the 'Details' of the photo to see what ISO, exposure time and aperture it had.

This way, you'll slowly learn which settings on your smartphone work best with which light conditions. This is particularly useful for 'Auto' photos, so you can get a feel for the settings your camera resorts to by default and adjust them accordingly.

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Check the details of your photos so you can find out which settings work best with which lighting conditions. / © ANDROIDPIT

8. Use HDR mode

HDR is a great mode for taking photos of stationary objects, as long as you have steady hands. HDR (high dynamic range) mode ensures that the lighting and shadows in the photo are evenly exposed. This is particularly useful for photos with high contrast.

HDR mode takes two or more pictures of varying exposures almost simultaneously, then combines the best and brightest bits of both into one photo. You need to keep the camera super-steady, otherwise, your photo will come out blurred.

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Some flowers without HDR. / © ANDROIDPIT
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The same flowers with HDR – see the difference?/ © ANDROIDPIT

9. Use the post-processing filters

There are plenty of people out there who pour scorn onto all the lovely filters you can enhance your photos with. But for casual smartphone photographers, those retro, black-and-white, Windmere, Islandia, and other filters can really add character to a photo. Most Android smartphones come with a great selection of filters, but if you're running a bit short, try Pixlr (formerly Pixlr Express) for a great selection.

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Those hipster filter names may be irritating, but they can look fantastic. / © ANDROIDPIT

10. The 'reflective sunglasses' trick

If you have a pair of sunglasses with a reflective coating on the lens, you can use them to capture a good perspective for your shots, like in the example below. The light source should always be reflected off the lens to help you better capture the scene or action that's in your view.

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A reflection in a pair of mirrored sunglasses can create some pretty cool perspective shots. / © ANDROIDPIT

11. Make one subject appear several times in a Panorama shot

The Google Camera app has been available in the Play Store for some time now, so anyone running Android 4.4 KitKat or higher can grab it for their Android device. In the app, you can use the Panorama function to pan horizontally across a scene and capture an entire landscape.

For a spooky effect, get the subject of your panorama shot to move with the camera so that they appear more than once in the image. The key to making this work is holding the camera steady while you're also moving the subject, so it's good to have someone helping you.

Google Camera Install on Google Play
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Capturing the same subject twice in a panoramic photo. / © ANDROIDPIT

12. The rule of thirds

This is one of the simplest rules for photography, yet it's invaluable for making your photo compositions look great. The idea is that our eyes are naturally attracted to images that are divided into thirds, where the subject of the photo is slightly off-centre.

To help you achieve this, most smartphone cameras let you use a grid of two horizontal and two vertical lines when taking photos. The subject of your photo should be at one of the four intersections of these lines to theoretically get the most visually pleasing photo. Give it a go!

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Use the simple 'rule of thirds' to improve your photo compositions. / © ANDROIDPIT

13. Augmented color reality

Colorify Augmented Reality is a fairly unknown app in the Google Play Store. With it, you can change the color of a garment or object to anything you want. The more contrast in the photo, the better it works.

It's also worth noting that Colorify will replace the color on all objects in the photo from the same palette, as can be seen in our example photo below, where the app changed the color of the denim as well as the trainer.

Colorify Augmented Reality Install on Google Play
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Changing the color of an object, with a little help from an app. / © ANDROIDPIT

14. Tiny Planet

This is one of the cooler photo-editing tricks. You can turn your panoramic photos into globes, in an effect known as Tiny Planet. We recommend two apps that you can use to accomplish this effect.

The first one, Tiny Planet FX, isn’t free, but has some spectacular options for customizing the effect. The second app, Small Planet, is free. It takes a little fiddling around in order to get used to it, but once you do, you can create some truly spectacular snaps.

Tiny Planet FX Pro Install on Google Play Small Planet Install on Google Play
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The Tiny Planet effect truly is extraordinary. / © Lyrebird Studio

There are hundreds of ways to boost your smartphone photography. Which are your favorites? If you have a tip on how to take better photos with your Android phone that you'd like to share, let us know in the comments below.

34 comments

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  • I actually do some of these tips already. Only those additional settings and apps are not available to me. No flash, Rule of the third, landscape, etc. but thanks anyway, it confirms my doubts.

  • kitkat 3 months ago Link to comment

    I just got hold of a still brand new k zoom and I've tested all the new phones out and I like the k zoom the best even more than the new galaxy note 7. They don't make them any more but I want to buy a second k zoom for a back up. I like the optical zoom which is just crazy for a smart phone. I think the phone is too far ahead of it's time for people to accept it. Maybe I five years or so.

    • You need a tripod if you have optical zoom. make your own attachment to fix the Samsung deficiency.. Remember set the phone to take photos 2 seconds after touch camera. Especially using HDR indoors.

  • What a waste. Clean your lens? Use Tiny Planets? Use post-processing? These are ridiculously stupid. Why not include Point phone At Subject... or Identify Object To Photograph? There are, at most, maybe one or two actual "tips" here of any practical use or value. Unless you want to deform or unnaturally manipulate your photo into an art object or something else other than a photo. Then I guess some of these lame apps just might interest you.

  • A lot of great tips here. I've been using the Learn Photo365 app, I'd recommend it to anyone looking to improve their photography.
    Has lots of tips and tons of ideas for photos!

    Jim W

  • I agree with most of the tips provided here. I hate using Flash even in low lights conditions.

  • Ivan C. 5 months ago Link to comment

    Nice Tips!

  • CJ Brown 5 months ago Link to comment

    awesome article --- thank you for the quick tips Scott :-)

  • Wonderful article. I agree clearing lens is the first thing to do before take any picture, something you have to learn to do if you already did not.
    Using volume button can be useful too, and shooting landscape makes the best of your pics.
    What i don't read is: try not to move the phone while shooting pics. Even if you THINK you don't move, you do. Try this, I do it whenever possible and it really makes a huge difference: hold your phone against a solid object like a wall, lamppost, table, car etc etc. In this way your shot becomes more steady than taking pics from hand_held only.
    Just try it out, make same pic twice without and with use of a solid object, and when you r finished view them both and zoom out while viewing and be your own judge wich image is better....
    Good article and nice funny apps on the end promoted! Thumbs up for this one :-)

  • Very interesting

  • Sognare G 6 months ago Link to comment

    Every time I try to take a picture involving light (i.e. sunset, concert with stage lights, etc.), there is a glare that ruins the picture - like all you see is a burst of light. How can I fix that?

  • Is there a similar feature to Microsoft's "Rich Capture" mode? That combines two photos, one with and one without the flash, and lets the user adjust the intensity after the shot. It'd be a pretty cool thing to have especially on something like the S7 or G5, but so far I haven't found an app that does that yet.

    • That's called High Dynamic Range (HDR) in common language. Rich Capture is just business technique , that's why Mr. Bill Gates is the best Businessman in the world. In HDR high ISO+low ISO are combined. Budget Phones too have these.

  • As a photographer for scrapbook purposes, I have learned to take photos in both landscape and portrait mode.

    As far as less movement, I have found that keeping my elbows close to my side and taking a deep breath right before clicking the shutter decreases movement.

  • Yeah, it's helpful. Thank you. I can take beautiful photos~

  • LostWinter 10 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks!

  • dilax sana 10 months ago Link to comment

    Superb thank u sooo much...my passion is photography...and this newses are tooo much of help full for me thank u soo much..muahhh

  • Frank 10 months ago Link to comment

    A mistake I see a lot of new photographers make is not holding their camera level. I always have my grid lines turned on - not only for the Rule of Thirds, but also to make sure the horizon, tall objects, people, etc. are vertical.

  • helpful

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