Tips for Getting Good Phone Photos in the Great Outdoors

July 8, 2013

You finally did it. You bought that smartphone you’ve been coveting for months.

Whether it’s an iPhone 5, a Samsung Galaxy S4 or the latest Nokia you hold in your hand, true geeks will tell you it’s not really a phone . . . it’s really a full-fledged computer capable of running an internet browser, some apps and even your navigation maps.

Sure, it’s all that, and a semi-decent phone, too. But what you REALLY have is a full-fledged, powerful, knock-em-dead digital camera that can really enhance the memories you capture while you camp at your favorite KOA.

It’s likely you took the camera into account when you were picking out your smartphone. Smartphone cameras have taken huge leaps in quality and file size in recent years. The Samsung Galaxy has a 13-megapixel autofocus camera on board. A few years ago, only the best Nikon and Canon digital SLRs had such power.

So, congratulations on your purchase. Now . . . what are you going to do with it?

The plethora of applications available on sites like the Apple App Store can make everyone look like a semipro. But there are a few easy tips and tricks to keep in mind to bring your “phone photos” to life:

• Keep It Close: The camera sensors in most smartphones have great depths of field, so it’s easy to keep even small objects in focus. So take two giant steps toward the campfire and fill that frame.
• Don’t Zoom Before You Shot: Zooming in before you click the button just degrade the quality of the photo. You’re better off getting as close as you can, taking the picture and then cropping the shot.
• Get a tripod: Unless you invest in a fancy case, there isn’t a place on your smartphone to screw in a tripod. But, if you Google “smartphone tripod” you’ll see dozens of options for attachments that allow you to stabilize your phone, and even use a timer to get in the camping shot yourself!
• It’s not “One and Done”: Shoot many shots from many angles, then pick your best camping photos and delete the rest.
• Try Different Camera Apps: Don’t be a slave to the photo application that came with your phone. There are other great ones out there.  ProCamera and Camera Awesome are just a couple of free apps available for iPhones. The tools they use can really enhance your final product.
• Don’t Rely on the Flash: Smartphone camera flashes really aren’t flashes at all. They are just LED lights that stay on way too long, giving you tons of red eyes and blurry shots. You’re better off getting creative with other light sources, like window light, neon, even campfires (use that tripod!).
• Keep It Clean: Smartphone camera lenses don’t come with covers. They are right out there, “interacting” with anything you stick in your pocket or backpack. But, they’re tough, so give them a quick wipe with a clean cloth once in a while.
• Keep the Memories: There’s something “different” about smartphone photography. There are so many ways to digitally share your photos (Facebook, Instagram and dozens of other sharing sites) that making actual prints is starting to seem like a quaint lost art. But when you get those true winners, don’t forget to put them on the printer. Or – better yet – go online and use one of many sites (Apple has its own) that will make photo books for you so you’ll never forget your KOA adventure.
The biggest change brought by smartphone cameras is that everyone now seems to have one at the ready. No matter what the event or happening, you can be sure you’ll see dozens of “phonetographers” snapping away.

Hopefully, now your shots will have a chance to rise above the rest.

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