World-renowned photographer Chase Jarvis says the best camera is the one you have with you. According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans carry smartphones, which means each of us probably has the best camera in our pocket, bag, or sitting nearby. While we at BoomerTECH Adventures are often asked which smartphone camera is best, it really depends on what you have with you at the moment. Although we’re iPhone users, here are five quick tips for getting the most out of your camera, no matter what brand of cell phone you’re carrying.

Tip #1

Always make sure your camera lens is clean and free of dust and smudges. I remember when BTA guide Ed Brazee couldn’t figure out why his iPhone camera wasn’t focusing properly. No matter what he did, his photos and videos were blurry and hard to see. The three BTA guides have tried everything from changing settings, soft and hard resets, editing images, and even downloading third-party cameras and software to find a solution. It wasn’t until Ed wiped down the lens with a microfiber cloth that it became “clear” what the problem was. A few swipes cleaned up the lens and the quality of his photography skills returned to its former high level. As always, be sure to use a soft, clean cloth, cotton swabs, or disposable wipes to clean your phone’s camera lenses. Don’t drip or spray any liquid directly onto your phone or lens when cleaning, and avoid using abrasives to remove dried-on oils or smudges. Lightly dampen the cloth and rub gently until clean. You can also find lens covers and protective cases.

Tip #2

Make good use of light. Whenever possible, use natural or ambient lighting. That means taking pictures outside during the day, near windows or turning on multiple lights if you’re indoors or even outside when the sun isn’t out. If possible, try to avoid relying on your camera’s built-in flash. The light from mobile phone cameras is often insufficient, especially at a distance of more than ten meters. The light may be the wrong color or too harsh, creating deep shadows in the image. If you’re short on lights and you’re in a group, ask your friends to pull out their phones and use their flashlights or bright screens as additional light sources. You can even search for specific colors online, display them on screen, and use them for custom lighting. Of course, your friends might not be able to be in the picture unless you have a way to place and support the lights without them. If possible, position yourself and your subject so that the light source is slightly above and in front of them, rather than cutting them out from behind when taking the shot.

Tip #3

Enable high dynamic range (HDR) in your camera settings when shooting landscapes or other still images, especially where there are bright lights and dark shadows in the frame. This can be outdoors in full sun or deep shade, or indoors where light from windows, lamps or flames casts sharp shadows. Here’s how it works. When HDR is enabled, the camera automatically takes multiple photos with a variety of exposure settings. Then the software digitally combines the range of exposures into a single image, hopefully creating an image that shows both highlights and shadows accurately. Here are some precautions to take regarding HDR. The process of taking multiple images takes longer than just taking a single photo. This means that HDR doesn’t capture and freeze motion well. If the camera or subject moves, part or all of the image will be blurred. HDR images take up more memory on your phone than regular photos, so you’ll need to delete any images you don’t want to keep. BTA recommends disabling HDR unless necessary. Just a quick note, the new iPhone 12 can capture HDR video!

Tip #4

Use burst mode or continuous shooting mode on your camera to capture movement. You can capture and freeze people playing sports, birds in flight, moving waves, or anything that involves movement. Even better, you can search and select the perfect image while deleting all unwanted images. Burst mode is activated by simply pressing and holding the shutter button on most cell phone cameras. This will cause your camera to take a dozen or more photos every second you press the button. After the iPhone X, the burst mode is slightly different. To enable burst mode on newer iPhones, slide the shutter button to the left while pressing it and you will hear the burst mode quick click. Keep in mind that burst mode images eat up a lot of storage space, so be sure to go through your photos and discard unwanted photos regularly.

Tip #5

Enable your camera’s grid and use the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a fundamental guide to composing images. Here’s how it works. Imagine that the screen of your camera is cut into 9 blocks by the lines of a crab. The rule of thirds states that the most important objects should be placed along the grid lines or at the intersections of the grid lines. Here are some of the many examples of the application of the rule of thirds.

If there is a horizon line in your landscape, try positioning it along the top or bottom line of the grid and not in the middle of the frame. If the sky is more interesting (clouds, sunset, birds), place the horizon line on the lower grid line so that one-third of the image is below the line and two-thirds above. above the line. If you are focusing on the foreground (beach, dunes, ocean), place the horizon on the top grid line.

If a subject such as a person or animal is looking in one direction, place it off center on the left or right grid line opposite to the direction it is facing. So if they are looking to the right, place them on the left side of the picture. This balances the image and the viewer’s eye will follow the subject’s gaze across the image. The rule of thirds suggests that the subject’s face, eyes, or focal point be as close as possible to the intersection of the grid lines. If you have a photo of an eagle in profile, try placing the head, eye, or beak near the intersection of the grid lines opposite where the eagle is looking.

These are just a few examples of using the rule of thirds. If you want to learn many more ways to apply the rule of thirds as well as dozens of other ways to get the most out of your iPhone camera, in addition to discovering tasty Asian fusion recipes, check out our EXPLORAMA retreat from spring in May here:

BoomerTECH Adventures ( provides expert advice and resources to help baby boomers and seniors build skills and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures leverages their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through timely videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips and blog posts.

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