Get better pictures - without changing your phone

How to take pictures on a camera phone. (REX/Caiaimage)

If you were to make a list of everything you use your smartphone for, you’d probably find it’s main intended purpose of ‘making calls’ is quite far down the pecking order.

New handsets such as Samsung's S4 Zoom and Nokia's 1020 mark a new attempt to turn smartphones into "proper cameras" - Samsung's even has an optical zoom.

But there are a few reliable tips that will help you get the most out of your current camera without buying anything extra.

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Don't listen to beeps

Give it a chance to focus - and make sure your square focus indicators are steady on screen. Beeps are great but they aren’t always reliable. Make sure it is focused on what you want. If you’re having trouble, you could try switching to touch focusing or step back slightly and try again.

Use noughts and crosses

You can change the shape of your photograph afterwards, but you can’t retake a rubbish picture afterwards. Think about what you are actually taking a picture of. Professionals often use the rule of thirds to get the subject in an ideal position. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over the top of your scene and align the important things along the lines or the intersection of the lines.

Take control of the light

Try shading the lens with your hand and when photographing people, watch where the shadows fall and think about best side - not the side their teeth look better, but rather to avoid seeing them in silhouette because the sun was behind them. When it comes to flash, it can be harsh in low-light conditions - but can help to show off shadowed detail in close-up shots with sunny conditions. Keep an eye on the final shot and step back to add some distance for better exposure. 

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Get some balance

You might just have a shaky hand (or a few too many) but supporting your phone will help you get a better shot - especially when shooting at night, due to built-in systems which are meant to "help" you. Smartphones will often either give you longer exposure in low light making the shot blurry, or bump up the sensitivity (ISO), which makes the image grainy looking. Your vision might be blurry on a night out, but your picture doesn’t need to be.

Don't pinch to zoom

It’s all too tempting to pinch your screen and zoom in on the subject matter - don't do it unless there's a good reason for not walking forward (ie you're shooting a lion). The zooming is achieved to the detriment of quality as you are using a smaller area of the sensor and digitally reproducing an image. This results in less information captured for the final image. Either move closer, or crop the image once you’ve taken it.

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