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5 Smartphone Photo Tips

An Instagram-ed image of Montreal's Tavern Le Normand. Photo by misspixels

Nothing beats the heft of an SLR lens or the cool of an artfully beat-up camera bag, but most trip photography these days consists of hastily snapped iPhone photos. A series of graphs on Flickr show that (a) the majority of the site’s photos are uploaded via the iPhone, not with digital SLRs or point-and-shoots, and (b) the iPhone beats the pants off of all other camera phones. Plus, the iPhone 5 is likely to arrive in the next few weeks; specs to be announced on Tuesday.

But no matter which operating system you pray to, there are some common tips for mastering smartphone photography:

1. Understand the shutter. The iPhone especially has a counterintuitive shutter mechanism: it snaps the photo on release. Press down the shutter, then set up your shot, then release. Every phone differs in shutter reaction time: play around to be sure you don’t miss a shot.

2. Learn about light. It’s common sense, but photography 101 rules apply—light source behind you, avoid washing out your photos with flash—but are magnified by 1,000 due to a smartphones’ miniscule sensor. The best images tend to be in slightly overcast or foggy conditions, or at dawn or dusk. For portraits, especially, avoid harsh or direct light. (A fun project: play around with homemade filters.)

3. Adjust the white balance. A yellowish tinge to images, usually those taken indoors, probably means the white balance is off. Some smartphones allow you to set the balance for certain conditions (incandescent lighting, for instance). The iPhone 4 doesn’t. But the Camera+ app does!

4. Get some apps. Camera+ is probably the best photo-aid app out there for the stability feature alone. The wildly popular Instagram elevates so-so images to art. Macworld recently did a great roundup of “10 Cool Things You Can Do With Instagram”, including creating an adorable mini photo album via Printstagram. Android users: never fear, Instagram for Android is on its way; and PCWorld shows you some love with “9 Apps To Transform Your Android into a High-End Camera.”

5. Ignore everything we’ve said. Photography is an art form and some of the best images are those that break the rules. Play around with your phone, shoot with abandon and learn by doing. Just don’t expect us to sit through your 1,000-image vacation slideshow. Another essential art form: editing.

Worth reading: Appotography.com, 11 smartphone tips from PCWorld, iPhoneography.

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