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Simple expert tips on how to make the most of your phone's camera

This week, we’re all about cultivating positivity with our phone. So why not get to know your camera?

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IT’S THE FINAL week of our Live A Better Life series, where we’ve been helping you make the most of your phone – without all that mindless scrolling.

In the fourth and final week of the series, we’re looking at ways of bringing positivity into your life using your phone. Yesterday, we looked at journalling.

Today, it’s all about using the camera.

With the ability to take photos and videos, you can do everything from snap private photos of your day to share your selfies on Instagram.

It needn’t be a public action, but it can be a moment to take stock of what you’re doing, and a way of recording the fun, interesting – or even emotional – times of your life.

Here’s how some of our staff use their cameraphone to improve their day:

I’ve found that forcing myself to take pictures when I’m out for walks makes me actively more aware of my surroundings. Instead of just ploughing on, I have to look at the buildings/nature around me.

“Me and my friend started swapping one coffee a day for a herbal tea, and we had to send pictures to each other of the tea to prove we were sticking with it. We also send pics of random dogs to each other.”

I love sending photos of dogs to friends, and sharing photos of my day with my sisters and brother who live abroad. It’s a way of us all feeling closer.

“Me and my best friend send each other funny Snapchat filter videos. Or at least we think they’re funny…”

‘It’s helped me connect with people’

Blogger and Instagram user Jill Jordan of Proper Fud documents her life – which includes being a mum of three – using her smartphone, and says it has helped her to connect with people.

“I’ve gotten to know bloggers I would have interacted with on other networks like Facebook in a much deeper way on Instagram,” she says.

“When I meet one in real life, there’s no ice to break because we already have a connection. I’m home on maternity leave at the moment, and sometimes watching people’s insta stories while I’m folding laundry makes me feel more connected to the adult world and makes a hard day a little easier.”

I love photos for inspiration, and lets face it, aspiration – whether that’s for home decor or crafts to do with the kids – and the [Instagram] stories get a deeper behind-the-scenes view, you’re much less likely to see the ‘perfect’ version of someone’s life in there.

She says that taking photos “does mostly feel positive – I don’t take 50 pictures to get one good one, so I still think I’m present in the moment”.

“When you’re having a good time it’s nice to capture it but not to the detriment of the experience,” she adds.

When it’s a bad thing, like if I’ve accumulated 800 odd socks or there’s Lego everywhere the empathy you get from other parents posting those scenes lessens the frustrations of everyday parenting. I do get a buzz when I take a nice shot and know it’ll strike a chord with people.

How can phone photography benefit parents in particular? “It’s right there in your pocket anyway, you’ve no extra gear to carry so you always have the opportunity to capture those precious/terrible moments,” says Jordan.

It’d be great to have a DSLR handy to take photos of your kids, but let’s face it, most of us are probably laden down enough as it is.

For her, photos of “my kids – achievements and mundane stuff, a good cup of coffee, events or picturesque places we go” are what she aims to snap. “A good jaunt up a hill with minimal whining has got to be captured.”

Her tip for making the most of your smartphone? “Investigate if your phone camera has any manual options and if it does, use them.”

How to make the most of your camera phone

We asked professional photographer Paul Scannell for his tips for making the most of your smartphone’s camera.

“The best camera you can have is the camera that is with you,” he says.

Do you need an expensive camera to take a ‘proper’ photo?

Any photograph that makes you feel something is a proper photo. DSLR’s and film still each offer a far superior capture. That said, I’ve seen some excellent photography from smart phones.

Interesting framing, clever composition and reasonable use of image editing software can have really eye catching results. Advances in technology are leading an unprecedented revolution in photography.

What are your top three tips for taking good photos?

  • Use natural light where possible – smart phone flashes tend to be harsh, uneven and unflattering to skin tone. Soft daylight from a window can produce the perfect portraiture set up.
  • Get to know Snapseed, iPhoto or Photoshop express. Learning how to tweak contrast, warmth and colour will help you develop your own personal style. Your vision is already unique – it is your job to learn how to present it.
  • Invest in lens attachments. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive clip on lenses available online – ranging from super wide angles to 30 x optical zoom. These transform your device into a truly versatile camera and make your unique perspective possible. A macro attachment allows for wonderful close up detail – perfect for flowers and insects.

Photo sharing platforms like Instagram can help you become part of a global photo sharing community.

It’s a great way to get inspiration, positive feedback and hone your skills. This feedback can give a real boost to any budding photographer and drive you forward. The more you shoot and share – the more you learn. Printing and framing your photos immerses you in your best memories and your favourite captures.

Any other hints?

Photograph what you love – your passion will shine through. Play with the colour, texture, surface and shape of your subject.

  • Observe the ‘rule of thirds’ but don’t be afraid to deviate from it.
  • You are both the producer and the director of your vision.

It doesn’t matter that something has been photographed thousands of times before – it has never been photographed by you. Experiment with alternative forms of lighting.

Use filters and Snapseed but use them sparingly. People will love to see your style and perspective develop over time.

Do you use your phone to document your day? Let us know in the comments.

Read the rest of our Live A Better Life series here>

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