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Are you sure you know what your smartphone camera can really do?

Taking a good photo is one thing, but it’s just as important to know what features you can use and when.

nature One of the winning entries in the 2014 iPhone Photography Awards. This was the 'Best Nature Photo' taken by Felicia Pandola (United States) Felicia Pandola Felicia Pandola

TAKING A GOOD photo is mostly down to practice. No amount of tools will be able to make up for a bad photo or compensate for lack of framing.

With that under your belt, it’s good to know the tools at your disposal so you can make a good photo even better.

Depending on the camera app you’re using, some of the features will be available in settings, either accessed directly through the camera app or a third-party version. Such features will differ but the main ones that pop up are these.

Grid - Probably one of the most important tools you will have at your disposal. Having a grid helps you follow the Rule of Thirds, that is placing the subject anywhere the lines overlap.

Flash - Used for low-light photos. Sometimes it’s better to turn the flash on fully when taking a photo instead of using it momentarily like if the shadows on your subject makes it hard to make out.

ISO/Exposure - This controls how sensitive the camera is to light. Just like how you would be blinded by sunlight if you came out of a dark room, ISO determines how much you can make out in light or dark situations. Lowering it makes bright situations clearer while increasing it works for if your surroundings are dark and you don’t want to use flash.

HDR - Stands for High Dynamic Range. Alongside a normal photo, this takes a low, normal and high exposure shot with your camera and stitches together different to create one main photo. Its more suited towards situations where there is no movement like landscape photos.

Timer - Self-explanatory really. Useful if you want to get in a shot yourself but would rather use the higher-quality rear end camera instead of the selfie cam.

Focus - All cameras focus automatically but if you want to pay attention to a specific object, then tapping on it on the screen will adjust the focus. Sometimes the lighting will adjust as well to cater for it.

If you hold down on the screen, you can lock the focus to that particular object so the focus and lighting won’t change.


Burst mode - The process of taking numerous photos in quick succession. Many photo apps allow you to take them by holding down the shutter button.

Some apps like Google Photos will spot the similarities and stitch the photos together, creating a mini time-lapse photo.

Shutter speed - This controls how fast a camera is able to capture a shot. The faster it is, the better the camera is at capturing fast-moving objects. Slower speeds can capture more light and can lead to better light effects.

Resolution - Deals with how sharp your photo is on larger screens. The bigger the resolution, the bigger the photo can be without losing its quality. On a small screen, this doesn’t really matter but if you’re viewing a photo on a computer, tablet or TV, then it helps to have high resolution.

You may also see ‘Aspect Ratio’ being mentioned as well like 4:3 or 16:9. This just refers to the proportion between the width and height of a picture (W:H). The most common version is 16:9, used by most current devices, but in the context of smartphones, this isn’t really something to worry about.

Read: How to turn your smartphone photos from good to great

Read: Apple has finally revealed exactly how much its watches will cost in Ireland

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