A smartphone camera and a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera are two very different animals. One is compact. The other is big and can handle interchangeable lenses. Photography professionals usually choose a DSLR because of its versatility, but there are ways the rest of us can replicate some of those fancy features with our phones.
Not all phone cameras are created equal, so it helps to start with a smartphone with a good camera. Many higher-end and even mid-range iPhone and Android phones have good-to-great cameras already built-in. With the right settings and accessories, you can play around with your smartphone camera and get it to act more like a DSLR.
1. It’s all about the lens
OK, so it’s not all about the lens, but one of the most obvious differences between DSLRs and smartphones is you can swap out lenses on the big cameras.
You can put on a big zoom lens or add a fisheye to get wild visual effects, so if you’re up for a camera adventure, look into a set of lenses made just for smartphones. These usually come in a clip-on form or with mounts so they can attach to almost any phone’s camera. You just position them over the existing lens.
You can have a lot of fun with macro, fisheye and even telephoto lenses that bring the action a lot closer to you.
2. Get into manual settings
DSLR users are accustomed to manually changing the options on their camera, dialing in details on everything from shutter speed to white balance to light sensitivity through the International Standards Organization (ISO) setting.
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Most of us just leave our smartphone cameras in automatic mode, but you can explore the world of manual settings, too. Start with the stock Android and iPhone camera apps, and don’t be afraid to play around with changing settings to see how they impact your images.
If you’re on iOS, then check into the Camera+ Legacy app, which lets you easily fine-tune exposure and focus.
3. Try a new app
We’ve already touched on the Camera+ Legacy app for iOS, but there are a ton of interesting camera apps out there that can give your photos a more professional touch. VSCO is an option worth looking into, and it’s available for Android as well. VSCO features many powerful camera presets, filters and editing tools.
4. Look beyond the flash
The flash is a weak point for a lot of smartphone cameras; it can make your pictures look blotchy or washed out. One way to combat this is with better lighting, whether you aim a lamp at your subject, open up curtains or simply move outside to take advantage of natural light.
Good lighting can make the difference between a dud and a gem when it comes to your smartphone photography. Tap or click here to improve your images with these free photo editing apps.
5. Use a tripod
The pros know how important it is to hold your camera steady. Many smartphone photos have been ruined this way, so to avoid a blurry mess, purchase a small tripod. Many come with Bluetooth remotes to trigger the camera from a distance.
You’ll be amazed how keeping your smartphone stable can help clarify your images. This is especially handy if you’re exploring long-exposure photography on your phone, where even a slight bump can mess up your image.