The best smartphone camera on the market right now is the camera of the Pixel 2, a phone developed by Google with an Android operating system. All Android phones have great tech, but they particularly soar above the competition in terms of camera technology.
Each Android phone is different, but there are a few tips that work for all Android phones that will help you use that great camera tech to its fullest, and make your Android photos look better.
There are two halves to taking a great photo—great tech, and great technique. The Android smartphone gives you the tech you need. We’ll tell you some of the technique, and how the technique can be applied to the tech.
Once you understand what your Android phone camera is capable of, and how you can use it to its full capability, you’ll start taking amazing pictures in no time. So read on to learn some tips about photography, and your phone’s inner workings. You’ll be taking better photos with your Android phone in no time!
Set your focus, exposure and ISO manually
When it comes to your Android’s camera, its auto focus, exposure, and ISO features are very good. You can just pull your phone out for a picture, and let the phone do the rest for the most part. For the best photos possible though, you’ll want to take the reins on how (and what) your camera focuses on, what the ISO level is, and on the exposure time your camera gets with a picture.
To manually set your focus, generally you just have to tap where you want your focus to be on the screen. Another option—make sure your phone camera is on manual mode in your camera settings. This should give you some focus options once you’re back in the app.
Setting your exposure and ISO to different times and amounts also requires you to get into manual mode. Once again, go into your camera’s settings to activate them. Then, to adjust exposure time, lengthen or shorten your Shutter Speed setting, which is generally represented with an “S”, or an icon of interlocking circle segments. Aperture, or how open the lens is, also determines exposure, but on smartphones this value is fixed per each phone and phone model.
The exposure time accounts for how much time light has to get into your camera sensor, and therefore into your picture. The longer the exposure time, the lighter your image will be. Therefore, in bright settings it’s better to have a short shutter speed to get the best light exposure and crispness in your photo. In dark settings, it’s better to go a little longer, and let more light get into your lens and picture. After all, your camera flash isn’t the most attractive lighting in the world—in fact, it should be avoided to get really good pictures. Longer shutter speeds can help you out there.
Just know that with longer shutter speeds, you also get more time for whatever you’re taking a picture of to move. This can result in some blurry pictures, or blurry areas of pictures, which can be used to your advantage artistically sometimes, or can look less than attractive. Also note that short shutter speeds can help you capture action, so that can be a handy tip to have when taking smartphone photos. Weigh your options when you put together your settings, and remember, ISO can help in low lighting as well.
ISO will brighten or darken a photo without dealing with aperture or exposure. It’s a great way to get a boost or a loss of light without messing with those settings, and it can be helpful in extreme lighting situations, when things are very bright or very dark. The thing to keep in mind is, on smartphones, putting ISO over 200 tends to add “noise”, or random brightening or color information that makes a picture less sharp and clear. So you don’t want to go too high with it, but again, it’s very helpful in certain lighting conditions.
To change your ISO levels on your Android phone camera, once again make sure you’re in manual mode, then tap the ISO setting. Adjust the level to whatever you need it to be, making sure the picture you’re taking isn’t too noisy or foggy to keep the picture looking great.
Use your body to help you take a picture
Being able to manually adjust camera settings is incredibly handy technology-wise, so in terms of technique, think about what your body does manually when you take a picture as well. Just a few little adjustments can greatly improve your photo quality right away.
First, use two hands when you take pictures with your phone. You want to be as stable as possible to get a clear image, and without regular access to a tripod, you’ll have the best chance if you use two hands to hold your phone while you take a picture, and trying to be as still as possible. Try doing this even while taking selfies; you’ll find you might be able to get a picture you like sooner if you do.
Another tip is to avoid using zoom, and instead actually move toward figures and objects you want close-ups of. Zoom features on phones work decently, but they’re not like DSLR cameras. The zoom only focuses on the pixels in the frame, it doesn’t adjust your phone lens to actually get a closer shot. This makes pictures with a lot of zoom pixelated and blurry. So use your body, and move closer to get your picture so you can get better shots.
Make sure you’re on the best settings
Android phones, and smartphones in general, have different levels of photo quality they can achieve with their cameras. The lowest quality is usually ideal for taking the highest quantity of pictures; they’re not at high resolutions, so they don’t take up as much memory space, letting you get more pictures in your camera roll. The higher quality, then, is about getting a more stunning picture, while also eating up more phone storage in the process.
This memory vs. quality issue is why many phones default to their lowest camera settings when you first get them. No phone, Android or otherwise, wants to seem like they have poor storage for photos and videos when that’s such a common use for them. The trade-off then is you’re taking lower-quality photos without even realizing it.
Thankfully, there’s an easy fix for this. Set your aspect ratio—a setting you can access from your camera, generally—to get the largest possible picture. Your phone will default to a smaller size, which can also make zoom look a little cleaner (if a picture is already a little fuzzy, you can zoom in longer before the picture looks too fuzzy to comprehend), but the larger size will give you more pixels per inch, improving the quality of your photos greatly.
The actual ratio that gives you the biggest picture might not be the one with the biggest numbers. Sometimes, a ratio of 9:16 will narrow your photo frame, while 4:3 gives you the entire screen. In other phone models, 9:16 will definitely be the bigger and better ratio. Play around with this, and see what gets you the biggest, best picture. Just remember you’ll be sacrificing a bit of phone storage while you do it.
Be prepared to have cloud storage, or a lot of computer uploads if you want to take a lot of high quality images. Or invest in a microSD card, if your phone has a slot for it. That can greatly help with photo storage.
Play with perspectives
Returning to the realm of technique, when you know what you want to take a picture of, it’s good to play with angles and perspectives a little to get more interesting pictures. Unless you want an album of similar-looking shots for a particular purpose, putting your camera below or above an object will just help break up the monotony, and in many cases make for a more beautiful picture.
For some tips on perspectives to think about, consider what you want to capture with a photo. Is a mountain or building impressively tall? Try taking the picture while crouching down, and looking up toward the top. You’ll get a great angle that helps capture its majesty. Did you find a beautiful, impossibly small flower? Take a picture from above to get a sense of scale, and move closer toward it to get more detail.
A perspective to take while taking pictures of people is to have the camera above them, and angled down on them somewhat. It tends to be the most flattering angle for people, as it often makes them look up, so try it for your next selfie or when you’re taking pictures of a loved one.
Find a great photo-editing app
You need great composition in the moment to truly get a great picture; how objects are focused in the picture, and where they are placed, needs to be appealing to the eye. Lighting is also important though, as is color, and whether a picture is straight and even. Editing photos, in apps or on the computer, can’t necessarily help with composition, but they can help with everything else.
Android’s app store and the Google Play store are full of apps that can help you crop, resize, color correct, lighten, darken, and filter your photos. You can check out a comprehensive list of some of the best ones here; you’ll find they’re mostly free too.
Once you find one you like, start making little edits to your photos to improve their clarity and saturation. You’ll find your photos will greatly improve, and you’ll get more fun out of sharing them with people too, online and in person.