Monday Photography Tip: Using Your Phone Camera

Am I the only person around that gets Phone-Camera and Camera-Phone twisted?  I always want to say, “Camera phone.”  Go figure.

Anyhoo, today’s tip is a combination of a tip and a challenge.

What’s the worst camera you own?  An old plastic camera?  A disposable film camera?  Actually, your phone camera is probably the worst camera you carry, and yet we all take pictures with it constantly! 

And, if you don’t, then you should!

Why?  I mean, if it’s the worst camera I own, why would I want to take pictures with it?  Because it’s handy; if you’re like me, you probably always have it on your person all the time.  And because it’s quick and easy to use; you can just whip it out and snap a picture.  You don’t have to lug around your other “good” camera all the time.

But the pictures are bad!   Ah, yes, my young Padawan, you are correct.  The pictures are usually bad.

I do not understand, Oh Wise and B-u-tiful Teacher.  Patience my young apprentice, patience.

I took the following pictures, with my phone camera, while at my uncle’s house a couple weeks ago:

I’m not positive, but I believe it used to be a working fountain.

I have never seen water flowing through it, in my lifetime.  At least, not that I can remember.  (The above photo is a little blurred, isn’t it?  That’s a common problem using your camera on your phone.)

I just walked around the statue and snapped shots from all angles.

Some, as you can see, were better than others.  But, all in all, not too bad.  But, certainly nothing to write home about.  They don’t have much punch or color.  Including the blurred one I took, they are kind of blah, contrast- and color-wise.

Guess what?!  Help’s on the way!  Look at some of the same pictures, now:

Hey.  That’s got a little punch!  A little color.

The next one is the blurry one, but look at the effect…

 Kinda cool, huh? 

Same blurry photo (sorry) but with a different effect…. velly intelllesting…  Not my favorite, but a bit of an improvement over the original…other than the horrible blurry-ness.  (That’s not an actual word–I tried looking it up.)

Pray, tell, how’d you do that, Oh Great One?  Must I sell my first-born to purchase Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom2?  Is that what you are telling me?

No, silly goose!  You’re talking to El Cheapo, here.  You can do this for about 3 buckaroos!  No, seriously.

All you need are a couple really cool apps on your phone!  If you’ve got a smart phone that can download apps, then you are in business!  (Obviously, I have an Iphone, so I’m not sure what apps are available, for example, for the Droid phone.  But, I know the list of apps is growing for the newer smart phones, so be patient.  If you don’t have these apps, yet, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time.)

So, what are the apps, you ask?

Here’s the first I would like to suggest:

Gorillacam.  It’s a FREE app!  (Gorilla makes those nifty little tripods–see in the above picture–that can be attached to railings, trees, etc.)

Look at all the features it has…sweet!

And, below, shows you what the screen looks like when you are ready to take a picture using Gorillacam, instead of your normal camera phone setting:

Do you see?  You can zoom!  You can add the grid to help you with the Rule of Thirds!  There’s a fingerprint symbol on the right side of the toolbar that allows you to use the whole screen as your shutter button.

You can’t see it in the above picture, but in the previous shot, you see a green line running along the top of the phone screen.  That’s a level!  It helps you make sure your shot is not wonky or crooked, unless you want it to be.

I’m really liking these features.

Now, on to another neat app that improves your phone pictures:

Best Camera app. (That’s the name, not a judgement statement.) It’s running, right now, for $2.99. 

This little puppy is like having a “lite” version of Photoshop right in your phone!

First, you choose a photo from your phone’s camera roll (photo library).

See those little flags running along the bottom of the screen?  Those are the effects you can add to your photo! 

How about this one?  It desaturates the picture.  Cool, huh?

Here’s another before:

I actually like this picture as is.  But, I thought it’d be fun to play around with some of the effects.

And, an after:

Neato-bandito!  (The other after shot is the opening picture in this post.)

Now, the great thing, you don’t lose your original.  Once you apply an effect, it copies the original and the edited version back to your phone’s photo library. 

If you want, you can even send the edited copies of your pictures to Twitter, Facebook, your personal blog, etc!

So, your challenge?  Use your phone camera at least two times a day, this week.  Practice with the lousy thing and see if you can improve your pictures, simply by how you take your shots; use the Rule of Thirds, make sure you’re not moving or shaking the phone (like my blurry shots above), try unique angles.   

Tip: If and only if you want to, try out the two apps I told you about.  Or, do some digging on your own and find other good apps that help improve the photos taken with your phone.  Then, let me know about them!

Happy shooting,


P.S.  Since I’m discussing phones, sort of…I’m joining so many others who are taking the pledge to not text while driving.  It’s so terribly dangerous and a horrible example to our children who are and will be even more connected to technology than us, in the future!  You do not want them texting and driving. 

I hand my phone to my kids and ask them to text my messages for me, if they are in the car with me.  If they aren’t in the car, I just wait to reply.  I’m also off to purchase a new ear piece, since mine quit working a while back.  I want to go back to being hands-free while driving. 

 Hope you’ll join me in cutting our umbilical cords to our phones.   It’s hard.  Believe me, I know.



  1. KevIn

    E. I love both apps. Thanks for the tips. I took a pict of a brilliantly colored mallard last week at work. Used 2 filters on it. The candy one and viginetting. Came out nice. I’ll send it on fb.

    • Elizabeth Simmons

      Kevin! I’m so glad you like them! I wish I have been using the Gorillacam app when I took those pictures. Maybe that one that is blurry wouldn’t have been.
      Have fun with them! Let me know if you find any new ones that I need to know about.

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