Android Camera

Get the most out of the camera in your pocket

For many of us, taking pictures is something we do all year. But during the holidays, there are often so many moments to capture that almost everyone with a camera — including the one on your Android — will want to be snapping a few pictures and making memories they can share and keep forever. The real photobugs in the crowd will have their fancy gear out, and a few will have a good camera with them, but everyone with an Android has a capable camera, too.

With a few tips, you can get pictures you'll love from every Android phone. Maybe they won't make the cover of National Geographic or Time, but pictures you can share on Facebook or with friends and family are really what most of us are asking for. Forget all the talk about which Android phone has the better camera, grab the Android you have and follow past the break for some tips to get the most out of your holiday pictures with it.

The Rule of Thirds

Thirds

Camera 360 Ultimate app

Some camera apps have an overlay that resembles a tic-tac-toe board in the viewfinder. While tic-tac-toe can be a fun time waster, there is actually a purpose for it, and it's called the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, the horizon of your picture (if there is one) should be one-third up from the bottom (or down from the top) of your picture, and the focal point should be one-third away from the left or the right edge. A quirk of the human brain makes us think things look better when framed this way, and mathematicians and scholars since the time of Euclid have been trying to refine and figure it all out.

If your camera app of choice doesn't have lines for the Rule of Thirds, don't fret. Just make sure any horizon — where the sky meets the ground, or a wall meets the floor, or any straight line that is going to draw the eye is visible — is about one-third of the screen height from the top or the bottom if it's visible at all. Putting your focal point about one-third from the edge is just as easy, but you need to consider the next tip before you pick a side.

One thing to always remember is that the subject should move into the picture. Look at the Moto X picture at the top of this post. It moves into the picture from the right. It would look pretty goofy if I had put the phone at the left third instead of the right because of its angle. The same goes for faces — they should always look into the picture and not out of it.

Depth and balance

depth and balance

Your pictures will look better if they have natural framing. By this, I mean to use vertical and horizontal lines in a way that compliments the subject. "Lines" doesn't necessarily mean solid, hard edges either. Trees make great natural frames, as do people or objects deep in the background. A fine balance — where not everything is on one side of your picture — looks better. 

Depth is important, too. The best photos have scenery in the background or foreground. Oftentimes, these objects are far enough away from what you're focusing on that they appear blurry. This effect can be marvelous, even with the tiny lens and sensor on our Androids. If you're taking a picture against a wall, for example, try moving to a different angle so something else is in the scene.

Get the right background (or foreground) and get your subject in the Golden Ratio by using the Rule of Thirds, and you'll have a much better picture.

Move those feet!

zoom zoom

Never, ever use the digital zoom on your camera unless you have to. Instead, move closer to whatever it is you're taking a picture of. Chances are, you'll be better off taking the picture at normal zoom then cropping it later.

You also need to move around to get the framing just right. In the portrait studio, you might sit still and face the camera. The photographer has full manual control over every aspect of the picture he or she is taking, and they can make it work well. When you're out with friends at T.G.I Fridays, or the little ones are running around 300 miles per hour at your feet, you don't.

Move to frame things, and move as close as you need to to get what you want to see on your screen before you take the picture whenever you can.

Elbows in

hold it still

Don't depend on image stabilization alone

This is super simple, but make a huge difference. Hold your phone firmly in your hands (use two whenever you can) and press your elbows in against your stomach. This keeps the camera steady, and steady cameras mean less blurry shots. OIS in newer Android cameras helps here, but nothing works as well as not shaking the camera in the first place.

Things won't be as steady as a tripod, but do you really want to carry a tripod around in case you want to grab a picture?

Post-processing

Snapseed

The best pictures never come straight out of the camera. Exposure, color correction and white balance are tricky for a smartphone's tiny optics to get right. It's also difficult to frame a picture correctly when the things and people you're taking pictures of are moving around. The good news is, most of this can be fixed pretty easily with a picture editor. The key is to take a lot of pictures — a lot of pictures. Chances are, at least one of them will make the cut.

More than likely you already have a picture editor built in to your camera and gallery app. Take a peek through the menu and options of what you have installed. If you can crop, resize, adjust for "warmth" and "coolness" of your picture, you're off to a good start. If you're not satisfied with what you have here, or you just don't have these options, Google Play can help.

Don't get intimidated by all the choices in Android photography applications. I'll go on and recommend Snapseed for folks who haven't fiddled with a picture editor too much. It's light weight, easy to use, and the defaults do a really good job most of the time. It's also free, so don't be afraid to try it. 

Once you have the hang of editing color and sharpness, and have a handle on cropping, you can move on to something with more features that's also more complicated. Be sure to have a look at replacement camera app once you've a little experience under your belt, too. There are plenty of them, and they have a lot to offer.


Using these tips won't automatically make you a pro. And of course, there is more to taking great pictures than what you've read here. But these basics are a great way to get started using your Android as your camera, and should help get some really nice holiday pictures!

 
There are 46 comments

NoNexus says:

Great tips there...

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Happy Holiday's from my phone to yours...

amrovi2014 says:

Absolutely great tips which I can use.

Posted via Android Central App

It's always great to read an article I can use but never would have thought of looking for myself. Well done!

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hodan says:

Thanks Jerry! Great post. I see that you're finally embracing phone photography! Lol.

Posted via Android Central App

jlczl says:

I saw what you did there. ;-)

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samsgun357 says:

Awesome tips, thanks AC!!

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matthwo8 says:

Or just get an HTC One! I LOVE the pictures this phone takes!

-_-

ಠ益ಠ

MERCDROID says:

-_-

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

neonworm says:

-_-

A895 says:

-_-

Posted Via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App

NoNexus says:

I'll just say it.. Really? Your ok with that?

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Happy Holiday's from my phone to yours...

I'm glad someone does.

I'll keep my Z1.

Jamaar White says:

-_-

Posted via Android Central App

kolyan2k says:

Motorola is responsible for my sh1tty pictures on my Moto X!

benurd says:

Damn! I wanna favorite this article so I can use it as a reference. Every tip was practically news to me.

Posted via my oldie but goodie Nexii 4 using the Android Central App

medianemesis says:

"The best pictures never come straight out of the camera." I beg to differ. Some of my best photos require almost no post-processing. It is a personal opinion but I think many people nowadays take photos with the mindset that a photo editor will make them look "better".
Apart from brightness and contrast settings, sometimes your eyes are the best editors you need, even before you press/tap the shutter button...

Edit: Great post, by the way especially the tips on depth/focus and balance...

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geoff5093 says:

I was just going to quote and say the same exact thing! While I agree that post-processing helps many photos, to say that the "best picture never comes straight out of the camera" is a very poor choice of wording.

twolastnames says:

It's spot on. I bet not one pro photographer leaves his shots alone. Even if it's just tweaking white balance, it still gets done.

derp

Bonus Tip... HOLD STILL. Probably the single most important thing. Shakes = Evil.

drathos says:

They covered that in "Elbows In"

medianemesis says:

In certain circumstances, this tip applies to your subject as well...

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twolastnames says:

Don't forget the most important, light. Most people take terrible pics because the light sucks. Shadows on faces, grainy pics. Normal folks can't post process shadows off faves, but most can recompose a shot by cropping.

derp

alanbates says:

and here I thought there were going to be tricks on how to make the normally sub-par android phone photos a little better... :|

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Well for that to happen Android phone camera would have to take sub-par pictures. Which they don't. They take great pictures (when the person using it is competent that is.)

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Robitaille20 says:

You forgot the most important tip.... Don't use an HTC One!

Posted via Android Central App

Or the Nexus 5

MERCDROID says:

Whoa! Low blow!! The recent update (4.4.2) has made some great improvements to the camera. It certainly isn't the worst camera, out there, by a long shot.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Nexus 5

And if u are taking pics of yourself or your relatives, Picsart has a great option to make ur skins looks like in magazines :D

HTMLSpinnr says:

Tip #6 - clean the lens of your camera before taking your photo. Fingerprints on the lens lead to grey, foggy and washed-out looking photos.

EeZeEpEe says:

This should definitely be included. I see so many photos ruined by dirty lenses. Very noticeable with lights in the picture.

BasPilot says:

This one is my tip. The rest is art style if you ask me... but this tip has got to be number one. While holding your phone just wipe off your camera over and over again as time goes by. My wife needs this tip as much as anyone.

TyBec says:

I heard somewhere that photography is just the manipulation of light. So make sure there is enough and you know where it's coming from. Also, only use the built in flash if absolutely necessary! Great article!

Posted via Android Central App

Tips #7 If you want to take jaw dropping and out of this world pictures use the Nokia Lumia 1020 or 1520 or 925!!!

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Nah.

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alexlam24 says:

Tip #8. Do not ever use flash unless it's darker than your ex's heart. It just ruins the balance and anything with an iso of over 800 should be decent.

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I agree!

Mike A1 says:

Forgot one of the most important ones, if taking a video turn the effin phone horizontally.

paging dr b says:

Holy nutsuck YES! It drives me up the wall when I see people recording video in portrait. Then again their new Costco HDTV's could very well be mounted sideways, so maybe the joke's on me. ;)

trees247 says:

How do I get those squares with camera360?

n25philly says:

Use a real camera

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Nothing wrong with using a phone as your main camera.

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paging dr b says:

If this were an Apple site, would the title of the article have been "Better holiday photos with your IOS?" Nope.

The title of the article should have used the word phone instead of Android. My HTC runs android, but I don't refer to it as "my android", just like I don't call my laptop "my windows" or "my OSX". Ya dig?

nadsurf says:

The best tip I found to be as steady as possible when taking a picture is to use the timer. Put it on 2 seconds, activate it and just keep still when the picture is being taken.

K White1 says:

Following "The Rule of Thirds" greatly improved my Christmas photos. And I felt something like a pro. Thanks, AC!

Posted via AC App on HTC One

cannon225 says:

IPhone suck if people say iPhone or way better then android better think again

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