Todays notes below and emailed for future reference

Hidden features in your smartphone camera

  • Quick access your camera by swiping left to avoid logging in or up from the bottom. On most Androids, you can set up a quick access by double tapping the home button. Some smartphones can even activate the phone via voice command
  • Tap the screen on the subject to take the camera off full auto mode and tell the camera where to focus and make sharp in the image
  • Tapping the screen also tells the camera where to calculate the balance of light and dark (exposure). Have you taken photos where the background is either too dark or too bright? Whilst the little sun icon is displayed – you can swipe up or down and on some later model Android phones swipe left and right, to activate a light slider. You now have full creative control over how light or dark you want the image to be
  • An iPhone specific tip – when you long press the screen, it will lock the focus and exposure. This is handy when you have moving objects between you and the subject or taking multiple images.
  • The volume minus button and the same button on your attached genuine earphones will actually take the photo
  • Hold your finger on the shutter button to capture a series of photos (burst). The timer function on the iPhone automatically captures a burst of ten photos to avoid that one person having their eyes closed!

Quick smartphone specific techniques

  • Clean the lens – your phone is often placed in your pocket or handbag and can get quite dirty
  • Stabilise the phone by holding it in two hands. If practical, keep your elbows close to your body and use a tripod or rest your hand against something stable. Use the volume button or timer shutter release to take the photo
  • Choose locations that offer flattering, even lighting, such as in the shade without a bright background. Bright overhead sun creates shadows under the eyes
  • Consider what motivated you to take the photo and make sure that it is obvious in the image
  • Isolate the subject from the background – this can often be achieved by alternate angles, including a low angle having the sky behind the subject
  • Check the background behind your subject for any unwanted or distracting elements
  • Be aware of your branding voice and be consistent
  • Turn on the grid/gridlines to display the rule of thirds overlay. There are three main advantages:
    • Position the main subject off-centre – ideally on one of the four intersecting points
    • Assist you to capture a straight image
    • If the beautiful sky is the feature. Fill two thirds of the image with the sky, by placing the horizon on the bottom horizontal line. This makes it obvious the sky is the feature of the image
  • For selfie photos, hold the phone slightly above and trial different angles. Closer objects appear larger. Therefore, the eyes look larger and the chin looks smaller. Consider a clip on wide angle lens
  • When recording video, if you intend to watch it on a television - hold the phone horizontally
  • What is HDR? It is high dynamic range, not high definition resolution. All cameras struggle to effectively capture all the detail in the bright and dark areas of a scene. This camera mode automatically captures multiple images and save a single image, capturing the details that appear more life-like and what our eye naturally observes. The blended image does not increase the resolution.
  • To achieve the most out of your camera, consider using a third party camera app to manually control focus, exposure and white balance. I recommend ProCamera, for iPhone and FV-5 for the Android.

Make your photos stand out

We live in a mobile, scrolling world, where it is harder to have our message and visuals stand out. They need to be relevant and attention grabbing. Even a video needs to have a great thumbnail/preview.

  1. Have a strong clear subject matter – avoid a distracting, busy background
  2. Have a clear purpose for the photograph – what are you trying to communicate
  3. Consider how you set up the photo – should the subject be in the middle, off-centre
  4. Make it interesting – look at alternative angle, tilt the phone for energy, props
  5. Enhance the image further using mobile photo editing apps
  6. Dominant colour or something unexpected – upside down or black and white

What photographs to capture

Rule of Thirds
Turn on your gridlines. Objects in the centre of the photo are static. Placing objects off-centre encourages the viewer to find it and then explore the rest of the photo lingering in the photo for longer.

Cropping and Framing
Effective composition can be achieved through removing outer edges to change the aspect ratio, reposition or cut out objects to better improve how existing elements interact with each other.

Rule of thirds – grid lines on the iPhone and Android smartphone explained


Leading Lines
These are elements within the photo that direct the viewer toward the main subject or further into and around the photo. This can be actual lines on the ground, a tree line, colour, light or any other object that grabs our attention and encourages us to follow it.

Use existing elements in the scene to create a frame around the subject or focal point.

Photos taken at eye level are common and not very interesting. Shooting from a different angle can highlight the focal point. The sky assists to isolate the focal point.

Three key take-away points

  1. Make the subject/story clear to the viewer
  2. Check the background for clutter – items sticking out of heads
  3. Tap and swipe your finger on the screen to adjust the brightness

Snapseed - Editing Workflow

Simple Snapseed photo editing - 6 steps

Snapseed is my go to app to start image enhancement for every photo I create.
I typically look at a photo for obvious fixes and attempt to have a final photo in my mind before I start editing.

The following seven steps are consistent in nearly every photo I edit.


Straighten the photo and change the perspective. I avoid using either Rotate or the rotate option within Crop.

  1. CROP

Crop the photo considering composition – selecting from an aspect ratio preset. This can change the whole story and feel of your image. Where will you be sharing the image. This may affect the crop aspect.


Identify issues that need to be addressed to the whole photo (global adjustments). Start with Ambience, then go from the top at brightness and work your way down. I quite often need to go back and add a little more contrast.

TIP: Hold the before and after icon in the top right corner to see your progress.


Tap on details to find two options: structure and sharpening. I rarely go beyond 15 in structure, because it becomes a little grungy; then increase sharpening to what I like.

TIP: Remember to pinch and zoom to have a closer look at exactly what sharpening is occurring.

TIP: Another option to sharpen the image is the Tonal Contrast filter.


Pinch and zoom into areas that need replacing. Swipe over an object and it will replace with similar content (pixels) on either side. If it doesn’t work very well, zoom in further or try swiping from another direction.

TIP: I use an iOS and Android app named Retouch by AdvaSoft for removing objects.


Lens blur filter is great for blurring a distracting background.

TIP: I use an iOS and Android app named After Focus by Motion One for creating the blurred background.

Apps discussed today - further details in the PDF and in your email


Download – iOS
Download – Android

  • Simple and/or advanced
    photo editing
  • Whole photo and area
    specific adjustments
  • Transform perspective
  • Can go back and change
    your adjustments
  • Sharpen the focus
  • Filter options
  • Tonal contrast
  • Lens Blur
  • Healing is better in
After Focus by Morion One

Download – iOS
Download – Android

  • Create a blurred
  • Great for portraits and
  • Easy to use. Built in
  • Brings the attention back
    to the subject and not the
Pics Art app by Pics Art Inc

Download – iOS
Download – Android

  • Whole photo and selective
    area adjustments
  • Large community of
    photographers and photo
  • Combine photos and use
    different blend modes
  • Large range of filters
  • Ability to add text and
Retouch app by Adva Soft

Download – iOS
Download – Android

  • Smart Healing – remove
    distracting objects
  • Cloning–remove
    distracting objects
    manually. Select a source
    area to copy and replace
    the object
  • Adjust the sharpness of
    the brush edge and/or the
    strength of the effect
  • Line removal. Perfect for
    those overhead power

There are more apps listed in the PDF download here

Any follow-up questions - I would love to answer them and help you

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Don't forget about the supportive online community in our Facebook group.

Each week I run a new mobile photo theme to encourage us to practise what we learn. At the weekend, I create and post a collage of your awesome images shared during the week.

It is a great way to learn new photography techniques and apps - ask any questions you have smartphone photography related. It is always great to see how everyone interprets the theme and comes up with creative, stunning images.

Click below to learn my favourite mobile editing apps or receive my free smartphone photo course