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Hidden features in your smartphone camera

  • Tap the screen on the subject to take the camera off full auto mode and tell the camera where to focus and what to 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
  • Most smartphone allow you to long press the screen, locking the focus and exposure. This is handy when you have moving objects between you and the subject or taking multiple images
  • Tap the volume minus button and the same on your attached genuine earphones to 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!
  • iPhone specific tips – Live Photos now has a long exposure effect that can dramatically remove the blotchy, grainy look in poor lighting scenarios. The exact frame in a Live Photo (3 second capture) can be selected by you. Tap on Edit to swipe through the images and tap on the Sound icon to turn off
  • iPhone specific tip – the gridlines now has a cross-hairs feature to help you hold the phone perfectly flat for those overhead images

Quick smartphone specific techniques

  • Clean the lens – your phone is often placed in your pocket or handbag and can get quite dirty. This is often over looked by even the most astute amateur photographers!
  • 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

Quick photo set up checklist

  • Consider the photo intention – what are you trying to say in the image?
  • Check the background for distracting elements
  • Check the lighting direction and strength – are there any unwanted shadows?
  • Is this the best angle – is there are more creative, engaging angle available?

Creating a shot list to produce a library of relevant images

Visual content & storytelling = visual storytelling

Who is your customer?

Understand your customer. Show them that you know who they are and what their pain point is. An image of your key demographic will subconsciously connect with the viewer – they will be able to better imagine themselves in the image.

What do your clients love about your business? What do they want to know?

What are the barriers to converting booking enquiries into sales? You may be able to address some of these through your images.


Personalise your brand

Show your audience who is behind the business, the culture, the staff, how you go about sourcing and preparing food and beverage, preparing a function room for an event.

People buy from people and they love to learn the stories behind the business. This builds trust and connection. These images can be presented either formally or a more familiar informal style



What can the customer expect from your service?

How will they feel before, during and after their booking?


What are others in your space sharing? What is their visual strategy?

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

Street art photo editing process to make smartphone graffiti photos pop

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.

  1. Straighten using Perspective tool

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.


  1. Tune Image

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.


  1. Details

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.


  1. Healing

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.


  1. Blur

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

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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.