We all love to document our lives, our loved ones, and the moments in life we wish to share and remember. We don’t always have our cameras on hand, but you can take some amazing pictures with what you ALWAYS have on your person: your smartphone!

The challenge is getting good quality photographs from a gadget primarily designed for communication. If you keep these tips in mind, you can produce some stunning shots.

1. Start the camera faster

Some phones make it difficult to access the camera application. You may have a smartphone that allows you to move the camera application to a more convenient location, or even allows you to reassign it to your home screen to launch the camera.

2. Keep the phone steady

One reason you tend to take blurry photos with your phone is due to it’s light and thin structure, and it can be difficult to hold compared with a full-size camera. Grip the cell phone as firmly as you can, rest your elbows on a support, or keep them tucked in to your sides for support. Take a deep breath and then exhale slowly as you gently trigger the cell phone’s shutter release.

3. Know when the shutter clicks

You will need to take into account that some cell phones have a delay after you press the shutter release. If the shutter release is on a touchscreen, the shutter probably trips after you lift your finger, not when you press down. Either way, hold the camera steady while the picture is being exposed. And don’t jab at the screen as shaking will blur your photograph. Make sure silent mode is off.

4. Optimize the settings

If your camera has several settings, use them. The higher the resolution of your mobile camera, the clearer your photographs will be. If the camera offers an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) setting, do not select the  ‘Auto’ option.  When you are taking pictures outdoors, in daylight, set the ISO to its lowest value, to minimize the digital noise in your picture. In low-light situations, increase the ISO as high as it will go.

If your camera has a white balance control, you will often get the best results  if you leave it on automatic mode. But, if the colors come out wrong, try setting the balance to the ambient light, such as fluorescent, daylight, or sunset. Just be sure to reset it to automatic when you are done, or your future photographs will look weird.

5. Compose your photos

Capturing a good photograph is not merely about knowing the right settings. Compose your photos like the professionals do by dividing the frame into thirds--imagine a tic-tac-toe board--and put your subject on one of those lines, rather than in the middle of the screen.

Remember to keep the camera level, nothing ruins a photograph like a tilted horizon. Keep an eye on the background to be sure that nothing is “growing” out of the top of someone’s head.

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