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How to take better pictures with your iPhone camera

Wondering how to take better pictures with your iPhone camera? Ever found yourself taking a picture with your iPhone only to discover the photo came out less than perfect? Sometimes you only have one opportunity to capture a moment, so you want to ensure everything is right and your photo doesn’t come out looking like it was taken with a cheap and flimsy digital camera. The iPhone camera has come a long way since the original iPhone in 2007, currently sporting a 5 megapixel sensor with flash in the iPhone 4, but there are still a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best shot possible.
In this tip we’ll go over a few pointers to help you in taking better pictures with your iPhone — find out how after the break!

Ready, steady, go!

I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to quickly whip out my iPhone in order to snap a photo on the go, but sometimes I wasn’t keeping my hand steady enough (hello Mr. Blurrycam). One thing you can do is use a tripod, but not everyone keeps one handy when out and about. Camera+ ($1.99 — iTunes link) helps by including an image stabilizer, monitoring how steady your hand is and taking the photo when you’re making the least amount of movement. However, if you’re using the default Camera app then you’re on your own. As such, keeping your iPhone as steady as you can is a good way to make sure you’re getting the sharpest image possible, especially in low light conditions. Speaking of lighting…

Light is your new best friend

iOS 4 iPhone 4 camera switch and LED flash icon
Lighting is a big factor in taking great pictures, and it’s important to understand the basics when using your iPhone camera under certain lighting conditions. Taking photos where there isn’t enough light can heavily impact the overall picture quality, so make sure there’s as much light as possible. Although the camera baked into the iPhone 4 is (in my humble opinion) the best in its class, you’ll still notice some noise in low light conditions.
If you’re in a dark environment, make sure you’re taking advantage of the iPhone 4′s built-in camera flash. For older iPhone models without flash, getting a usable photo in low light may take a little extra work but you’ll be glad you made the effort… Take a look at Darkroom (free — iTunes link) to help you out with this problem. Just like Camera+, it features a ‘Steady Mode’ to help avoid blurry photos in low light conditions.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure your subject is properly lit. For example, the light source should be directed at your subject (not at you) to help draw focus on whatever you’re shooting.

Get up close and personal

The iPhone camera features tap-to-focus in addition to decent macro ability with the iPhone 4, so don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with your subject. This is especially true when shooting portraits or close-ups, where letting your subject consume the majority of the photo really goes a long way.

To zoom, or not to zoom

Most point-and-shoot cameras feature an optical zoom of around 3x-5x, which is great for shooting at a distance. However this unfortunately isn’t so with the iPhone (and all smartphone cameras, for that matter). When Apple released iOS 4 they threw in a digital zoom feature for the Camera app, but I’ve never found myself actually using it due how the pictures usually turn out. When you use the digital zoom feature you’ll be losing a significant amount of quality, so unless it’s absolutely necessary, try to stay away from using digital zoom as much as you can.

Edit, edit, and edit some more!

The iPhone has a number of awesome photo apps in the App Store, some of which we mentioned above, but which ones should you use for editing and refining your photos after you’ve taken them? Using the iPhone touchscreen to manipulate photos can be a rather delightful experience, so here are a few photo editing apps we recommend checking out:
  • ColorSplash – ($0.99 — iTunes link) ColorSplash lets you take any regular photo and turn it into a colorful work of art. You start off by selecting your desired photo or taking a picture from within the app, to which ColorSplash strips away the color and turns it into a black and white. You then touch whatever area of the picture you want to fill in with color, creating unique images that really stand out from the crowd.
  • PefectPhoto – ($0.99 — iTunes link) This app really shines when it comes to the number of options and effects you can work with. My personal favorite is the Spot Healing feature which lets you fix any blemishes or artifacts in your photo. Have a great shot of you and your best friend but want to get rid of that horrible zit that’s taking all the attention? PerfectPhoto is the editing app for you! You can also crop, align, edit exposure and gamma along with a number of other great editing options. There’s even a few noteworthy effects like Bloom and Vintage, taking your photos to a new and fully personalized level.
  • Adobe Photoshop Express – (free — iTunes link) Photoshop Express for iPhone is a gem of a photo editing app, and to top it off it’s completely free! A good example of its editing power is reducing noise and smoothing out your pictures so they’re easier on the eyes. This is another great solution for taking pictures in low light conditions, letting you smooth out those darker photos in your collection and making them much more attractive.
Know of any other iPhone picture-taking pointers or suggestions we might have missed? Also let us know what your favorite photo editing apps are, or apps that can help get around some of the issues we mentioned above in the comments!
Bonus Tip: Clean your lens! Having a dirty camera lens can dramatically lower the quality of your pictures, so take a microfiber cloth and some screen cleaner to your iPhone to help your photos look less washed out. We recommend the iKlenz Cleaner Solution Kit to get the job done. You’ll immediately notice a difference, so give it a try!