Taking Better Photos with Your Camera Phone

Image: Taking Better Photos with Your Camera Phone
While some of us may bring their DSLR camera or their tablet to take pictures on tour, many of us will have to rely on the camera on our mobile phones.

When we are creating lifelong memories on tour, documenting those memories with our cameras is a major way to accomplish that. While some of us may bring their DSLR camera or their tablet to take pictures on tour, the camera on your mobile phone can capture wonderful pictures as well.

So, without getting too deep into technical details, let’s explore some simple ways we can improve the quality of photos we take on a memorable vacation.

First, some simple things.
Before you start snapping away there are some pretty simple things you can do to improve the quality of pictures you take.

Guests taking photos in Glacier National Park

  • Wipe the lens!
    We can’t stress this enough. Clean your lens with a gentle cloth. You would be surprised how big of an impact the tiniest debris or smudge on your lens can make on your photos.
  • Use two hands to shoot and brace your arms against your body.
    Using two hands to shoot will help hold the camera in place when you push the shutter button. Bracing your arms against your sides when you shoot will increase your stability.
  • Take more than one picture.
    When taking multiple photos of the same subject, your second or third shot may be better than the first. You’re not shooting on film anymore, so you don’t have to be as conservative with that shutter button. Also, if you want to take many shots at once, explore your camera’s features – you may be able to automatically take many photos at once. This feature may be called “burst,” “continuous,” or “sport” mode.
  • Anticipate shutter delay.
    Educate yourself on the number of seconds it takes your camera to take a picture after you press the shutter button. Anticipating where the subject will be when the picture takes will improve your quality of photos especially if you are in motion (e.g., on a train) or if your subject is in motion (e.g., a trotting elk).
  • Do not use your camera’s auto-zoom feature.
    Using the auto-zoom will reduce image quality. If you need your subject to appear closer, simply walk a few steps closer*.
  • Reduce window glare.
    When taking photos from inside a vehicle get your lens as close to the window as possible to avoid glare/reflections.


There are some easy features worth exploring.
We know most of us want to simply point and shoot but there are some features on your phone that you may want to take a moment to consider. We’re not going to explore technical stuff like shutter speed or ISO, but if you’re feeling brave enough, let’s talk about some of the other bells n’ whistles.

Guests taking pictures in Denali National Park

  • Select the highest picture quality.
    You can increase the raw quality of pictures you take by increasing your picture resolution or selecting a High Definition (HD) mode, if your phone’s camera offers it. Images of a higher image quality will take up more space in your memory, so you may want to download images from your camera onto your computer to free up space before you go on vacation.
  • Help the camera focus by tapping the subject.
    If you are noticing your subject is out of focus, your camera’s autofocus may be detecting something else as the subject. To help guide your camera’s focus, tap your subject in your camera’s viewfinder. Your camera may shift its focus to that.
  • Press an actual shutter button rather than the button on the screen.
    Sometimes it is easier to push a physical button to take a picture rather than the digital button on your phone’s touch screen. Usually this shutter button will be one of the volume buttons. Try it out and feel the difference!
  • Don’t use your camera’s special effects or frames.
    Unless you want to shoot in black and white, these are the bells n’ whistles you want to avoid. Adding extras like these can get distracting.


Better yet, think about your photo as art.
Let’s get creative! There are some simple things you can do to improve a photo’s aesthetic quality. The way in which your subject and its surroundings appear in the photo can greatly improve your photos.

St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

  • Frame the shot.
    Try to capture something in the front while also revealing something in the back. If there is something vertical in your picture (e.g., a tree trunk), let it run along the left or right side of the photograph, or if there is something horizontal in your picture (e.g., a mountain ridge), let it run along the top or bottom of your picture.
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds.
    Oftentimes a photograph’s subject looks best when it fills one third of an image’s space. The best way to accomplish this is to imagine your viewfinder as a 3x3 grid (with three rows and three columns) and taking the picture when your subject is centered on one corner of the grid’s centermost box.
  • Busy Backgrounds?
    One exception to the Rule of Thirds is if your background has a lot of distractions (e.g., crowds of people), let your subject fill most of the frame.

*Be careful about approaching wild animals. The National Park Service recommends getting no closer than 75 feet from most wild animals, and no closer than 150-300 feet from more dangerous animals such as bear or moose. If an animal senses your presence, you are too close. If an animal moves towards you, move back. Always be aware of your surroundings and watch your footing.

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