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Photo Taking Basics

Most people have taken pictures with a smartphone camera. However, we will start with a few basics to make sure we have a solid foundation. To begin with, we’ll discuss some basic features of your phone or tablet’s camera, define the term “selfie,” see how to quickly focus an image, and discuss a few phototaking reminders.

The self-portrait is nothing new. You might be surprised to learn that the first “selfie” was taken in 1839. Things have come a long way since Robert Cornelius immortalized himself in daguerreotype.  Phones and tablets these days often include two cameras—have you noticed that? There is always one on the back—what you’re focused on displays on the screen. On many devices there is now a second camera on the front, or screen side. With this feature you can take a picture of yourself, and you can see what you look like on the screen at the same time.

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Here are a few reminders regarding taking photos with a smartphone or tablet:

  • Use a soft cloth on your two camera lenses to ensure they’re clean.
  • These days, with HDTVs being in the horizontal direction, it’s generally best to take your photos with your camera the long way too. It’s convenient to be able to view the photos on a bigger screen, and photos fill the screen nicely when they are taken in landscape orientation.
  • There ARE times when taking photos in the tall or “portrait” orientation is better for what you want to see, like showing the height of a tall structure—think Eiffel Tower. But if you look at those pictures using a big screen, the photos display smaller, and there will be black bars on the side.  
  • Be sure to hold your phone or tablet with two hands. If you shake a little bit, no worries—there are tripods specifically available for phones and tablets to hold your device still.
  • If you like taking selfies, there’s such a thing as a “selfie stick”! It helps position your camera farther away from you so you can see more in the photo.
  • Usually your camera will have all its settings on auto, meaning the focus and the flash, for example, will automatically adjust as necessary—you can also make manual adjustments, but the phone will auto focus for you. It helps if you tap on the screen where you want the focus to be—that directs the phone’s camera to know what YOU want to see clearly.

Smartphone cameras have changed many things related to our past user experiences with cameras. Perhaps most pronounced are the changes related to film. Remembering to purchase film or running out of shots, let alone keeping the film from being exposed and ruined, are things of the past.  With smartphone cameras, you can take pictures to your heart’s content and review them right then and there. If you don’t like ‘em, you just delete ‘em, take a few more, and nothing is wasted—you’re not paying for film and development only to find that Grandma Patty’s eyes were closed.

There is a limit to how many pictures you can take based on how much storage is available on your phone or tablet. Our tip is to take a bunch of shots, then review them now or later to see which picture is the best, and delete what doesn’t look good.

Speaking of reviewing photos, let’s discuss where they reside once you’ve taken them. While the camera is in use, most devices show the last image in the bottom corner—just tap to open it up. Or later, view it in your device’s included photo gallery app. As you look at each picture, select the small trash can to delete the photo.

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