sunset at camp

I want to take some nice pictures with my smartphone…like this one at sunset.

What do I want to know about pixel count, resolution, or hardware-software optimization?

That’s easy…absolutely nothing! And I don’t really need to know any of that stuff.

I just want to take some good-looking photos of my granddaughter, our family, and memorable moments and trips.

Lately I’ve been reading a number of articles with great tips for using the camera function on my phone, in my case an iPhone 5S. These tips aren’t necessarily fancy or complicated, rather they allow you to do what you want to do, simply take better pictures. Most smartphones will have similar features so check yours to see what it can do.

More importantly, I’ve enjoyed reading about these features and then immediately applying them to see how they work. Here are several tips to check out on your own phone.

Types of photosIn addition to single shots, my iPhone allows me to take slow-motion, video, square, and panorama shots of both photos and video. The square version is now ubiquitous for social media so shooting in this format automatically allows you to post to apps like Instagram and Pinterest without editing the photo. The slow-motion feature has many uses, including making a clip more interesting. As my granddaughter progresses from crawling to her first tentative steps, I suspect that I will be shooting in slo-mo for sure.

Types of photos #2—The pano or panorama mode is spectacular. Standing at the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter Park this summer and taking a panorama shot was breath-taking. Or panning around to take in a wide-angle view of our lake and surrounding woods at sunset cannot be captured in a single shot photo. Set the pano mode on your camera, tap on the arrow to set the direction you want to film (left to right or right to left) and hold your phone in portrait mode (vertical) and start shooting. Want to shoot the Empire State Building in one shot? Hold the phone in landscape mode to do a vertical pano, up and down. At our summer retreat, the BoomerTECH Adventures crew had some fun with the panorama feature catching us at both ends of the picture.

image of BoomerTECH crew

BoomerTECH Crew


Finding your focus—No need to focus by tapping on the screen, simply hold down the volume button for a few seconds before shooting, just as you would on older cameras. In fact, holding the camera in landscape mode with the volume buttons on the top right allows you to hold the camera in both hands and makes for a much steadier picture. The alternative is to hold your phone in one hand and tap the button on the screen to take the picture, not the easiest thing to do. You can also use your Apple headphones in the same way by pressing the volume button on the headphones to snap your photos.

Take ’em fast—A great photo op presents itself and you don’t have enough time to unlock your camera to open the camera app. No problem! When you turn your phone on you’ll see a camera icon in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Scroll it upwards and you are immediately into your camera and ready to shoot.

And faster—Holding down the shutter button (or the volume button) allows you to take a number of single pictures in “burst” mode, 10 photos/second. No need for multiple clicks because the camera does that for you. Then you can select the best picture of the bunch and discard the rest.

These are just a few of the many tips to make your photo taking experience more interesting and fun. No need to be a techno wizard, you just need to take some time to play with your camera and use these features. There are all kinds of excellent articles and videos to give you a place to start. Simply search for “tips and tricks for using your (name of camera here)” and bingo, you will have all sorts of resources to learn from.

Good luck!

What tips do you have for Boomers to get more out of their cameras?