Essential Android Tips and Tricks

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Take Better Photos With Your Android Phone

Take Sharper Photos

Toggle to the Sport setting to increase the shutter speed.
Toggle to the Sport setting to increase the shutter speed.

Taking too many blurry photos? Either your camera is moving too much or your subject is. The former produces a picture that's completely blurred, while the latter creates a picture with some sharp elements but a blurred subject. Here's how to fix the problem.

To reduce camera movement, stay still when firing the lens. Hold the camera phone with both hands, and keep your elbows tucked in to the sides of your body for support. Press the shutter button, but make no other movements--such as lifting your finger--until you're sure the image has been taken.

On the Droid X, I hold the shutter button down partway to set the focus, and then push it fully to take the shot. I don't lift my finger until after the image is processed. Move your finger early, and you might shake the camera.

If you're shooting with ample light, you can keep subjects from blurring by increasing the shutter speed. In most cases, such as on the Droid X, you'll do this by selecting Scenes, Sport, since a camera phone typically doesn't include manual shutter-speed settings.

Use Blur to Draw Focus

The portrait setting can help reduce the depth of field.
The portrait setting can help reduce the depth of field.

Use camera-phone blur to your advantage, bringing attention to your subject while blurring the background. A short depth of field (the distance in focus) is the classic way people create such an effect.

You'll need ample light and an Android phone with manual exposure settings for the best results. Set the aperture as low as it can go in your camera app settings' manual mode. If you don't have that manual setting, try putting your camera phone in the Portrait auto-mode if available. (I picked Scenes, Portrait on the Droid X.) Regardless, the effect will be more prominent if you get within a few feet of your subject and stay far from the background.

Motion blur can create a different sort of feel, causing blur if either the subject or the camera moves. If they're moving together, however, only the background will blur. Try focusing on a friend as you walk together, keeping the subject in the same position in the frame. Since you're in roughly the same relative position, your friend will stay sharp but the background will blur. This effect works best in darker situations--such as at dusk--when the camera has to extend the shutter speed. As an alternative, create a lot of background movement, such as by shooting from a moving car.

Use Timer Apps

Camera Zoom FX lets you set several timer options so that everyone can stay in the picture.
Camera Zoom FX lets you set several timer options so that everyone can stay in the picture.

You can capture great photos with the built-in camera app, but add-on apps can enable even more features. In choosing such an app, I looked past the filters and other gimmick apps to tools that add timer functions, something the default Droid X camera lacks.

Camera Zoom FX offers several effects, but right now you want the timer tool. For a group shot, prop up your phone where it can see everyone, and then go to Quick Settings, Settings 3, Timer to enable the timer. Add the burst mode to take a series of shots at once; it's easier than walking back and forth to repeat. Just go to Quick Settings, Settings 3, Burst Mode.

Do Something Different

Many photos have a camera-phone look not because of the hardware but because of the typical camera-phone angle: eye level, far from the subject. To get the best photos, shoot from unique perspectives. Try getting down to kid-height to record children playing, or try capturing a group shot from a low angle after your team conquers a mountain. Perhaps most important, get close to your subject.

Experiment with all of these tips to get familiar with your own Android camera phone. With a bit of practice, you can develop the technical and artistic skills to snap great photos in spite of the fixed, cheap lens.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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