Take Pics Like A Pro — With Your Phone

When it comes to the on-the-fly selfie, the best camera is the one you have with you. While there are certainly a few people who haul around their DSLR all day, for most us, that camera is a phone.
And, that's just fine. Assuming you've got a smartphone from within the last half-decade, it's a pretty awesome camera and photo-editing machine capable of producing some professional-quality stuff. Whether you’re trying for a great nature photo or the ultimate portrait, capturing the perfect shot requires a delicate balance of skill, luck, and, of course, the right apps.
Ahead, the tips and apps that'll make your phone-ography deliver the Like-bait you deserve.
The Techtress is R29's column for smart, personal tech support — whether you're gadget-savvy or not. Emily Price is a tech reporter who has contributed everywhere from Mashable to Reuters to USA Today.
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Extend Your Reach
Get a little extra room in your next selfie by using your headphones as a shutter button. Set your camera up, step back, and then press the volume up button to snap the perfect shot.
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Photo: Courtesy of Camera+
Go Manual
If you’re a whiz with your DSLR, then you’ll want to download Camera+. The app gives you control over things like the white balance, focus, and even the exposure. After you shoot, there are some pretty powerful editing features baked in for your finishing touches.
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Look Behind You
A cluttered background can ruin a picture. Move that stray wine glass, purse strap, or pile of laundry before you snap your shot to make sure the subject of your photos really pops. And, for the love of Instagram, get out of the bathroom.
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Photo: Courtesy of FaceTune
Make Yourself Picture Perfect
Spruce up your selfies in seconds with Facetune. The $2.99 app is designed specifically to do things like whiten your teeth, hide bags under your eyes, and remove that pimple on your forehead. Hey, if all the fashion ads are doing it...
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HDR Is Your Best Friend
HDR stands for high dynamic range, and is a setting on iPhone and Android cameras that adjusts the exposure of light versus dark in your photo. The end result is often a hyper-realistic level of detail. To make the magic happen, your phone will essentially take three pictures at different exposures, and then combine them together into a single shot. HDR is particularly useful for taking portraits in sunlight, shooting scenes in low-light, and landscape photos where you have a ton of contrast between the sky and the ground.
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Photo: Courtesy of LINE Camera
Make Your Own Meme
A picture’s worth a thousand words, but you can add a few more words to yours with LINE camera. The free app has over 100 different built-in fonts that can be used to type words over your photo in one of 20 different color options. The app also has a handful of filter and border options.
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Use The Built-In Filters
Your phone actually has a number of built-in filters that can be great for adding a little extra panache to your shots. Access the filters by pressing the tri-dot design in the bottom left on your camera screen. Filters can be added before you take a shot, or applied (and removed) afterwards from your camera roll.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lightroom
Go Pro
If you’re an Adobe Lightroom user, then you’ll want to make sure to snag Lightroom for your iPhone, as well. The professional editing app performs many of the same functions as its desktop counterpart. The best part? Editing syncs across devices through Adobe’s Creative Cloud, so you can start editing on your phone and pick things up on your computer later on.
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Lock Your Focus
Tired of your camera refocusing while you’re trying to take a shot? Lock the focus on an iPhone by touching the screen and holding right onto your subject. You'll see “AE/AF Lock” show up at the top of the screen to let you know the focus is staying put.
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Photo: Courtesy of PhotoGrid
Join Forces
Do two of your pictures just look better together than apart? PhotoGrid is a free app that allows you to create collages on the fly using images from your photo gallery. A collage can be created in just seconds, and then instantly shared with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
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Lay Off The Zoom
Digital photos are made up of thousands of tiny dots called pixels. Since the lens on your phone doesn’t move, when you zoom with your iPhone’s camera you’re essentially just making those dots bigger rather than getting closer to the subject. The end result can be some blurry or pixelated photos. A better idea: Take the photo normally, and then pinch to zoom in after the fact. That way, you definitely have an in-focus shot, and can find the perfect balance of zoom and distortion.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pop Kick
Channel Your Inner Warhol
Popkick takes your boring pictures and turns them into wall-ready pop art. Unlike some other imaging apps, with this one you have the option to keep your pics full resolution, which means they look great on Facebook or hanging above your couch.
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Learn The Rule Of Thirds
If you divide your image into thirds, then your subject should land at one of the intersection points. Get a cheat sheet by putting a grid on your iPhone screen when you’re framing a shot. You can turn the grid on by going into Settings then Photos & Camera.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paper Camera
Make Your Photos Look Like Drawings
Paper Camera transforms your images into cartoons or paintings instantly — the perfect effect for that new profile pic.
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Photo: Courtesy of WordFoto
Say It With Words
If you’re looking to get creative with your finished photos, then WordFoto might be just what you’re looking for. The app makes it look like your photo is made up of a word or phrase of your choosing. It’s a pretty awesome feat, and can make for a photo worth printing, framing, and giving as a gift.
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Use All Of The Lights
In general, the more light you have in your shot, the better your photo is going to look. Before you snap that pic, consider turning on an overhead light or nearby lamp to help brighten up the space. You’ll likely be glad you did.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cat Paint
Put A Cat On It
Everything is better with a cat. If you didn’t happen to have a feline friend around when you took your picture, add one after the fact with Cat Paint. The app has a number of different kitties to choose from, and allows you to customize the size of each until you find the purrfect match.
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Brace Yourself
When you hold your camera, your breathing naturally shakes it a bit which can have a negative effect on your images. Get better photos by using a small tripod, or bracing your phone on something like a desk, railing, or tree before your start shooting.
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Photo: Courtesy of Incredibooth
Turn Your Phone Into A Photobooth
Incredibooth is a $.99 app that works like your favorite photobooth. The app has a number of built-in themes and can be used to share filmstrip-like shots of you and your BFFs (or just you).
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Turn Off That Flash
Not every dark photo benefits from the flash. Try taking pictures without it first and see how they turn out. You’ll be surprised at how well your phone handles low-light situations — and how much better your photos look.