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Smartphone Camera Tips

With your smartphone -whether it’s a Samsung Galaxy, iPhone, or Google Pixel- you basically have a professional camera built right in. But what’s the use of having a pro-grade camera at your fingertips if you don’t know how to use it properly? We’re here to help. These helpful tips and tricks will have you shooting like a pro.

iPhone Photo Tips

Live Photo

Turn on Live Photo mode if you’re taking an action shot or if you have a fussy subject like a pet or small child. To turn on Live Photos, open your camera app. Then, select the icon (a circle made of three rings with a dotted outermost ring) in the top right corner of the screen. A horizontal slash through the circle means the feature is off. With the feature on, every photo you take will be a live.

To select a Live Photo’s key photo, select your chosen photo. You can also view Live Photos only by opening the Photos app, tapping the Albums tab on the bottom menu, and scrolling to Media Types > Live Photos. This will only show images taken with Live Photo on. Once you have selected your picture, tap Edit in the top right corner. Tap the Live Photos button from the bottom menu. Move the slider to change the frame. Once you have found the still you’d like to select as the new key photo, release your finger from the slider and select Make Key Photo. Tap Done.

Play the whole photo by firmly pressing and holding on the screen. If you like the way this looks, you can add a motion effect to create fun moving image. Select the Live Photo you’d like to add an effect on, then swipe up to see Effects. There will be options for Live, Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure.

To learn all about Live Photos, read this article directly from Apple.

Volume Button Trick

Use the volume buttons to easily capture photos – this is especially useful when taking a selfie where pressing the shutter button may make the camera a bit shaky. When you’re in the camera app, whether it’s normal photo mode or portrait mode, you can use either the up or down volume buttons to take a picture. You can also use this trick in video, slo-mo, or time-lapse mode to start recording a video. Click the volume button again to stop recording.

Samsung Galaxy Photo Tips

Motion Photo

Motion Photos on Samsung Galaxy captures a few seconds of footage right before the shutter button is pressed. Like Live Photo, it’s a great way to pick the absolute best still for a fast-moving subject in your photo like a pet, child, or an action shot. To enable Motion Photo on your Galaxy device, launch the photo app. Then click the Motion Photo button – it’s the rectangle with a triangle in it on the top menu bar. Once it’s turned on, you will be capturing Motion Photos whenever you take a photo. To edit, click View Motion photo on the bottom middle of the screen. From there, you can turn the photo into a video, gif, or capture extra frames.

For more information on this feature, read this article from Samsung.

Samsung also has a very helpful guide that explores all the intricate features in-depth on their pro-grade cameras. It goes into detail about photography basics like getting inspiration and setting up a composition with insight from Kamal Tung, a professional photographer. Get technical with tips about shooting in low light, background blur options, image resolution, and more. Dive deep and learn how to expertly snap a shot here.

Google Pixel Photo Tips

Top Shot

Just like Live Photo on iPhones and Motion Photos on Samsung, Google has a feature that captures a few seconds of footage before the photo is taken so you can choose the best still. To turn on motion photos, tap the Down arrow. Then tap either Motion auto or Motion on.

To use this feature, you must turn off Social media depth features. You can do that by tapping the Down arrow at the top of the screen, Settings, Advanced, and Turn off Social media depth features.

To view your motion photo, tap the small photo preview in the bottom right of the screen. It should play automatically, but if it doesn’t, tap Play motion photo at the top. Save motion photos as a video by tapping More, Export, Video, and Export.

When you take a motion photo and your phone is a Pixel 3 or later, it may recommend a better-quality still. To pick your favorite shot, open the motion photo that you’ve captured, then tap Shots in this photo. Scroll through the shots to pick the best one. The recommended shots will have a white dot over them. Tap Save copy in the top right corner.

To learn more about motion photos and how to use them, check out this helpful article from Google.

General Photography Tips to Take the Best Shot

No matter what phone you have, keep these photography tips in mind to help your shots look their best.


When possible, natural light is typically better. Make sure your subject has the light in front of them and not behind, as backlighting will often result in your image looking too over-exposed.

HDR Mode

All smartphone cameras have HDR mode built in. HDR stands for high dynamic range. With this feature, the lightest areas won’t appear over-exposed and blown out, and the dimmest areas also won’t look too dark to show any detail. HDR mode brings out the details in both the lightest and darkest areas of photos. It works by taking three separate photos then putting them together to preserve the most details in both the highlights and shadows. The only downside is that this can take a bit longer to process than a standard photo. HDR mode is best for scenes with a big difference between the darkest and lightest area in your shot, like landscapes. Avoid using this mode if your photo has a lot of movement or if you’d like it to naturally appear dark, like a silhouette.


Utilize the grid feature on your phone when setting up the composition. These lines can help you with the rule of thirds, a photography trick that creates more compelling and balanced shots.


For the best-looking photos, stop using the built-in digital zoom feature! Smartphones don’t have a complex lens like real cameras, so zooming in your phone just crops and resizes the image. This results in your digitally zoomed photo looking blurry and grainy. If you’re considering using zoom, simply get closer to your subject instead. It will yield much better results.

Cloud Storage

Back up your memories! Cloud storage is a great way to ensure that you’ll always have your photos, no matter what happens to your device. Verizon cloud storage has an automatic backup feature that saves your changes every day without you having to do a thing. It’s compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. Some Verizon Unlimited plans come with 600GB of Verizon cloud storage for free, which should be more than enough room to store your photos for the casual user. Check out more Unlimited plan perks here.

Time to upgrade to a new smartphone? Visit your neighborhood TCC Verizon store to shop the latest devices. Plus, see all the ways you can save on the newest tech.

Do you have any photography secrets to help you get the perfect shot? Share them with us in the comments!

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