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David Lee King: Five Tips for Better Smartphone Photos

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Image: Five tips for better smartphone photos.

Picture this - you're at the reference desk, helping a customer, and something unusual happens. You want to take a photo of it and share that moment with your library's Facebook or Instagram friends.

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…

Image: Social media

What do you do? Most likely, you're not going to run back to the staff area, pull out the library's DSLR Camera, choose an appropriate lens, poke around for the right light to attach to the camera, etc. If you did that, you would miss the moment.

I'll guess that you would simply pull out your trusty smartphone and snap away.

Thankfully, smartphones can take really good photos these days! For example, my iPhone 6S has a 12 megapixel camera, which is much better than the point and click camera I was using ten years ago.

Lots of megapixels and a new smartphone aren't worth much if you don't know how to make that smartphone camera work to your advantage, though.

Image: Five tips for better smartphone photos.

Here are some tips to help you create better smartphone photos:

1. Get close

It's always better to move closer to your subject - rather than zooming in - when you're taking a smartphone photo. You want to fill the frame with your subject as much as possible. The digital zoom on your smartphone probably works ok, but moving closer generally works better.

2. Focus on one subject

Your photo will make sense to more people if you have one subject per photo. For example, instead of taking a group photo of children sitting at a table making a craft, focus on one child making the craft (and make sure to get close). Or just take a photo of their hands and the craft being made. *

3. Use some simple photography composition rules

There are some basic photography composition rules that are easy to follow, and will quickly improve your photographs. They include the Rule of Thirds, being aware of leading lines, and using symmetry when possible. Read up on them, or better yet – do a couple of YouTube searches and watch an expert explain how the rule works.

4. Do some basic editing

Before posting to Instagram or Facebook, do some basic editing to the photo. I use Snapseed as a photo editor (free in the Apple and Android app stores). Some simple edits include cropping the photo so everything is tighter, sharpening or lightening up a photo if needed, and applying a cool filter.

5. Better lighting

Make sure your subject can be seen! Thankfully, you don't need fancy lighting systems to achieve this. If you're outside, put the sun behind you so it's shining on your subject. If you're inside, get creative with windows or overhead lights.

These five tips, and a lot of experimentation, will make your photos pop out and get clicked, liked, and loved.

* Make sure you have the necessary permissions in place to take photos of children, of course.