TIME How-To

Fixes for 5 Common Smartphone Photo Mistakes

Most of the time, today’s smartphones do a great job of capturing everyday moments in their default full automatic modes. However, there are times when adjusting your phone’s camera settings can make a huge difference. Check out these simple fixes to five of the most common photo mistakes and start taking better pictures.

1. Out of focus photos

face-detection-on-samsung-gs5-350px
Face detection option on the Galaxy S5 Samsung

When you don’t want the subject of your photo to be in the center of your image, your phone’s camera will often focus on the wrong spot. The fastest, easiest solution is to tap your subject on the screen to focus — an option that’s available on the iPhone and most Android phones. You can also press and hold on a spot to lock in focus and exposure and then move the phone to compose your shot. You can turn on face detection as well, and your phone will find and focus on the people in the scene.

2. Blurry fast-action/sports shots

When your subject is moving, like an athlete running down the field, movement can cause the image to blur. If you have an Android phone, like the HTC One M8 or the Samsung Galaxy S5, or Windows Phone, like the Nokia Lumia 1520, you can combat this by raising the ISO setting. With a higher ISO, the shutter speed can be faster, making it easier to freeze the action.

3. Dark faces in backlit and bright outdoor shots

In Auto mode, your camera tries to ensure that everything in your photo will be reasonably well lit. But when the person in the shot is back-lit or you’re shooting at a sunny beach or in a snowy setting, the background is much brighter than the people in your photo, so they can come out far too dark. For this problem, there are a few things you can do to make your photo turn out right.

Try setting your flash on so that it fires with each shot. In an outdoor scene, the flash can help light up faces even when the sun is shining. This is called a “fill flash.”

Another way to bring out details in all parts of a photo is to turn on HDR (high dynamic range). This mode takes overexposed and underexposed images and merges them together to bring out details in the light and dark areas of the photo. Most smartphones will have an HDR mode.

If neither of those options work, you can try manually adjusting the exposure to brighten or darken the overall photo. You’ll find this option on some smartphones, like the iPhone, HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nokia Lumia 920, which let you manually adjust exposure.

4. Dark, grainy low light shots

Getting a good shot in low light usually requires lengthening the exposure, which leads to blurriness from you or your subject moving. Taking shots too quickly results in under-exposed images. There are a few things you can try, though.

Like with fast action shots, you can try bumping up the ISO setting, an option on some Android and Windows phones. The higher the ISO, the faster the camera sees the scene with the available light. So you can take photos faster, which reduces the blur caused by camera shake.

Low light is another shooting scenario where HDR mode can help. In this mode, the camera takes two or three shots at different exposures and merges them together to get detail in the brightest and darkest areas of the shot. Because the camera is taking a few shots, it’s important that nothing changes between each shot or the resulting image will be blurry. So reserve HDR mode for landscapes and group shots.

You’ll also want to turn on optical image stabilization, which is available on the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3.

5. Cluttered backgrounds

When you’re focused on the subject of your photos, sometimes you don’t notice what’s going on in the background. Then, when you look at the actual picture, we see a ton of distracting detail that ruins the overall effect of the image.

A few smartphones let you blur the background or foreground of an image — or even select your focus after you’ve taken your shot.

Phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 accomplish this manually by letting you select the aperture. Lower numbers equal a shallower depth of field – you can turn distracting backgrounds into fuzzy abstract patterns that make your subject in the foreground the focus of attention. The Lumia 920, 1020 and 1520 also have Nokia Refocus (see the demo below), which lets you refocus your shot after taking it, blurring the other areas of the photo.

The Google Camera app (preloaded on some phones), which runs on Android 4.4 KitKat phones, also lets you refocus your shot after you take it with a feature called Lens Blur, as does the Magic Focus feature on the LG G3. Samsung has a similar feature called “Selective Focus,” which lets you set what you want to be in focus and make the rest of your shot blurred before you take the shot.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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For some, the scale of the carnage in Lower Manhattan transformed all of New York, overnight, from a place they called home to a ruin they had to leave behind forever.

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Hudson Azera Bond is only two months old, but the infant is already fighting for his life. Diagnosed with a heart condition known as cardiomyopathy when he was just seven days old, Hudson needs a vital heart transplant, which his family is attempting to raise money for through a Facebook page called Hudson’s Heart. Hudson’s father, Kevin Bond, even attempted to boost traffic to the page — and the cause — by purchasing a $20 paid ad from the social networking site.

But Facebook initially rejected the ad, issuing a form response last weekend that deemed the accompanying photo of Hudson — who is hooked up to multiple machines and tubes — as “scary, gory, or sensational and evokes a negative response.” Unsurprisingly, the family was incredibly “hurt” by the company’s description of their son.

Facebook, which isn’t new to photo controversies, has since reversed the decision and a representative even called the Bond family to personally apologize. When questioned about the original decision, Facebook told Yahoo Health in a statement: “This was a mistake on our part, and the ad has been re-approved. We apologize for any inconvenience this caused the family.”

In a post on the Hudson’s Heart Facebook page, Kevin Bond, wrote on Wednesday:

I read Facebook’s response on media outlets last night. They apologized for the inconvenience this caused my family. Inconvenience was never an issue. Having my beautiful Son compared to dismembered bodies, vampires, zombies, etcetera hurt me, and my family.
The ad in question was time sensitive. Reversing their decision days later fixes nothing. Further, the company still hasn’t contacted me directly. Had I not read their half hearted apology on the media I’d have no idea it existed.”

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This is not a fringe reaction. From Ricky Gervais to rapper RZA to many people across the internet, there seems to be a common idea that the horrible and humiliating invasion of these women’s privacy and the theft of their property is in some way their own fault. When Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of the actresses who had naked images stolen, tweeted, “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves,” this was one of the responses she received: “‪@M_E_Winstead Stop posing nude on camera, dummy. Your husband not know what you look like nude? ‪#LessonLearned.”

Now, obviously, there is truth to this idea. A person can’t steal something that doesn’t exist. So if you don’t have nude photos, they can’t be stolen. Just like if you don’t have a car, it can’t be stolen. And if you don’t use a credit card, it can’t be compromised.

But that’s absurd, you might be saying. People need cars and they need to use credit cards, but no one needs to take nude photos of themselves. Despite the fact that neither cars, nor credit cards technically qualify as something we need, let’s parse this idea for a moment. In 2014, a huge part of our lives — working, shopping, socializing and dating — involves technology. From shopping history to credit card information to personal correspondence, digital devices store a stunning amount of personal and private information, making them an integral part of our culture. So it’s willfully naive to suggest that a person’s sex life should be kept wholly separate from that culture. Show me one person who can honestly say they’ve never taken or sent a suggestive photo, sext or email that they wouldn’t want splashed across the internet for millions to see, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t use or understand modern technology.

Yet taking nude photos — or having a car or using a credit card — isn’t the problem here. The problem is the hacking and the stealing, in this case of something immensely private. And it’s not only a problem, it’s a crime. It’s true that posting naked photos of people without their consent is still largely a gray area, legally speaking, which is why so many revenge porn sites have exploded across the internet in recent years. But hacking and stealing photos is definitely a crime; just ask Christopher Chaney, the man currently serving a 10-year sentence for stealing and posting nude images of Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, among others.

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