Getting Great Smartphone Photos – Part 2

Cinder Cone Trail Hike, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

If you read my Part 1 article on smartphone photography, you will have learned the basics of the smartphone camera (well, iPhone), as well as some photo techniques. In this Part 2, you’ll learn a few more techniques, the kind of in-app editing you can do, and ways to get those great images from a smartphone to your desktop or laptop. The previous article used footage captured while hiking in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State. This article uses images taken during a recent four-day stay in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

Look for texture, pattern and color

Yes, your National Park experience is all about the big vistas and wildlife, but it’s also about the little things that add to that experience, such as texture, pattern and color. So photograph anything that catches your eye, whether it’s the odd texture of an egg-shaped rock in Bumpass Hell, the jigsaw-shaped wooden bark of a Jeffrey Pine along the Cinder Cone Trail, the glowing neon green wolf lichen framed in the dark. the gray background of an asphalt switch or the parallel lines of a strip of charred trees.

Petrified Dragon Egg or Volcanic Rock in Bumpass Hell? Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

The tree bark texture puzzle of a Jeffrey Pine along the Cinder Cone Trail, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

The tree bark texture puzzle of a Jeffrey Pine along the Cinder Cone Trail, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Wolf Lichen, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

The Parallel Pattern of Charred Trees, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Capture those quiet moments

Stand still, look around and capture those quiet moments early in the morning or later in the evening. Crowds are less at these times and wildlife and birds enjoy it. A visit to Lake Manzanita early in the morning might find you keeping company with a blue heron foraging for breakfast in the shallow waters.

Blue Heron searching the shallows of Lake Manzanita, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

negative space

Use negative space (i.e. white or empty space) to emphasize the vastness or size of your subject. You can also remove this negative space for a closer view of your subject. In the image below, I photographed the view beyond the summit of Cinder Cone in the northeast part of Lassen. I left quite a bit of sky (negative space) to emphasize the wide coverage of the landscape. I then copied that same image and cropped most of the sky to get a closer look at the landscape.

The view from the top of Cinder Cone – original, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

The view from the top of Cinder Cone – cropped negative space, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Which scene do you prefer? No wrong answer here, since photography is a subjective art. How you want to convey the scene you saw to your audience is up to you.

Apply your iPhone ultra wide angle lens

An ultra-wide angle view of Cinder Cone Crater, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

The 24mm focal length on my 24-105mm lens couldn’t quite fit the entire crater opening at the top of Cinder Cone, but my iPhone’s ultra-wide-angle lens did. This same smartphone lens was also useful for photographing all of Emerald Lake, not too far from the Bumpass Hell parking lot.

The Entire Emerald Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Apply the telephoto lens of your iPhone

Remember to also use the telephoto lens of your smartphone camera. A close-up view of hikers on the winding paths of Cinder Cone Crater really gives your viewer a sense of scale and reference in addition to imparting a certain boldness to this composition.

Hike from Cinder Cone Crater, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Try this long exposure setting for silky smooth water

I wrote about this in the previous article on smartphone photography, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it again, because it’s such a cool feature. If you’re using an SLR camera, a tripod is a must to get a sharp shot using a slow shutter speed. But with that long exposure setting on the iPhone, you can get a silky-smooth shot of water in seconds…while holding your phone. However, you cannot shoot Raw for this. You’ll need to enable the Live Photo feature when using your camera (it’s the concentric circles icon). Once you’ve captured your flowing water image, go to your photo album and select the photo you just captured, tap that “live photo” on the top left of the screen, and you’ll see a series of choices. Press “Long Exposure” and voila! With older iPhone models, you’ll need to tap the photo and swipe up to choose the bulb exposure function.

Hat Creek, before and after long exposure setting applied, Lassen Volcanic National Park / Rebecca Latson

Exposure compensation

Did you know that you can (sort of) change the exposure of your iPhone (well, newer models, anyway)? Before taking this photo, tap the up arrow at the top of your screen (if you’re holding the phone vertically) or on the left of your screen (if you’re holding the phone horizontally) to open the editing options. Do you see the circle with the +? This is your exposure compensation option. Tap it, then swipe back and forth to lighten or darken your composition before pressing the shutter button.

iPhone exposure compensation / Rebecca Latson

FYI, you can also tap on the brightest part(s) of your photo to dim that brightness a bit, although this puts your yellow focus square on the bright part and your smartphone may have issues to get a clear scene. Pressing down on the dark parts of your image lightens the shadows a bit, but you also run the risk of blowing out (overexposing) the brighter parts of your photo.

In-app editing

I totally believe that every photo needs a bit of editing. Your smartphone, like any camera, captures all the data, but sometimes you have to help it. Smartphones have a plethora of apps for this task.

Smartphone editing apps: Instagram, iPhone specific, App Store downloaded app / Rebecca Latson

  • Instagram has some nifty editing choices. The problem is what if you just want to edit the image and not post it on Instagram? According, you just need to activate the airplane mode of your smartphone. Then go edit and post your photo on Instagram. You will get an upload failure, but the edited image is now in your phone’s photo album.
  • Your own smartphone probably has some nice editing options. With the iPhone, after taking the photo, go to your photo album, tap on the image and you will notice the Edit choice in the top corner of the screen.
  • Of course, you can download all kinds of cool editing apps from the App Store. I have Adobe Lightroom and PS Express on my phone.

From smartphone to computer

Granted, your smartphone is a handheld, but in this case, I’m writing about how you can transfer those smartphone images to your desktop or laptop.

Ways to Send iPhone Pictures to Your Computer / Rebecca Latson


  • Go to your photo album and tap an image. At the bottom of the screen, tap the download icon (the square with the arrow pointing up). You will see several choices for the download process, one of which is email. Tap it and the messaging app you installed will open, ready to type in the address and send the picture. Tap the send icon and you’ll have a choice of the size of email (including attached photo) you want to send. Even the biggest size is a small compressed jpg size compared to your phone’s original photo. In the case of the 39.5MB Cinder Cone Photo, the largest email size I could use was 4.9MB.
  • If you’re shooting Raw with your newer iPhone, you’ll probably want to send the full-size Raw file to your computer. Go to your phone’s photo album, long press the photo you want to email. One of the choices you will see will be “Copy”. Tap on it, close your photo album and open your messaging app. Type the email address and subject line, then press and hold on the body of the email message box. You will see a bubble with a series of selections. Press “Paste”. You will see the file number and file size.

Note: I tried this procedure with my sister’s iPhone 7 and saw the image rather than the file number and size. Anything older than an iPhone 12 Pro will not shoot Raw and therefore the photo file will be smaller.

USB flash drive for iPhone

These little flash drives are the best, IMO. One end is a Lightning connector for your iPhone, and the other end can be either standard USB Type-A (which worked with the old laptop I took with me to Lassen) or USB Type-C for new computer models. You can buy several brands on Amazon, including SanDisk. I prefer a known brand like SanDisk. With this flash drive, all I had to do was download the SanDisk iXpand app on my phone, connect the flash drive, and I was ready to copy from my photo album – at full resolution – to the flash drive. , then from the flash drive on the computer. ..

Your smartphone will capture fond memories of your visit to the national park. Sure, you can grab and go, but why not turn a great smartphone photo into a great smartphone photo. Take a little more time with your composition, then go the extra mile with these editing techniques and apps to see the difference.

Stewart C. Hartline