Though your smartphone camera might be having a limited resolution, you can still add functionality like high-speed capture, panorama and various other filters. Here are some tips and tricks:
To fully capture a stunning landscape, you need to go extra wide – that’s where panorama apps come in. If you have an Android or iOS device, one of the best apps is 360 Panorama ($0.99).
It creates a panorama in real-time with very little effort and lets you share it instantly. It can also handle complete spherical panoramas. Some other great options are Photosynth by Microsoft (free, for iOS and Windows Phone 7) and Ztitch (free, for Windows Phone 7.5 or higher).
(2) High-speed burst
A ‘burst’ mode allows you to take multiple consecutive photographs in quick succession. Since many camera phones have shutter lag — a delay between you pressing the shutter release button and the photo being recorded — a burst mode gives you many options of the same scene. You simply select the best one and delete the rest.
If your Android phone does not have this feature, install the free app CameraX. This ad-supported app adds burst mode with the option to choose the number of images you want to take (and you don’t need to keep the shutter button pressed.)
For iOS, the free Camera Awesome offers burst mode with direct sharing of images. Windows Phone users can check out the free version of Turbo Camera. It offers burst mode and allows you to choose the delay between each shot too.
(3) Time lapse
You may have seen professionally-created time lapse videos – a technique that creates a video out of a sequence of photographs . A time lapse depicts an accelerated view of slowly changing events and they are created by joining together a collection of images – the camera needs to remain perfectly still during the entire process for a high-quality time lapse.
Thanks to an app called Lapse It (free for iOS and Android), you can use your phone to create a time lapse of an event (keep it mounted on a tripod with the charger connected for best results). A paid ‘Pro’ version of the app adds more features (like HD resolution time lapse videos).
(4) Stop motion animation
Stop motion animation is an interesting way to add movement to an otherwise stationary object. It involves taking multiple images of the object at slightly different positions and then combining them to offer the illusion of movement.
StoMo (free, for iOS) offers this functionality with a simple user interface that automatically aligns the frame and even lets you adjust the playback speed in frames per second. Another free app Cinemagram lets you create an animated image (animated GIF) from a previously recorded video — record a short video, choose a specific area and the app will animate only that area.
Android users can try Clayframes and Stop-Motion — both let you choose the video size, playback speed in frames per second and let you export the movie for sharing.
(5) Additional modes
Many standalone digital cameras offer more features as compared to a smartphone camera. For instance, smile detection (a mode that automatically captures a photo when the subject smiles), self timer as well as multiple scene modes to get the best results under different circumstances.
Most features like these can be added to your smartphone camera with the help of apps. On iOS, iBooth lets you set a self timer if you want in on the action. On Android, the free Pixlr-o-Matic app offers a smile shot mode, beauty shot mode (it automatically improves skin tones) as well as multiple scene modes.
Another app uCam adds settings for white balance, focus, exposure, timestamp and self timer along with various picture modes (portrait, landscape, sunset, sports). Similarly for Windows Phone users, the free app Fhotoroom adds a self timer, red eye reduction mode and multiple camera mode presets.
(6) Real-time photo filters
A fun photo filter app can help compensate for the lower quality photograph that a mobile device captures. One of the best free apps is Powercam (Android and iOS). With Powercam, you can apply an effect and see what it looks like before you capture a photo or video (because it is applied in real-time to the camera feed).
Apart from some of the usual effects that many apps offer (tiltshift , single colour and various colour tones) it also offers several unique extras in a ‘Magic Shot’ mode.
(7) Post photo effects
If you prefer to add effects to your photographs once you’ve captured them (and hence keep two versions of the same photo), there are several apps that you can use for different kinds of effects.
Tilt-Shift is a popular effect that uses selective focus to simulate a miniature effect. It usually keeps a rectangular section of the photograph sharp while blurring out the rest. Some of the free apps that you can use are the previously mentioned Powercam (iOS and Android) and tadaa – HD Pro Camera (iOS).
HDR (high dynamic range) photographs produce results where both the darkest and lightest areas of frame are visible. If you’re a fan of HDR photography, you can use Befunky Photo Editor for iPad or 100 Cameras in 1 ($0.99 for iOS). Android users can use the free Pho.to Lab app for the same effect and more. To give your photos a shallow depth of field like a DSLR, you can use AfterFocus (free on Android , $0.99 on iPhone).
You simply draw (mask) over the subject you want to keep in focus and the app blurs out everything else. iOS users looking for a free app can check out FocusMe which works in a similar fashion. For various other photo effects and postprocessing filters, try the Photofunia app (available free for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Symbian), Adobe Photoshop Express (free on Android and iOS) and Pixlr-o-Matic (free on Android and iOS).