By Guest Blogger Felicia Perretti

When cell phones first began featuring cameras, the combination must have seemed like an odd mix - something like a toothbrush with a radio or a car key that dispenses breath mints.

But the market went crazy for the technology, and photography underwent a sea change. By 2010, according to The Economist, more than a billion camera phones worldwide were ready to snap, preserve and share pictures, especially on the fly.

Having a camera always at your fingertips means those spectacular shots - your baby's quiet smile, a glorious sunset, a picturesque special dinner - aren't lost because the camera is home on a closet shelf.

Despite advances in camera phone technology, a sharp, noteworthy shot may still be tough to capture. The following tips should improve your chances:

  • Leave the flash off. Natural light is often best; skip using the flash unless you're in a dark restaurant or music hall. In direct sunlight, be sure to face opposite the sun and place your subject in front of you.
  • Hold the camera as still as possible. With a traditional camera, a tripod can minimize those fuzzy, jiggly shots, but a camera phone sacrifices that stability for convenience. Still, you can prop the camera on a sturdy, level surface - a wall, a fence, a shelf - and get a clear picture. If you're shooting movement, use the "action" setting. Or better yet, shoot video and convert a particularly good frame to a still. Green Lane Park

    Taken with an iPhone 4s. Green Lane Park.

  • Watch your fingers. Camera phones are small and can be tricky to hold upright. It's very easy for a fingertip to creep into the lens. Try holding the case with two fingers on each hand and tucking your others in toward your palm.
  • Keep the lens clean. Camera phones get shoved in coat pockets, dashboard storage bins and backpack bottoms. A quick wipe with a clean, soft cloth before you start shooting can clear the way to good pictures.
  • Zoom with caution. It's better to step closer to your subject than use the camera's zoom capability. Zooming requires you to use two of your camera-holding fingers to pull in, thus increasing shakiness. Zooming can also lead to grainy, unclear results, especially in cameras with low pixel counts.
National Memorial Arch

Taken with an iPhone 4s. Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Some of these reminders are fairly basic. But they can also make the difference between a dud to deleted and a masterpiece to be mounted. Happy shooting!

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Perretti is co-owner of J&F Studio, Roslyn, PA

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