So you want to take better pictures on your Android phone?
Here at SmartPhoneSnap we've put together the ultimate guide to Android photography, covering gear, apps, and technique.
Table of contents
- What Android phone should you buy for photography?
- What accessories do you need to take better pictures?
- What is the best camera app for Android?
- How do you learn to take better pictures?
- How to edit your photos on Android
- Sharing photos from an Android phone
Part 1. What Android phone should you buy for photography?
There are a huge range of Android phones currently available - so many that it is hard to know which one to pick. To make it easier for you, our testing team has made a shortlist of the top three contenders for Android photographers looking for a new phone (last updated September 2016).
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge - Currently the best Android camera, period.
It's hard to beat this phone's camera: 12MP, f/1.7 aperture, and support for the camera2 manual controls (including RAW capture). Unfortunately, it's not hard to beat it's price. Still, if you can afford it then this is the phone to go for.
Moto X Pure - Its camera packs a 21 MP sensor.
This top-end offering from Motorola is significantly cheaper than the Galaxy, but has one of the highest MP sensors currently available in a smartphone.
Nexus 5X - For the photographer on a budget.
Cheaper than the previous two offerings, the Nexus 5X by LG is still a great phone with a great camera. Its 12MP sensor has the same number of pixels as the Galaxy, and it also supports the camera2 api, allowing you control over ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and RAW capture.
Part 2. What accessories do you need to take better pictures?
In truth, none.
You might find this a strange assertion from a gal who reviews phone camera accessories for a living, but if your phone has a good camera, you'll be able to take good pictures without extra lenses, a tripod, or a remote shutter.
However, these additions can make your life easier, and they will open up new areas of photography which you can't access with just a phone. Let's take a look at how this works.
If you're familiar with DSLR photography, you'll know that lenses are as important (or more) than the body of the camera, which goes some way to explaining why photographers will pay $1000s for top-end glass.
Fortunately, lenses for smartphone cameras are a lot more affordable, but can still make a big difference to your photos.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you can purchase for your phone.
Why? Because phones have relatively small camera sensors, it takes them longer than other digital cameras to collect enough light to make a good image. Because they shoot at slower shutter speeds, it is more important to keep the phone steady, and the best way to do that is with a tripod.
Part 3. What is the best camera app for Android?
Because each Android phone is so different, the best app will depend on the phone that you are using.
If you have a newer phone, its likely that it supports the Android Camera2 api that allows you control over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, as well as allowing RAW image capture. If so, you'll want to make sure that you use an app that gives you access to these settings.
Our usual recommendation for Android is OpenCamera, a completely free app which works well with new and old cameras alike.
Read more: The best camera apps on Android.
Part 4. How do you learn to take better pictures?
There are three elements to all great photos: subject, composition, and light/color.
The great war photographer Robert Capa once said:
If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough.
In other words: boring subjects make boring photos.
One of the best ways to improve your photography is to find interesting things to photograph. Visit an interesting landmark. Get out into the wild. Find a friend to model for you.
Even a mundane subject can be transformed into a good photograph with good composition. Conversely, a great subject can be ruined.
- The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman
- 10 Photography Composition Rules - PhotographyMad.com
- 6 Advanced Tips for Composition - ImprovePhotography.com
Photographs are snapshots of light. The better the light you shoot in, the better the photos you take.
- Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
- Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography by Michael Freeman (advanced)
- Making the most of natural light - CambridgeInColour.com
- The Fundamentals of Light - TheDailyPost
Of course you can only read so much. At some point you have to pick up the camera and apply what you are learning. Experience is often the best teacher, and the photographer's eye is developed over time. Here's a list of photography practice exercises to get you out of the house.
Part 5. How to edit your photos on Android
We always recommend shooting in RAW whenever possible (read why), and RAW images require special editing apps such as Snapseed or Adobe Lightroom. The payoff for the extra work (you have to convert the RAW image to a jpeg) is much greater editing control over color and tone.
So what should you look out for when editing photos?
The aim of editing is to enhance your artistic vision of the photograph.
This means enhancing colors to maximize impact. It means cropping and cloning to remove unnecessary elements from the image. It means, often, discarding the photo because you realize that you didn't capture what you thought you had.