Chicago mom: How to shoot pictures on your phone like a pro

When I had my first child, 12 years ago, I remember lugging my heavy dSLR camera in my bag with me wherever I went. It’s was a pain in the you-know-what and it made me no longer care about capturing every sweet moment. Then along came the iPhone with it’s built-in camera and for a while I just relied on that. I mean, how much easier was it to just use the device that was already in my back pocket 24/7? But the default camera that comes with the phone really can’t capture three kids in motion with any precision or reliability.

But there are some truly powerful photo apps available that will make you feel like a professional.

Camera+: This is my favorite photo app out there. And with over 10 million downloads, I’m not alone. This app allows anyone to shoot like a pro. It is a camera, a photo editing & effects app, and a photo sharing app. You can shoot directly in the app, which is what I typically do. Some of the benefits of doing this are the built-in stabilizer feature which allows you to get the sharpest photos you can. I also really like that with just a touch of the screen I can set my focus and with a second tap I can easily fine tune the exposure while maintaining the focus. But that’s just the beginning.

The suite of editing options is really where the magic happens. Editing occurs in the “lightbox” portion of the app. This is also where all of your photos are stored immediately after you take them. If the lighting of your photo isn’t exactly right for your particular situation you can choose from 17 different lighting corrections or “scenes” as they’re called. The clarity scene feature is my favorite. With just a single tap, clarity analyzes your photos and makes adjustments like enhancing colors, removing shadows and adjusting light to bring out the details in your image. Here’s an example of what this feature can do:

Here’s the original photo that I took of someone skating in Millenium Park. Not much to speak of really:

Here’s what happens just by clicking on “clarify”:

There are also lots of fun filter options to play with that can really transform your images like “retro”, “Hollywood” and “color” which I used below. It totally transforms the picture right? Once you’re happy with the pic you can choose how you would like it cropped and if you want to add one of the numerous frame options. When it’s complete you can either save it to your camera roll or easily share it via social media.

To create this, I used the “magic hour” feature in the “color” filter,

cropped it slightly and added a thin black frame.

Trust me when I say this is great value for the $1.99 price tag. Camera+ is available in the app store.

Color Splash: This cool app allows you to turn ordinary photos (you know those ones that you might normally delete) into works of art. The way it works is it converts any image from your camera roll into a B&W photo. Then by using your finger as a paintbrush, you can highlight certain areas of your photo with color. Take a look at this photo of our daughter and her furry best friend. It’s not really that special and normally I would have deleted it.

But by selectively coloring parts of it I turned it into a much more dramatic image that is now hanging in her bedroom.

You can download Color Splash from the app store for .99 cents. I strongly encourage you to watch the short but very informative tutorial that comes with it before you begin to play with this app.

So leave those heavy cameras at home and have fun shooting like a pro with your phone.

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