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How to take and edit pictures like a pro using your smartphone

These days, nearly every single one of us has a high-resolution camera in our pocket. Here's how to start taking your pictures like the professionals.

PORTLAND, Maine — Smartphones have changed the way we do just about everything, including taking pictures. 

Want to learn how to make your pictures look more professional or perfect your selfie? Rich Brooks, president of Flyte New Media, has a few tips.

Q. What are some of the ways we can improve the photos we're taking with our smartphones?

Rich: The best pictures start before you snap your photos. Yes, you can improve photos through editing and filters, but the better quality of the original shot, the better the final product will be. 

With that in mind, start by wiping your lens clean. I don't know about you, but I often grab my camera out of my pocket by the lens.

Second, treat your phone like a camera. Hold it steady with two hands, frame things appropriately, find the best angle, use natural lighting, and so on.

And thirdly, don't use the default camera app. Consider downloading an app like Adobe Lightroom that gives you more options and more controls over your photos. Whatever app you use, consider tuning on the grid lines, which can help with lining up the photo and using the "rule of threes" to take better pictures.

Q. Our smartphone cameras are powerful, but are there limitations we should be aware of?

Rich: Absolutely. 

One thing is that many smartphone cameras use two methods to zoom in: optical zoom and digital zoom. Without getting too technical, optical is good, and digital is bad. On a traditional DSLR camera, you can use different lenses to zoom in. On a smartphone, that's nearly impossible, so they use multiple cameras, which is why you see two or more lenses on a lot of newer smartphones. A digital zoom fakes the zoom by just enlarging the image, making the finished product more pixelated.

Smartphones also can't handle light or darkness as well as a traditional camera, so you should be aware of that. Use natural light over a flash, and try night mode if the lighting conditions aren't optimal. If you are taking pictures in low lighting, try and hold the camera still by holding it with both hands and holding your elbows against your body for more stability. 

Q. Once we've taken our pictures, how can we make the finished product look better?

Rich: Well, thanks to Instagram and Snapchat we're all familiar with filters. However, that can be like putting lipstick on a pig. Still, editing is something that all photographers do, so there's nothing wrong with that.

You can use the built in editing tools on your phone, or you can download different editing apps that will give you more control over your editing. I mentioned Adobe Lightroom as a camera app, but it's also an editing app. Another favorite of mine is Snapseed, which is free for iOS and Android phones.

Q. Any tips for better looking selfies?

Rich: Again, the better the original shot, the better the final product. So, try and use as much natural light as possible.

Have long arms. The further away the camera is from you, the less distorted the picture.

Always be looking up at the camera, never down. Trust me on this. 

Make eye contact with the camera, not the screen. 

Try portrait mode on the iPhone. Game changer. 

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