Smartphones have come a long way in the past couple of years, but, as many of us know, they don’t always take point and shoot quality pictures on the first try. When you’re travelling it’s easy to leave your heavy, expensive DSLR camera at home in favour of your smartphone that can do double-duty by taking quick pictures as you explore your destination. If you have a great shot in sight, but don’t have a high-quality camera on hand, use these tips to make your smartphone perform wonders with just a few quick tweaks and adjustments.

Pay Attention to Your Flash

Today smartphone flashes can be, well, unreliable. Instead of legitimate flashes that full-duty cameras use, they are mostly LED-flashes. As many people who have positive things to say about LED-flashes, there are ten times as many touting its flaws. If you are in a dimly light location with no chance of adding a light source, the LED-flash can work in tough situations, but otherwise try to take at least one photo with and one photo without a flash to see the differences.

If you have the original image and it comes out too dark, don’t forget that you can tweak the photo further afterwards. If you’d like using the flash, but dislike the harshness it casts on its subjects, try placing something like a small piece of tissue over the flash. This way, you will get the light you need, without the harshness that tends to make people look shiny.

Clean Your Lens

Think about the life your smartphone lives: from sitting against your ear, to being shuffled around inside your pocket or backpack—it isn’t a clean environment for a camera lens. As a result of this treatment you may begin to see dark, hazy and perhaps even dirty photos as the grime piles up. For a quick fix use a soft t-shirt to wipe off the lens, but try not to always revert to this fix. Once in a while, take the extra effort to use a real lens-cleaning solution to give it a deep-clean.

Crop, Don’t Zoom

One of the many functions that smartphone cameras offer is a digital zoom function, but you will almost always be better served if you pretend that function doesn’t exist. The second you begin to “zoom” you can see the quality of your photo begin to degrade—it gets pretty ugly, really quickly. When you are cropping, however, you’re sampling pixel information that was already recorded. Because the quality of the photos (averaging around 8-megapixels) has gone up so much recently, you can crop your photos substantially before seeing any degradation of the photo. Remember, you can always crop down, but you can’t crop up!

Edit, Don’t Filter

Nothing against Instagram, but if you are looking to create a unique and captivating image from your travels, be sure to create the effects yourself instead of throwing an incredibly popular filter on top of it. This will make it harder to stand out. If you edit the photo and adjust the photo according to your style, you’ll be significantly more effective in creating an amazing smartphone photo. To help find these editing options, instead of filter options, check out SnapSeed, which is available on Apple and Android devices. In SnapSeed you can adjust elements like brightness, ambiance, contrast, white balance and more. This way, even if you dislike the final effect, you can revert back to the original photo and start again, whereas you aren’t offered this opportunity when you add a filter to a photo.

With these handy tips in your back pocket, you will be amazed at the quality your photography can achieve. Instead of snapping a quick shot of a place, use a few extra seconds to check your settings, and capture a truly amazing photo. Protect your gear and your smartphone by tailoring your travel insurance plan through Cover-More.

Image courtesy of Unsplash user Johan Larsson