I love to take pictures. I always have. I shot rolls and rolls of film in college, and spent a small fortune (at least to a college student) getting them developed.

The advent of digital photography allowed me to take more photos, but there was still the issue of remembering to grab the camera case and take the camera with you.

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Cameras have always been a popular feature of cellphones, but the earlier models offered you small and grainy photos. Modern smartphones give you large, clear images that are comparable with many point-and-shoot cameras. I’d want to have a phone with at least an 8 MP capability before I made the switch to using it as my primary camera.

Many smartphone camera apps offer multiple shooting modes, flash and good quality HD video recording. Plus, since you’ve always got your phone with you, that means you always have a camera on hand.

More and more, I’ve come to use my phone as my primary camera. The only drawback for me is that it doesn’t have an optical zoom. That means you really can’t zoom in on things off in the distance, though you can crop the image to isolate what you want to focus on.

If you want to make your phone, your primary camera, I do have a few suggestions.

1. Take some time to really familiarize yourself with the camera app. Learn about what all the modes are, check out the flash settings and experiment with features like panorama. You don’t want to be learning how your camera works while you’re trying to grab important shots.

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For instance, I didn’t know that I could take a shot with my Android camera just by saying, “shoot!” until I did it accidentally.  Play around, take lots of pictures of things. It’s not like you have to pay to have them developed. You can go ahead an delete the bad ones.

2. Get a microSD card. If your phone will support external storage, I’d suggest getting a microSD card to hold your photos. Photos, especially high-resolution photos can take up a lot of space and you certainly don’t want to run out of room.  A microSD card can hold thousands of photos. You can also upload photos to cloud back-ups as you take them.

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3. Grab a small micro-fiber cleaning cloth or a tiny pack of lens wipes. Since you handle your phone all the time, the lens can get smudges on it that lead to blurry photos. Give it a quick wipe before you start taking pictures.

4. Consider a mini-tripod.  You can find keychain tripods – designed especially to hold cell phones for just a few dollars. They can be very helpful for allowing you to get in the shot at events or just folding things steady.

5. Power Up! You don’t want to run out of juice while taking photos. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave the house. Also consider keeping a car charger or a portable back-up charger in the glove box.

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6. Try out a photo-editing app. Your phone probably has some basic photo editing functions like cropping and maybe red-eye removal. But apps like BeFunky and Snapseed can allow you to take things to next level and really jazz up your images. You don’t have to be a photo expert to use them.

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7. Get social. Apps like Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing images with your friend.

Now get out there and take some photos. But don’t wait until that birthday party or graduation. Test out your camera app’s capabilities by taking photos every day.

~ Cynthia