How do you get the most out of your smartphone camera?

Q: What filter are you using on the pictures you’ve recently posted on Instagram?

A: I’ve been road testing a Verizon Google Pixel 2 XL, which has some pretty spectacular lenses and camera technology built in.

Features such as the automatic HDR+ and HDR+ enhanced help with images that have various levels of light, while the portrait mode creates images where your subject is in focus while the background is slightly blurred — like the photos DSLRs (the type of camera typically used by professional photographers) can take.

One of the options that makes it simple to create some very interesting images, like the one of my dog and the one with the group toast, is the “Pop” filter.

This effect is a preset combination of light, contrast, highlights, shadows and other settings that are available separately in the camera that instantly creates some “pop.”

What’s already there

If you’re not interested in getting a new phone, I suggest making sure that you’ve explored all the built-in features you may already have. I commonly find that most smartphone users use a small fraction of the photo options that their phone offers.

You can find lots of information on your phone’s camera features by doing a search for “best camera features” for your particular smartphone.

Suggested apps

If you’re looking for a lot of control, both while you are taking the picture and after you take it, check out the free Adobe Lightroom CC App in your app store.

Taking a better picture to begin with improves your chances of better results with any of the filters or adjustments afterward.

If you use the app as your camera, you will have three modes to choose from: Automatic, Professional and HDR (high dynamic range).

In Automatic mode, the majority of the settings are decided automatically by the app, but you can slide your finger across the screen to adjust the exposure setting before you take the picture.

In Professional mode, you’ll get a variety of manually adjustable settings like shutter speed, ISO and white balance before you snap your picture.

HDR mode is best used when there are significant differences in bright and dark areas in your shot, like the sun setting behind your subject.

The number of options for adjusting your image, whether it was taken through the Lightroom app or is already on your camera roll, are impressive.

While there are a large number of presets from four different categories, learning how to use the various manual options in the Light, Color and Effects menus will give you a lot more control over the final image.

If you want to add the blurred background effect, check out the After Focus app on your iPhone or Android.

If you shoot a lot of outdoor images in bright light, one of the best apps I’ve used is from EyeApps called Pro HDR for Androids and Pro HDR X for iPhones.

If you’re ready to take on a really powerful tool, check out Google’s Snapseed for Android or iPhone, which will come the closest to recreating the “pop” effect that I referred to earlier.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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