The winter holidays are just a blink away, plus we may see (or, in some areas, have already seen) our first snowfall this week. Gatherings of friends and family provide many opportunities for capturing memorable moments. Luckily, many of us have smartphones equipped with good cameras, so we won’t miss fabulous and fun photo opportunities. Here are some BoomerTECH Adventures tips for taking photos you will cherish in the future.

• Play with the camera app before any events or gatherings where you will want to take pictures. If you locate and practice with the camera app’s features ahead of time, you won’t be fumbling around when the time comes to tap the shutter. This practice is important especially if you have a new phone. I’ve had a new one for a month, and I discover new options every time I open the camera app. I love them, but they are also driving me crazy because there are so many new things to think about. Remember, you can easily delete any images you don’t like so as not to take up valuable storage space on your phone or tablet.

• Review how the focus and exposure features work. On an iPhone/iPad, tap the screen to see the yellow focus box and the slider next to it that adjusts your exposure. On Androids, the focus feature is often a circle that moves as you tap the screen in different places. The exposure control is often a slider at the bottom of the screen. The focus feature allows you to determine what part of the image will have the sharpest focus. Adjusting the exposure helps you take good pictures in situations where there is too much or too little light.

• Take time to decide what type of image you want. You need to think about your purpose in taking a particular picture.

◊ Photo – The standard 4-by-6 image.
◊ Square – Often the best option for social media posts.
◊ Portrait – Gives you special lighting choices for your subject. The subject might be a person, but it also might be a pet or a table setting or other special item.
◊ Panorama – A great way to capture everyone around the table. Just be sure everyone remains still while you are taking the picture. The slightest movement may mean you will have a double-headed person or an arm floating in space.
◊ Video – Capture actions such as stuffing a turkey, gift opening or the traditional touch-football game after supper.
◊ Slow motion video – Slow everything down so viewers can see each part of the action.
◊ Time-lapse video – Speed up the action so a 10-minute process happens in 10 seconds.
◊ Cinematic video (newer phones) – Allows you to adjust the depth of field, use the telephoto options and so on while filming. Every camera app is a bit different so Google “cinematic video” + the specific name of your phone to learn the details.

• Learn how to instantly open your camera app from the lock screen without having to key in your passcode. Sometimes the action starts when your phone is still in your pocket. By the time you tap in your passcode and opened the camera app, the special moment has passed. Newer phones have shortcuts that allow you to open the app quickly. Of course, the methods vary depending on the type of phone. Once again, a quick search will show you how. Type “instant access to camera app” + the specific name of your camera in the search window. Remember to teach yourself this trick before any special events.


• Use your timer. The timer allows you to be part of the picture. Needless to say, you need to be able to stabilize your phone since you won’t be holding it. There are fairly inexpensive, small tripods available that you can set on a table, or if you have a standard tripod, purchase a tripod adapter for smartphones. Or stack some books on a table to rest your phone against, and then tap the timer and run!

• Learn the various ways to trip the shutter without tapping it. Sometimes it’s awkward to tap the shutter because of the angle you are shooting from. Did you know you can snap a photo using the volume buttons on the side of your phone? Try it! This method is really handy when shooting in landscape (horizontal) mode. Another cool way is to use the volume button on your earbuds or AirPods. Combine this last method with using a tripod and you are guaranteed not to shake the phone when taking a picture.

• Experiment with the Burst feature, especially when you are trying to capture a moment of action. You probably have inadvertently found the Burst option when you held your finger on the shutter for a second or more and you heard “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta” as your camera took 20 pictures before you realized what happened. Take advantage of this feature when you are trying to get a great picture of kids playing a game or a new puppy romping around the yard. Go into your Photos app or the Gallery and select the best of the Burst pictures to keep. Don’t forget to delete the others — they take up storage space.

• Take posed pictures for posterity and family history. Here are a couple of ideas for posing unique group pictures.

◊ Be aware of the lighting. You don’t want to shoot with a mirror or window behind the group. If you are outside, consider turning on the HDR feature; it will help with shadows on faces.
◊ Use a theme to tie everyone together — everyone is wearing flannel or the color red or sporting a colorful hat.
◊ Select a family or friends’ activity as a unifying theme — cross-country skiing, wood chopping and stacking, ice fishing (not yet!), raking leaves, snowball battles, or building Frosty. The possibilities are endless.
◊ Look for multi-generational activities — grandpa reading to toddlers, grandma dancing with her grandkids, older brother/sister teaching a younger sibling how to bait a hook and so on.
◊ Choose an outlandish pose — build a pyramid; use a table as a prop, some on top, others under it: lean a ladder up against the wall and have people climb up. (Probably shouldn’t have great-grandpop on the top rung, but you never know — we Boomers are a wild lot.)
◊ If your family is like mine, you probably have at least one goofball who just can’t help themselves; they have to strike a silly pose or make a goofy face. I usually resort to bribery (“Keep a straight face and I will bake you brownies”) or guilt (“This picture is for your grandmother who couldn’t travel for Thanksgiving because of hip-replacement surgery and is all alone in rehab today”). Often, I just go into stealth mode and take a candid when they are looking serious or happy.

• Learn to be stealthy and take candid shots. Here’s where using your earbuds/AirPods volume button comes in handy. You look like you’re groovin’ to your favorite tunes as you walk around, but in reality, you are pressing the volume button and getting some great shots.


• Don’t forget to use the editing features in your Photos or Gallery app. The editing features available in smartphones today are fabulous. My favorite tool is cropping. I try to use the rule of thirds where the focal point of the image is in the upper right- or left-hand third of the screen rather than smack-dab in the center. Usually, when you click on the image in editing/cropping, a grid appears. Use it to help you crop out elements of the image that are a distraction to the focal point.

In editing mode, you usually can adjust the exposure, deepen the saturation of the colors, get rid of red eye and turn a color image into a black-and-white one. There are lots of options, but you do have to spend a bit of time playing around with the editing tools. However, the time is worth it as you may create an image you want to frame or turn into a canvas print or decorate a mug or make it into a set of note cards.

• One last idea: Use screenshots to remind you of images you have found on the web. A screenshot captures what is on the screen. You are doing a search for Thanksgiving centerpieces and you find one you like — take a screenshot and it is saved to your Photos or Gallery app. Just yesterday I was looking for ideas for a decorated mason jar. I searched for “decorated mason jars” and instantly found something this artistically challenged person could create. I took a screenshot and will recreate the idea this afternoon. Unfortunately, there is not just one way to take a screenshot — it varies by phone model. Search “screenshot” + specific phone (iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy, etc.) to learn which are the correct buttons to push.

Enjoy the upcoming holiday season and the snowscapes we are bound to have over the next several months. Play with your camera app and the editing tools available. Have fun capturing your memories!

BoomerTECH Adventures ( provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

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