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Simple smartphone photo tips

Learn some simple tips for taking better photos with your smartphone camera.

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Today's smartphone cameras have become nearly as complex and feature-laden as the compact cameras they replaced. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but here are four simple tips for better photos that will work with virtually any modern smartphone.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

Most smartphones now have an option called HDR, which is short for High Dynamic Range.

When you take an HDR photo, your camera actually shoots three photos at three different exposures: low, standard, and high. Then, your phone stacks all those photos to create one composite image that's super sharp and looks closer to what the human eye sees.

When to try HDR:

- Landscapes. You'll notice bluer skies and richer details in trees and buildings.

- Direct sunlight. For those situations where the sun is right behind the subject you're shooting and there's no way around it.

When to avoid HDR:

- Action shots. Moving subjects will result in a blurred composite image.

- Portraits. Enhancing the detail on an old barn is great. Enhancing the wrinkles on your old mom is not recommended.

Remote shutter

That camera shutter button on your display isn't the only way to take a photo. If you want steadier shots, and a little more flexibility, there are a few more ways to snap a photo.

On iPhone and Android, use the volume-up to snap your photo. Or use a connected pair of headphones with inline volume control as a remote shutter.

For select Android phones, such as Samsung Galaxy S4 or LG G Flex, say "Cheese" to take photo without pressing a button.

Burst mode

When it comes to taking photos of kids, pets, or fast-paced sporting events, Burst mode will help you get a clear shot every time.

Burst mode on iPhone
By using Burst mode, you can be sure you won't miss the shot. CNET

On iPhone: Tap and hold the shutter button on the iPhone for as long as you like. Watch photo count indicator. When done, all photos will be saved into one thumbnail (on the iPhone 5S), and you can then choose your favorites.

On Android (depending on model): Tap the mode button and select Burst from the menu. Holding down the snapshot button will now take up to 20 shots in rapid succession.

Lock focus/exposure

By now you probably know that tapping the screen sets the focus and exposure. But the moment you or the subject moves, that setting is lost.

To force your phone to lock the focus and exposure, tap and hold the screen until the setting locks. Now, even if you move around, the exposure and focus will stay the same.

To learn more about your smartphone's camera and other tips for better photos, check out this week's episode of CNET's The Fix.