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As the last holiday of the summer approaches, epic moments are a given. Unless you’re hitting Vegas for the weekend, the world needs to see the flyness of your three-day weekend. Nobody wants to be weighed down with a professional camera while partying, but you definitely want to memorialize the good times with pics. Smartphone cameras have the ability to capture shots just as good as a professional digital camera, but you have to know a little more than just tapping a screen to get those unforgettable moments. Don’t be the guy who always takes wack photos and can’t properly capture the litness.

Here’s a set of quick hacks to bringing out the best with your smartphone and help you consistently break the Internet with your photos.

1 Stop zooming your way into trash photos.

Never zoom. Unlike professional cameras that utilize optical zoom, smartphones rely on digital zoom when shooting, which results in grainy, distorted photos that look like they were taken on a bodega security camera. For the clearest pics, get as close as possible to your subject, and then use your phone’s cropping options when editing.

2 Don’t go filter crazy.

Filters are a precise science. One false move and your great photo can turn into a cheap shot. Practice some restraint when applying filters, and recognize that every shot doesn’t need one to be great. Sometimes the original, untouched photo is the best option. And never take the photo with a pre-applied filter. Get your clean shot first, and apply a filter. Although smartphone cameras have come very far in the last couple of years, the camera app that comes pre-installed in your phone is likely to be very bare bones. Free apps like Snapseed and VSCO or paid options like Camera+ are a perfect opportunity to take your shot to the next level with subtle, finely tuned filters that will have your pics looking like they were edited by a pro.

3 Wipe your lens. Regularly.

As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised at how many dope pics are lost because of a dirty lens. Think about it: your phone is in and out of your jeans all day (with keys, lint, dirt, your oily hands, and who knows what else). It’s almost guaranteed that something’s on your camera lens. Take a quick swipe to clear the grit before you frame your shot so that you won’t have blurry photos.

4 Frame your shot.

To make your photos easy on the eye, get familiar with one of the basic guidelines for snapping images, the Rule of Thirds. According to the theory, people’s eyes generally go to one of the intersection points instead of the center of the shot when viewing a photo. Using the rule works with the natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it. Placing a subject of interest in the intersections or along the lines helps your photo become more balanced and appealing to the viewer. Get creative! And once you’ve mastered the rule, break it. That’s what rules were made for, right? Lucky for you, your smartphone’s camera has the option to help you quickly apply the rule. In your phone’s settings, turn on the option to view a grid, which will apply guiding lines over your screen when taking your photos to help you properly frame your shot to be pleasing to the eye.

5 Flashing lights.

Before relying upon your phone’s flash, try using natural light or an alternate light source. The flash on your phone will often produce a harsh light that can knock the hotness of a photo down a couple of notches and wash out the details of a subject. Reserve your phone’s flash for those times when it’s absolutely needed to capture a useable shot.

6 Get external.

An external lens can really heighten your photo game. There are plenty of attachable lens kits available on Amazon for less than $15 that are easy to use— simply clip onto the top of your phone’s native lens. With options like a fish-eye or wide-angle lens, incorporating external lenses into your smartphone photography can bring a new perspective to your shots. Best of all, the lenses are small enough to fit in your pocket without issue.


Kent Johnson is the co-founder of Black & Abroad, a brand focused on international travel for the black community. Learn more about the brand at