Even if you don’t have the latest and greatest smartphones, your photography tools can go far beyond the more commonly used ones like portrait and low light modes. With a properly updated operating system, you can have voice-activated photo sessions, create widescreen images, record videos at different playback speeds, and visually search the internet.
The exact feature set depends on the camera software you are using as well as the hardware of your phone. Here’s a quick tour of what you can do with default apps like Google Camera for Android and Apple’s Camera app for iOS systems on their iPhone.
Get hands-free help
Your phone’s virtual assistant can take care of some of your camera work to quickly get the footage. For example, with the Google Assistant, you just need to say “OK, Google, take a picture” or “OK, Google, take a selfie” – and Google Camera pops up, shows a countdown timer and takes a photo. You can also ask Assistant to share photos, start recording videos, and more. Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS.
Apple’s Siri assistant was also responsive to many requests. The software will open the iPhone’s Camera app if you say, “Hey, Siri, take a picture” but still leave the actual shutter button press action for you. Phones running iOS 12 or later can use Apple’s free Shortcuts app to create processes that Siri can run when instructed – like opening the camera and then automatically sending photos via email after you take a snap .
Bixby, the assistant software on many of Samsung’s Galaxy phones, also takes pictures and videos on command.
Expanded with a panorama
Want to take an image that is too wide to fit the camera screen? You don’t need an extra app or a phone with a wide angle lens. You simply use the camera’s panorama mode, in which you take a series of photos and the software combines them into one large photo.
Open Google Camera and swipe left along the horizontal menu at the bottom of the screen. Press the Mode button, choose Panorama and press the shutter button while you slowly move the phone to take the photo. In the Apple Camera app, swipe left, select Panorama, and follow the on-screen instructions. You can also ask the Google Assistant or Siri to open the camera directly in panorama mode.
The Google Camera Mode menu also includes a Photo Sphere option for going full circle and capturing the scene in 360 degrees. On the Photo Sphere screen, press the shutter button and let the software guide you. (While iOS’s Panorama mode doesn’t rotate fully 360 degrees, Google’s Street View app brings 360 Degree Panoramas to the iPhone.)
Change time with video
The Google and Apple camera software includes modes for adding a cinematic effect to your videos. Time-lapse setting speeds up playback of slow events like sunsets or hurricanes landing. The slow motion setting captures normal and then lowers the action in the clip, adding drama to the sports scene and animal antics.
To get to the settings in Google Camera, swipe left on the landscape menu to Video, and choose the recording mode – Slow Motion, Normal, or Time Lapse – along with the speed you want; Smaller ratios like 5x are generally better for shorter records. In the Apple Camera app, swipe right on the menu until you go to Time-Lapse or Slow-Mo; Touch the quick toggle button in the upper corner to adjust the resolution and speed.
Keeping your phone steady makes time-lapse videos better, so consider a tripod if you don’t have a solid place to prop up the device. And slow motion usually works best outdoors, away from certain types of indoor lights that can cause flickering in video.
Click on Internet
Google Lens is image recognition software powered by artificial intelligence. And it’s probably already on your phone, as it’s on the Mode menu in Google Camera, in Google Photos, and in the Google Lens app for Android. Those with an iOS device can find it in the Google Photos or the Google app. (Samsung has a similar Bixby Vision app for its phones.)
When you point your camera at something (or open the photo you’ve taken) and tap on the square Google Lens icon, the software analyzes the image and searches for related information over an internet connection. Google Lens can identify animals and plants, look up products, recognize landmarks, and do more.
Google Lens can also translate text in images and use augmented reality to render words in your preferred language. It’s not quite the “universal translation” of sci-fi lore, but it’s getting there.