5 tips for taking better photos with your tablet

    Your iPad or Android tablet isn't ideal for photography, but you can make it work

    Last updated: June 26, 2014 10:00 AM

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    In the auditoriums of grade schools throughout America, more and more people are taking photos and video with their iPads and other tablets. That's because, like smart phones, tablets have a lens built into the back of the device that can capture photos and video.

    But there are challenges to taking pictures on a tablet. Here are five tips to help you get better results.

    Don't use just one hand (left). Use both hands (right) to keep the tablet still.

    1. Keep it steady

    There are two reasons you need to keep your tablet motionless when you're shooting. Unlike standalone digital cameras, most tablets don't have image stabilization, which compensates for handshake. So, in low light, you're likely to end up with a blurry photo because your hand moved. And for video, you're likely to get jumpy, jittery video that may leave you feeling a bit seasick.

    Second, tablets are generally larger than cameras or phones but have no handgrips, which makes it hard to hold them steady. My suggestion is to hold the tablet with both hands while simultaneously locking your elbows into your abdomen (as in the photo above). This should help prevent your tablet from moving too much.  

    When you zoom in (right) on a tablet, you use digital zoom, which degrades image quality.

    2. Avoid using zoom

    One of the most common mistakes I see when people use their tablets to shoot photos or video is that they use the tablet's zoom to get closer to the action. But what they don't realize is that they're zooming in digitally, which means they're dramatically reducing quality.

    This rarely happens with cameras, which include a better type of zoom: optical zoom. My suggestion is to simply capture the photo without zooming and crop the image later with image-editing software or a mobile app. If you're shooting video, you should definitely not zoom in digitally, since video degrades even more than still photos.

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    Smaller tablets, like this one, are easier to shoot with because they're easier to hold.

    3. Think about a smaller tablet

    If you plan to take lots of photos and video with your tablet, you might consider choosing a smaller model, maybe one that's only 7 or 8 inches, instead of a larger tablet. Smaller ones are easier to hold and keep steady, which can improve your results.

    4. Consider accessories

    If you're hell-bent on shooting photos and video with your tablet, consider looking for accessories that improve image quality. For example, last year, Sony introduced two wireless lens-barrel-style cameras—the Cyber-shot QX10, $250, and QX100, $500—that can connect with your tablet. They have built-in optical image stabilization and let you optically zoom. Another accessory that might be helpful: a tripod and mount for your tablet.

    5. Even if your tablet has a flash, don't rely on it

    By and large, most tablets don't include a flash. More tablets, especially some newer models from Samsung, are beginning to include strobes, but they're not like the ones you'll find on digital cameras. They're very weak and won't illuminate much beyond a couple of feet. There's no real fix for this, other than to look for better lighting conditions.

    —Terry Sullivan  

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