Tag Archives: Smartphone photography

How to Take Panorama Pictures with your Smartphone

Trinidad de Cuba, Photo by Jim Guld with a Google Android phone.

Lake Santa Fe, Florida: Photo by Chris Guld with an iPhone

When you travel, you get so many opportunities for beautiful photos, and, if you have a smartphone you have one of the best cameras ever made. Taking panoramas, like the photos above is just a simple setting. You don’t need to take multiple photos and “stitch” them like with older cameras.

iPhone Pano Setting

When you open the Camera app on an iPhone, you will see words just above the shutter button: Time-Lapse, Slo-Mo, Video, Photo, Square, Pano. You may need to swipe left on the screen until you see Pano, then tap on it. It means Panorama.

  • Tap Pano
  • You need to hold the phone vertically to take a wide panorama picture. (if you hold it horizontally, you can take a vertical panorama) The reason for this is to give more height to a wide photo (or more width to a tall photo.)
  • You will see an arrow and a line telling you to pan the phone from left to right, keeping the arrow on the line. If you want to pan from right to left, just tap the arrow and it will turn around.
  • Tap the shutter button (white circle) to begin panning, tap it again to stop.
  • That’s it, you can view the panorama in Google Photos (or Apple Photos)

Android Panorama

Unless you have a very off-brand Android phone, you have a panorama setting somewhere! Be aware that every model of Android phone or tablet may be a bit different. First open the camera app. The panorama mode might be right on the screen, or under a settings button, or a 3-line menu with choices, or a 3-dot menu with choices. When I open the camera app on my Samsung Galaxy S21 phone, I see a button called More. I Tap that and Panorama is one of the choices.

  • Tap Panorama
  • You need to hold the phone vertically to take a wide panorama picture. (If you hold it horizontally, you can take a vertical panorama.)
  • You will see a horizontal bar where the panorama appears as you pan the phone. Some models don’t show this until after you start panning.
  • Tap the shutter button and start panning; tap it again to stop.
  • That’s it – you can view the panorama in Google Photos (or Gallery)

Here’s a tutorial video on how to get the shortcut to Panorama mode on a Samsung S21.

Fun with Panorama

How did we get this photo with Jim in the picture twice? Start a panorama from one side with Jim on that side. Start panning to the other side while Jim runs around behind me to get in position on that side. Fun!

Watch these 1 minute videos to see Panorama in action.

Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at GeeksOnTour.com. She is the author of Learn Google Photos. She and her husband, Jim, produce a free weekly online show called What Does This Button Do?  They have been Fulltime RVers, popular seminar presenters at RV Rallies, computer clubs, and senior centers, for many years.

542.GP-How to use the Depth Editor and Color Pop in Google Photos

Tutorial 542 from Geeks on Tour. An explanation and demonstration of two special editing tools. Depth editor allows you to increase or decrease the blur in the background of Portrait style photos. Color Pop allows you to keep the main subject in color while turning the background to black and white.
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541.SM-iPhone:Portrait Photos

Tutorial video number 541 by Geeks On Tour. This is a quick demo on how to take a Portrait style photo using an iPhone. Note, your phone must be a “Plus” model or an iPhone X
Portrait style means that the subject is in focus and the background is out of focus. The same effect that is produced by a DSLR camera using depth of field settings.

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Portrait mode photos, smartphone photography class

Portrait mode smartphone photography

Do you like the photo on the right? If so, do you know how to do that with your phone?

I took both photos with my iPhone 7 Plus. The one on the right used the camera setting called “Portrait” to keep the flowers in focus and blur the background. Not all phones have this feature, but many do. On your phone it may be called Lens Blur, or Live Focus. It may be something that you see as you take the photo, or it may be something you adjust after the photo is taken.

iPhone instructions

If you have an iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, or X (ten) then you have this feature. You can easily tell if you have one of those phones by looking at the camera lens. You should see two of them!

To get the Portrait effect, simply select Portrait on the camera screen. You must have a person’s face, or some other object that is clearly in the foreground of your picture, then you will see a message on the screen to move farther away, or get closer, or get more light. When the message “Depth Effect” turns gold, it’s ready to take the shot. Try it, I know you’ll like it!

PIxel XL instructions

Jim’s phone is a Pixel XL and it can take “portrait” photos as well, but it’s a completely different process. The Pixel XL only has one lens, so the depth effect is all computer generated. You still need a subject in the foreground that is distinct from the background. I chose a carved wooden candle holder from Borneo as my subject.

Lens Blur mode on Pixel XL phone

From the camera app:

  1. tap the 3-line menu and choose lens blur
  2. focus on the main subject and tap the shutter button
  3. you’ll see a message to move the phone but keep the main subject centered. It’s a very small movement, just enough to let the phone determine the boundaries of the main subject.
  4. As soon as you’ve moved it sufficiently, you’re done taking the photo
  5. When you view the photo, you should see a flower icon that is the lens blur button
    Pixel XL Lens Blur
  6. I moved the slider all the way to the right to get the effect above
  7. Tap Done
  8. Note – when you take your next photo, you may need to tap an X to get out of lens blur mode and back to normal.

Smartphone Photography class, May 25-26, Sedalia Missouri

If you don’t have an iPhone with dual lenses, or a Pixel XL, you need to explore your camera’s settings, maybe even read the manual, to discover if and how it can be done with your phone. Wouldn’t it be great to be in a class where a teacher can help you? That’s exactly what you can do if you’re coming to the 2018 Escapade RV rally in Sedalia, MO. Geeks on Tour is offering a pre-rally hands-on class for smartphone photography. It’s 6 hours long and Portrait mode is just one of the many things you’ll learn. See this page for more details.

Portrait Mode
Of course, Portrait mode is really intended for, you know … Portraits!

I didn’t miss my DSLR camera!

In packing for our month in Europe, I reluctantly left my Canon Digital Rebel T3i behind. See our video where we talked about what we packed to take with us.

I love my Canon, it takes great photos, but, so does my iPhone 7+ and the iPhone is a lot smaller! Besides, I’ve always believed that what makes the most difference in the quality of a photo is a few seconds spent with good editing tools after the photo is taken. I believed that back with Picasa, and I believe it now with Google Photos and Snapseed. I have no ambition to be a professional photographer, that’s a completely different story. I just want to capture my memories and make them nice to look at.

We had 4 cameras with us even without the Canon! My phone, an iPhone 7+, Jim’s phone, a Pixel XL, Jim’s Samsung Camera 2, and Jim’s GoPro video camera. I enjoyed having only one camera, no decisions to make about which one to use, just learn all I could about using the iPhone. The only time I even thought about my Canon was when we were on a train or a boat. It is so much faster to grab the Canon, put it to your eye, twist the lens to zoom in and snap. That can all be accomplished in one smooth motion, 3 seconds top. With the phone, there is always a lot of fumbling to get to the right screen, squinting to see the image on the screen before snapping, and changing your grip to be able to snap the picture. I’m sure I missed a few good shots because I was too slow, but I still got plenty of nice photos. Here are a few, with notes. Many of these would not be possible with the SLR – e.g. in-camera Panoramas, selfies, animated gifs. See lots more (445 to be exact!) in our Album.

1. Duomo in Florence, Italy


iPhone 7+, Google Photos crop, auto, pop

2. Water lily in gardens at Florence, Italy


iPhone 7+, Snapseed HDR-Scape filter

3. Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany Italy


Pixel XL – panorama with a run-around-behind subject Smile

4. Begonias on our terrace at El Santucce


iPhone 7+ using Portrait mode

5. Assisi


iPhone 7+ Snapseed HDR-scape, text added with Snapseed

6. St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy at night


iPhone 7+ – selfie (front lens) so good at night exposure. no editing other than crop

7. Venice


Samsung Camera 2 – panorama with Google Photos Pop

8. Kayaking on the Grand Canal in Venice


iPhone 7+ on a selfie stick

9. Jim at Miramare castle, Trieste Italy


iPhone 7+ using Portrait mode

10. Boat ride in Ljubljana, Slovenia


iPhone 7+ Edited in Snapseed, HDR-scape filter, Text added

11. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


iPhone 7+ Live Photo, converted to animated gif with Motion Stills app

12. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


Samsung Camera 2 on Waterfall setting!


Smartphone Photography Workshops

We will be teaching 2 sessions of our Smartphone Photography workshops at
the FMCA Convention in Indianapolis next week. If you’ll be there, come find
us in the Info center and sign up!

Thursday July 13, 2017






Friday July 14, 2017