Tips to capture perfect holiday pictures on your mobile device

One of the joys of the holiday season is getting together with friends and family. It's always nice to have photos that capture the good times and special memories that happen during the festivities. However, you might be bummed out if you look through your camera roll in January and find many of your photographs had wasted potential.

While people continue buying and using digital cameras, it's common to see pictures taken on smartphones and tablets. Should you plan on capturing this holiday season using one of those devices, here are a few tips to make sure your photos are perfect.

Before you begin
You can increase your chance of nailing the family photo shoot if you follow a handful of initial steps. First, be sure to clean the lens. Although it's quite small, fingerprints or dust will certainly alter the way your pictures look. 

There are applications you can download that allow you more advanced camera functions, like the ability to adjust the lighting. While we're on the topic, it's key that your subjects are facing the light source. These small cameras can react weirdly to indirect light, which may result in shadows across your family members. Often the flash on the devices is too harsh, so try to adjust the lighting in the room before you use it. If you think flash can improve the photo, try to take one with and one without it to compare.

It might seem best to zoom in on subjects, but Consumer Reports explained how this can actually reduce the quality of your photos. When using a smartphone or tablet camera, it's better to crop the image if you want to focus on a particular part of the scene.

When you're framing a shot, give the background a second thought. Is there a more flattering location for the people to pose? If you're taking a candid picture, decide which angle gives you the best shot and move around the person to make it happen. Incorporate the rule of thirds, which means singular subjects should be one-third from the edge of the screen. To make sure your photos aren't tilted, turn the grid lines on in advance.

Once you're done
There are also great applications you can download to improve pictures after you take them. Find one that offers nice filters, a red-eye adjustment function and manual controls for brightness, contrast, saturation and more.

You can share the photos with family and friends using a prompt on the side of the screen, so it's easy to give everyone access to the images.

Extra considerations for tablets
Snapping photos with a smartphone comes a bit more naturally than a tablet, particularly because people often have their phones in their hand or pocket so they're easy to grab in a rush. Tablets are also larger and can be more difficult to hold steady. Consumer Reports suggested users grip the tablet with two hands and plant their elbows in their sides. This will keep your arms at the right angle and allow you to take a clear photo.

If you have the option of using either a smartphone or a tablet, How-To Geek recommended using the phone, because it's likely equipped with a higher quality camera.