6 Easy Smartphone Hacks for Capturing, Recording, and Sharing Images

You know those times when you’re gawking out the window and find yourself focused on an interesting bird, squirrel, or another critter? These moments can be interesting, thought-provoking, and even humorous. You snap back into consciousness, realizing that you’ve been captivated for minutes. As a sportsman, this occurs for me frequently – not just from the house, but the blind, tree stand, or vehicle. These special moments happen unexpectedly, with no chance of capturing them. Such occurrences get lost in the ether of your brain. They’re gone.

You know those times when you’re gawking out the window and find yourself focused on an interesting bird, squirrel, or another critter? These moments can be interesting, thought-provoking, and even humorous. You snap back into consciousness, realizing that you’ve been captivated for minutes. As a sportsman, this occurs for me frequently – not just from the house, but the blind, tree stand, or vehicle. These special moments happen unexpectedly, with no chance of capturing them. Such occurrences get lost in the ether of your brain. They’re gone.

Going on about 10 years, I’ve been snapping off photos using some sort of camera tethered to my spotting scope or binoculars. In the process, I’ve tried everything from DSLR cameras to simple point-and-shoot cheapies. Before that, I was notorious for clumsily holding my smartphone camera lens up to my binoculars. I was hooked on digiscoping before I even knew the term. Whatever the approach, it didn’t take long for me to get interesting, if not, remarkable images. 

Admittedly a novice-at-best photographer, I quickly settled into my go-to digiscoping method; pairing my smartphone to my optics with a custom Phone Skope digiscoping adapter kit. There were a few reasons why, including the fact that my iPhone camera seamlessly handles the camera settings for me. I didn’t have to worry about concepts and terms like F-stops or shutter speed. The slender rectangular sidekick that’s always in my pocket takes care of those settings for me, resulting in few, if any, blurry images.

One of the best reasons for digiscoping with a smartphone and binoculars is its affordability. Sure, with better optics comes better images. However, with today’s smartphone and optic technology, I can consistently capture quality images with my iPhone and a pair of moderately-priced binos.

Here are some tips on how to get the best photos by digiscoping with a smartphone. 

Get a Custom Adapter

There are several universal digiscoping kits on the market these days, but it’s hard to beat a custom kit that perfectly connects your smartphone to your optics. For a long time, Phone Skope has been offering such a setup. While it’s possible to hold your iPhone up to the eyepiece of your scope to shoot, it’s easier to keep it in place with an adapter. While universal adapters have their place, they can require a lot of inopportune field adjustments. Don’t get me wrong, my Phone Skope Universal Adapter is a handy tool for flexibility in the field, but it’s hard to beat the snug fit of a kit that is simpatico to both lens and scope.

Phone attached to digiscope adapter

It’s hard to beat a snug custom adapter kit for digiscoping stability and effectiveness.

Simply put, custom is better.

You can quickly get a kit that perfectly connects your smartphone to your optics – and there is no better way to obtain one than through Phone Skope’s builder page. Just provide the make and model of your phone and optics and you’re in business. 

Dust-Off an Old Smartphone

Part of the beauty of digiscoping is that you can use your smartphone, right? I mean, who can do without a smartphone these days? After all, how else can you lob a text to a friend, like a photo on Instagram, and find a good dinner recipe within a couple of minutes? Suffice to say, they are teeming with functionality. 

They’re also valuable – and every time I think about the cost of my latest iPhone, I cringe.  If you’re an outdoor adventurist of any kind, you can be hard on your gear. Believe me, I resemble that remark. Today’s smartphone devices are expensive and new models are introduced often. 

While the camera quality seemingly improves with each new model, it’s important to remember they all have exceptional cameras well-suited for photography and digiscoping. For example, despite having an iPhone 13 Pro, I still get great visual footage from my old iPhone 7+. While it’s more than okay to use your newfangled camera, consider keeping and utilizing an older model dedicated to your knock-about digiscoping pursuits. 

Getting Sideways

While naps are awesome, getting horizontal is an even better way to capture still images and video. I’m of course talking about using your device in a horizontal position. As for video, many uploading sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo are built for uploading horizontal images. This is a simple and great tip for getting good footage of animals and other outdoor subjects. More often than not, I take still photos while digiscoping. Not only does the Phone Skope kit work best while the smartphone is in the horizontal position, but landscape-oriented photos also capture a greater field of view and hence, additional interesting features. After-the-fact cropping can eliminate what you don’t want. Positioned horizontally, your smartphone also works particularly well with tripods.

Tap Out

It’s easy to take advantage of exposure adjustments with your smartphone camera. Most people already know that tapping the iPhone screen makes it autofocus its lens. But if you tap where the image is brightest, the iPhone will self-adjust the exposure levels, too. This is great for photographing light subjects such as pale-colored birds and other animals. If you want to seal the exposure, hold your finger until you see “AF/AE Lock.” There are several ways to fine-tune your images on the front end with the tap of a finger.

Finger hovering over open camera

With one tap, you can seal the exposure with your smartphone camera.

Embrace Your Headphones

Headphones do more than allow you to enjoy your favorite audible content. Did you know they can function as a remote shutter release? For example, if you plug in the headphones that come with your iPhone, the volume button can function as a remote shutter release. This is a great way to maintain stability and eliminate vibration. Who knew?

There are of course also remote shutter releases on the market such as Phone Skope’s Bluetooth Shutter Remote. Be steady, my friends. 

Unleash Camera Apps for Editing

Camera apps. There are apps for about any purpose these days. There’s even an app providing optimal times to pee. Yeah, you heard that right. Wondering if it’s a good time to relieve yourself of that Caramel Macchiato? The RunPee app will tell you the best times to do it without missing an important part of a movie. But I digress…

As for the less weird and more helpful apps, consider making a good image or video great by using image-editing apps. Upload the photos on your phone to apps like Hipstamatic and SnapSeed to make minor adjustments. The apps can enhance sharpness, contrast, exposure, and warmth with a few swipes of your finger. What’s more, many allow you to convert images to black and white, sketches, or even cartoons. Further, many allow you to overlay text. For the latter, solid choices include the Canva, Phonto, and Typorama apps. All are great ways to embellish and document images for sharing with friends or on social media.

Phone showing the PhoneSkope Phone and Video Editing App

Apps like the Phone Skope Photo and Video Editor are available for enhancement of digiscoped images and videos.

The moral of the story? There are some easy smartphone hacks that can add a big jolt to your digiscoping endeavors. Don’t forget these simple tips and tools next time you’re bird-watching, hiking, vacationing, or enjoying any other adventure in outdoor spaces.

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