Enough is Enough: CREDO grantee Brady is fighting to end gun violence

Our nation is slowly returning to normal as we emerge from over a year of quarantine and our ongoing battle against COVID-19. But as one pandemic ends, there remains an imminent threat to American life: America’s decades-long epidemic of gun violence. Fomented by the deadly influence of the gun lobby, the inaction of our lawmakers, and more,  gun violence claims the lives of over 100 people every single day in the United States.

We have already seen the deadly gun violence that comes with our return to normalcy: High-profile mass shootings, many of which were perpetrated with  military-style assault weapons, occurring in Atlanta, GA, Boulder, CO, and Indianapolis, IN, within mere weeks of each other. What’s worse is that these shootings are a small fraction of the gun violence that our country has already experienced this year. In fact, by some measures, there have been over 50 mass shootings since the hate-fueled attack in Georgia. And these mass shootings are only a fraction of the types of gun violence that our nation experiences: Suicide by firearm, firearms involved in domestic disputes, community gun violence, and more are just some of the forms of gun violence — the combination of which have already taken the lives of 13,000 people this year.

That’s why Brady, one of our nation’s  oldest and boldest gun violence prevention organizations and a CREDO grantee, has been fighting for decades to pass common-sense gun legislation – since we passed the bipartisan Brady Bill in 1993, establishing the Brady Background Check System for gun sales in America. Since its inception, the Brady Background Check System has blocked approximately 4 million prohibited purchasers from buying a firearm and saved innumerable lives. But as times and technology have evolved, our federal gun laws have not, leaving deadly loopholes and critical gaps in our current laws that have allowed dangerous individuals to obtain firearms and kill innocent people. Today, we continue the fight for our namesakes, Jim and Sarah Brady, to strengthen and expand the Brady Background Check System.

Brady works across Congress, courts, and communities to drive change. We understand the complex issues that lead to gun deaths in our nation, and with the help of CREDO and our generous supporters, we are enacting multi-faceted solutions that are proven to save lives.

We have not backed down from our fight in Congress despite the deadly influence of the gun lobby and the years of inaction by NRA-bought lawmakers. Because of our tireless work, we helped elect  gun violence prevention champions to the House, Senate, and White House and finally stand on the precipice of landmark legislative change once again.

Our legal team takes on cases in courts across the country, representing the families of gun violence victims and prosecuting the gun manufacturers that contributed to the gun violence epidemic. And right now, our legal team is preparing to take on the gun lobby in the highest court in the land when the Supreme Court of the United States hears a case on the Second Amendment this fall.

In communities, we focus on the everyday gun violence that disproportionately affects namely Black and Brown Americans — and this is a critical piece of the solution, as Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to die from gun violence and are 14 times more likely than white Americans to be wounded. We believe that gun violence is a racial justice issue that necessitates systemic change to our critically flawed and racist systems. We are the only organization taking a “supply-side” approach, working to stem the flow of crime guns into disproportionately impacted communities. We are also working with the gun-owning community to promote safe gun storage and end family fire.

Brady is led by gun violence survivors who intimately know the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence and who have dedicated their lives to ensuring no one else has to go through that loss. Survivors and experts of gun violence alike direct our comprehensive efforts toward the most critical pieces of the fight to prevent gun violence, ensuring that we are making progress at every turn and continuing the Brady legacy of landmark change.Supporting Brady means saving lives, to put it plainly. We know what it takes to end this uniquely American epidemic of gun violence, and we have been working for decades to do it. The progress we’ve made already has saved innumerable lives and saved so many families from tragedy, but we won’t stop fighting until Americans no longer have to wonder if they will be shot and killed

at school…

at work…

in their homes…

at the movie theatre…

in their neighborhoods…

It is only with the help of dedicated donors, like CREDO, that we are able to continue this vital, multifaceted work. Thank you to CREDO and CREDO’s loyal supporters for your investment in our gun violence prevention mission.

To learn more about Brady and how you can get involved, please visit https://www.bradyunited.org/ 

8 easy ways to extend your phone’s battery life

If your smartphone is a little older, you know what it’s like when your battery dies unexpectedly. It’s the side effect of having a powerful yet tiny computer in your pocket.

But a draining battery is not usually your fault. The lithium-ion batteries in most smartphones charge in cycles, and their capacity diminishes slightly after each one, which slowly decreases battery life over time. 

Luckily, there are some easy ways to preserve and extend the battery life of your smartphone. Here are 8 tips to keep your phone running a little longer.

Update your phone’s operating system

It’s always a good idea to keep your phone’s operating system up-to-date. Most updates include patches and fixes, some of which could help save energy and keep your battery running longer or more efficiently.

If you have a much older phone, check with your manufacturer to ensure your phone is able to run the latest operating system, or else you may run into unexpected issues. 

Here’s how to update the iOS on your Apple device or check and update your Android system.

Avoid extreme temperatures

According to Apple, your phone is designed to perform its best when the ambient temperature is between 62° to 72° F. Samsung, a leading Android phone manufacturer, also suggests that you do not expose your phone to extreme temperatures to keep your device running smoothly.

When it comes to extreme temperatures, cold will temporarily affect battery life, but extreme heat could permanently damage battery capacity. You may have noticed that when you leave your phone in the sun, your device may warn you or automatically turn off when it’s too hot, but be advised that storing your phone in extreme heat could also damage the battery. That’s why phone manufacturers recommend keeping your device in a comfort zone between 32° to 95° for best performance and battery life.

Try low power or power-saving mode

The low power or power saving mode on your phone will use less power when your battery reaches low levels by dimming your display, checking for incoming mail less often and turning off certain functions, like “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google,” automatic downloads and background app refresh. 

Most phones by default may have this function enabled when your phone battery falls to 20%, but you can also enable this feature manually to save battery life. Here’s how to enable Low Power Mode on your iPhone, and Power Saving Mode on a Samsung device (these steps may be similar for other Android devices, too.)

Dim your screen

Keeping your screen at full brightness all the time can really drain your battery, so it’s a good idea to turn your screen brightness down to a level that allows you to comfortably use your phone while preserving your battery.

Your device may already adaptively adjust your screen brightness level depending on your usage or the amount of available light, but you can override those features in your phone’s settings. Here’s how you can adjust the brightness on your Apple or Android device.

Turn off location services & GPS

Location services are a very convenient feature of most smartphones. They are essential to navigation and maps, and they provide apps with your location to make it easier to order food, hail a cab or countless other functions. However, your GPS can eat up a lot of battery life, too.

You have a couple options when it comes to saving battery life and using GPS. If you don’t use any apps that use location services, you can turn the feature completely off. But, some apps require it, like Google Maps, so you can disable GPS for apps that don’t need it (which can also help keep apps from tracking your location).

On an Apple device, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and toggle which apps you don’t want using location services.

On an Android device, go to Settings > Security & Location > Location.

Turn on dark mode

We love dark mode, but we know it’s not for everyone. Dark mode essentially flips the whites to black and blacks to white on your phone, reducing all that white space on your screen that requires more power and light and, in turn, drains your battery.

Both Apple and Android support dark mode in their operating systems, and many developers include dark mode within their apps.

Here’s how to enable Dark Mode on your Apple device, or switch to the dark theme on Android (versions 11.0 and above).

Shorten the timeout or auto-lock feature

Does your screen stay bright for a long time after you put it down? Unfortunately, that’s draining your battery too. You can shorten the time the screen stays illuminated — and save your battery — by heading over to your settings and adjusting the timeout or screen lock feature to turn off your screen a little faster.

On an Apple device, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Auto-Lock and choose the time.

On an Android device, go to Settings > Display > Screen timeout.

Upgrade your phone

If all else fails and your phone’s battery just isn’t holding a charge for very long, you could have your device repaired — or you could upgrade to a newer phone. 

Right now, we have a lot of great offers available for the newest phones with great battery life! Visit CREDOMobile.com to see which phone is right for you.

Vote for Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Slow Foods USA and Zinn Education Project this May

Every month, CREDO members vote to distribute $150,000 to three incredible progressive causes – and every vote makes a difference. This May, you can support gun violence prevention, food and climate justice, promoting the “people’s history” in education by voting to fund Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Slow Food USA and Zinn Education Project. 

Brady: United Against Gun Violence

For more than 40 years, Brady has been uniting gun owners and non-gun owners alike in the fight against gun violence. With programs that tackle the root causes of America’s gun violence epidemic, Brady works to ensure that every community is safer.

Your support will bolster Brady’s on-the-ground programs in areas most impacted by gun violence, help the organization take the gun industry to court, promote safe gun storage, and more. Each vote gets Brady closer to reducing gun violence 25% by 2025.

Slow Food USA

Slow Food is a global network of local communities. Slow Foods believes in uniting the joy of food with the pursuit of justice. We are committed to transforming the world to guarantee good, clean and fair food for all.

Funding from CREDO will help Slow Food USA defend cultural and biological diversity, educate and mobilize citizens, and influence food policies in public and private sectors. After you vote, join a local chapter and get involved!

Zinn Education Project

 

The Zinn Education Project introduces students to a more accurate and engaging understanding of history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. We equip students with analytical tools to make sense of and improve the world today.

Funding from CREDO will allow the Zinn Education Project to engage more teachers in our Teach Climate Justice, Teach Reconstruction, and Teach the Black Freedom Struggle campaigns — and help them offer students a more honest history of our country.

Your vote this month will determine how we divide $150,000 in donations among these three progressive groups. Be sure to cast your vote to support one, two or all three by May 31.

CREDO members who use our products and services everyday are the reason we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile and CREDO Energy and join our movement.

Our April grantees thank you for your support

Each month, CREDO members vote on how we distribute funding to three incredible nonprofits. Those small actions add up – with one click, you can help fund groups working for civil rights, humanitarian aid and transgender equality. In April, CREDO members voted to distribute $150,000 in donations to Fight For the Future, International Rescue Committee and Transgender Law Center.

These donations are made possible by CREDO customers and the revenue they generate by using our services. The distribution depends entirely on the votes of CREDO members like you. And for that, our April grant recipients thank you.

Fight For the Future
$51,557 

“Thank you! CREDO members like you make it possible for Fight to defend our human rights in the digital age. We’re fighting for free expression online, to restore net neutrality, curb Big Tech’s surveillance practices and end government spying.” – Evan Greer, Director, Fight for the Future

To learn more, visit fightforthefuture.org.

International Rescue Committee
$54,915

“The IRC is grateful for CREDO’s partnership and members’ support, which is needed now more than ever. Displaced people and families are struggling to recover from conflict, disaster, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and your support helps us reach the most vulnerable.” – Lauren Gray, Senior Director of Global Corporate Partnerships, IRC

To learn more, visit rescue.org.

Transgender Law Center
$43,528

From all of us at TLC, thank you CREDO members for your support. Your support means we continue to create a path to freedom for everyone, centering trans Black, Indigenous and people of color, who hold the knowledge, power, and joy to create a future where we can all not only survive but thrive.” – Kris Hayashi, Executive Director, Transgender Law Center

To learn more, visit transgenderlawcenter.org.

Now check out the three groups we are funding in May, and cast your vote to help distribute our donations.

CREDO members who use our products are the reason why we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile, the carrier with a conscience.

Black Voters Matter fights back against AT&T’s funding of Texas voter suppression

“When voting rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” shouted the crowd of Black Voters Matter activists outside AT&T headquarters in Dallas last month.

These activists were outraged that AT&T donated $574,500 to the lawmakers behind a series of harsh voter suppression bills in Texas. 

While Texas is one of 47 states with proposed laws that would make it even harder to vote, the state already has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, and AT&T’s corporate support of these lawmakers makes it even more egregious.

Not surprisingly, AT&T isn’t apologizing for their donations to suppress the vote, so CREDO grantee Black Voters Matter is holding them accountable and fighting back.

There’s no doubt that these proposed Texas voter suppression bills — what Black Voters Matters is calling Jim Crow 2.0 — are aimed at voters of color, voters with disabilities and other marginalized communities to make it much more difficult to cast a ballot.

According to Judd Legum at Popular Information, whose tenacious reporting continues to reveal the funding of right-wing causes and Republican politicians by corporate America, especially AT&T, two of the most expansive and restrictive voter suppression bills in Texas, SB 7 and HB 6, would make it extremely difficult for Texans to vote absentee or by mail, prohibit mobile, outdoor, and drive-through polling locations, effectively ban mass voting locations like sports arenas, and essentially allow poll watchers to intimidate voters. Under HB 6, volunteers who call voters to discuss returning absentee ballots and are provided a snack could be charged with a crime. 

That’s why, after Legum’s reporting revealed AT&T’s donations to these lawmakers, leaders and activists at Black Voters Matter and their allies organized a rally and press conference outside of AT&T’s Dallas headquarters to push back:

Throughout April, Black Voters Matter has been ramping up the pressure on AT&T by mobilizing activists to take action to stop these bills from becoming law. They have launched  digital campaigns, deployed paid ads, and led protests calling on the corporation to block HB 6 and SB 7. They have continued to support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act at the federal level. And Black Voters Matter is urging AT&T to cut financial ties with all lawmakers who attack voting rights (check out their resources page here). The group also produced a 30-second video spot explaining what’s at stake:

Just last week, Black Voters Matter again organized a protest outside of AT&T’s Dallas headquarters, urging the company to take a stand against voter suppression in the state:


At the rally, Black Voters Matter co-founder and executive director Cliff Albright had some very powerful words for AT&T, calling out the company for running “cute commercials” claiming support for Black Lives Matter and civil rights icons Martin Luther King and John Lewis while funding lawmakers who are taking away the voting rights of Black Texans:

If you’re as outraged as we are about voter suppression in Texas and AT&T’s funding of lawmakers who back this legislation, here are some steps you can take:

Texas residents can:

Out-of-state residents can:

  • Sign the petition urging AT&T to stop funding voter suppression;
  • Follow Black Voters Matter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the latest updates on this campaign and all of their important work; or

Join CREDO Mobile. As a CREDO customer, you help fund the important work of groups like Black Voters Matter who are fighting to protect the right to vote — unlike AT&T, who funds voter suppression efforts. Since 1985, CREDO has donated over $10 million to groups fighting to protect and expand our right to vote, and you can always feel secure that your phone bill is supporting voting rights and the progressive causes you are about.

Learn how to scan a QR code — and receive a special offer

You’ve probably seen QR codes before — those modern-looking barcodes used to redeem a coupon or concert ticket, make a payment, send a text message, save a contact or download an app.

They’ve taken a long time to catch on, but they’re popping up all over the place these days. So how can you use them? It’s very simple, and everything you need is right there in your phone.

In this week’s tip, we’ll teach you how to scan a QR code — then give you the chance to redeem a great offer with a special CREDO QR code!

The “QR” in QR code is short for “quick response,” and these codes were actually invented almost 30 years ago by a subsidiary of Toyota. Unlike traditional barcodes that can only store a small amount of data, QR codes can store up to 4,000 characters of text, making them very useful for modern mobile phone applications, like redirecting to a website or app store, verifying login details or displaying other information on your screen.

Today, QR codes are used in a variety of ways for mobile users to access information or automatically visit a web address just by pointing your phone’s camera at the code and letting your device do the rest. 

How to scan a QR code from your Apple device

All newer iOS versions can automatically recognize QR codes straight from your device’s camera app, without needing to download a third-party app.

  1. Open your Camera app.
  2. Make sure you’ve selected the rear facing camera. 
  3. Point the camera in the direction of the QR code and ensure it appears in the viewfinder.
  4. Once your device recognizes the QR code (no need to click the shutter button), a notification should pop up. Click on the notification to open the link.

How to scan a QR code from your Android device

Scanning QR codes is just as easy from an Android device, but because of the various manufacturers and operating system versions, there aren’t one-size-fits-all instructions. 

If you have Android version 7 or below, you will likely need a third-party app to scan a QR code. (Head over to the Google Play store to find one.)

If you have version 8 or higher, you probably do not need a third-party app. Instead, you can use Google Lens to scan your QR code (download here). Here’s how to do that:

  1. Press and hold down the home button to bring up the Assistant.
  2. The Lens button may automatically appear. Press it. If not, click the dots at the bottom and the Lens button should appear.
  3. Point your camera at the QR code and ensure the entire code remains in your viewfinder.
  4. Google Lens should be able to automatically identify the QR code.
  5. A popup notification should appear. Click the notification to follow the link. 

Now, try scanning a QR code yourself

If you’re on your phone right now, visit this blog post from your computer.

Depending on the model of your phone, use the instructions above and point your phone to the QR code below:

Enjoy!

 

AT&T donated over $800,000 to Republicans behind voter suppression bills

In 47 states across America, right-wing lawmakers, who still believe Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen, have introduced hundreds of bills to make it harder for Black voters and other voters of color to cast their ballots. It’s absolutely shameful.

So who in the world would fund these extremist lawmakers? Much of corporate America, that’s who. 

A stunning new report by Public Citizen found that corporations have donated an incredible $50 million to lawmakers supporting these outrageous voter suppression efforts across the country.

Which company tops the list? AT&T, which donated nearly $811,000 to the state lawmakers behind these voter suppression bills. These donations are in addition to the $2 million AT&T donated to Congressional Republicans who said they would object to certifying President Biden’s victory.

While AT&T tries to publicly distance itself from overturning elections and funding voter suppression, these donations add to the company’s long history of donating millions to bankroll the right-wing agenda.

Ever since the Jan. 6 riots on the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionist Trump supporters, AT&T has tried to walk back its donations to the right-wing politicians who continue to promote election lies — and the company has failed miserably. 

As we previously noted, AT&T promised, after widespread condemnation, that it would suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the Electoral College. Yet, only a few weeks went by before they cut a $5,000 check to the leadership PAC of one of those insurrectionist Republican members of Congress.

Now, as lawmakers in state houses across the country propose harsh voting restrictions — like requiring voter IDs and limiting drop boxes, early voting, mail-in voting and voting on Sundays (a traditional day for voting in many Black communities), or even making it a crime to hand out water to people waiting in line to vote — AT&T is once again leading the pack in donations to right-wing politicians trying to suppress our votes. 

Some of these donations include at least $99,700 since 2018 to a group of Georgia Republican lawmakers who are sponsors of House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 241, two voter suppression bills that would make voting much harder for many Georgians. 

And at least $45,000 donated to Ron DeSantis and eight state senators backing Senate Bill 90, a harsh voter suppression bill that would ban ballot drop boxes, limit who could return a legal ballot to a polling place, and place restrictions on mail-in voting. 

And the $574,500 to Texas lawmakers behind some of the nation’s harshest voter suppression bills.

These donations by AT&T aren’t surprising, either. AT&T has a long and dark history of funding Republican lawmakers and right-wing causes, including $2 million to Trump’s inauguration, $2.7 million to anti-LGBTQ politicians, or $1.1 million to Republicans in the 2020 election (Check out an even larger list here).

At CREDO, our customers never have to worry that we will donate to Republican politicians or back voter suppression efforts. In fact, strengthening democracy and expanding the right to vote is a core value at CREDO. 

That’s why we’ve donated more than $10 million in total to groups like Fair Fight Action, Black Voters Matter, Vote.org and the Brennan Center for Justice. In 2020, our members helped us go above and beyond to launch “CREDO Votes 2020,” a special project to educate voters, get out the vote and donate an extra $250,000 to voting rights non-profit organizations. We donate nearly $2 million to progressive nonprofits every year, and more than $91 million since 1985.

If you or a friend are AT&T customers and would like your phone bill to fund the causes you care about — not Republicans who are trying to suppress the vote — visit CREDOMobile.com and learn how you can make the switch today.

 

CREDO protects your data. But what about your friends on T-Mobile and AT&T?

Not all cell phone companies have their customers’ best interests in mind, especially when it comes to selling your sensitive data to the highest bidder.

We were reminded about that recently when we learned T-Mobile is planning to automatically start sharing customer data with advertisers later this month, unless customers explicitly opt-out. That means the websites you visit, the apps you use, and your online activity could be used to target you with ads.

The good news for CREDO customers: We don’t share your cell phone usage data with advertisers. In fact, data privacy is at the core of our business, and CREDO customers can rest assured that we take your privacy very seriously.

But if you or a loved one are on another mobile network, here are some ways you can opt-out of these invasive and intrusive data sharing policies and help protect yourself from third-party advertisers.

Customer privacy is at the core of CREDO’s business

First thing’s first: If you’re a CREDO customer, your data is not for sale. Period. We take your data privacy seriously, unlike other mobile carriers. Here’s how we’re different:

  • CREDO became the first mobile phone company in 2014 to issue a transparency report, and we’ve continued to issue transparency reports every quarter. You can read our latest transparency report here
  • CREDO was the only mobile phone company to earn a five-star rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for our policies protecting your data from government requests.
  • We do not participate in these kinds of data sharing agreements with third-party advertisers nor do we sell your information. Here is our full privacy policy.
  • CREDO has donated nearly $15 million to nonprofit organizations fighting to protect your civil liberties, digital rights, and civil rights — groups like EFF, Media Justice, Free Press, the ACLU, and Fight for the Future (who you can vote for this month).

The best way to help protect your data or a friend’s data from advertisers and the government is by joining CREDO Mobile. 

But if you’re on another network, here are some steps you can take to try to stop your cell phone company from sharing some of your data with advertisers.

T-Mobile

Recent reporting uncovered an update to the fine print of T-Mobile’s privacy policy: The company would start sharing its customers’ cell phone data with third-party advertisers, including newly-acquired Sprint customers, unless customers explicitly opted-out of this data sharing practice. 

This is particularly frustrating for former Sprint customers, who prior to the merger had to opt-in — not opt-out — to the company’s data sharing program. Here’s more information from Mashable about the data T-Mobile is likely to share.

If you’re on T-Mobile, here’s how to opt-out:

  1. Visit https://www.t-mobile.com/ and log in to your account. 
  2. Click on My account > Profile > Privacy and Notifications > Advertising & Analytics
  3. Toggle off the two options that say “Use my data for analytics and reporting” & “Use my data to make ads more relevant to me”

AT&T

AT&T is notoriously awful when it comes to protecting customer data. 

The company has been called one of the NSA’s “most trusted partners,” when it was revealed that AT&T hosted “wiretap rooms” in eight cities where the NSA skimmed data as it passed through their networking equipment. The Daily Beast also revealed that AT&T had been collecting and selling huge databases of consumer data to law enforcement agencies without a warrant and collecting millions in taxpayer money.

And of course, in addition to certain opt-in data sharing programs, AT&T also “automatically enroll(s) you in their other advertising programs…[and] sells your data to third parties to target you with ads,” according to Recode at Vox.

If you’re on AT&T, here’s how to opt-out:

  1. Go to AT&T’s “Consent Dashboard” (you may have to log into your account)
  2. Click on Relevant Advertising
  3. Toggle “Allow use” to “No.”

If you live in California, you can also explicitly tell AT&T not to sell your personal information by filling out this form.

CREDO members make Earth Day every day

Here at CREDO, Earth Day is every single day. Because of members like you who power our environmental philanthropy, we walk the walk when it comes to fighting for climate justice, protecting clean air and water, and caring for the environment.

More than $19 million donated to climate justice. Since 1985, our members have helped us donate $19,686,075 to climate and environmental nonprofits, like Sunrise Movement, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Watch, and dozens more.

Four million trees planted. We print our bills on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. And we plant 100 trees for every ton of paper we use (enough trees to make another ton). To date we’ve planted close to 4 million trees worldwide through our donations to tree-planting organizations.

Phone recycling. We make it free and easy for our members to recycle their phones through our partnership with Eco-Cell. Recycling your old device is not only good for the environment, but it’s also good for the progressive nonprofits CREDO Mobile supports.

CREDO Energy. We offer simple, straightforward access to 100% clean electricity for eligible customers — with the impact of CREDO partnered with Energy Rewards.

How to take better photos with your smartphone

Spring is finally upon us, and we’re coming out of our winter hibernations. With the nicer weather come more opportunities to take great photos outside!

But you say you don’t have a camera? Sure you do — it’s right in your pocket. In fact, last year over 90% of all photos were taken with smartphones, and it’s estimated that over 1.4 trillion photos will be taken in 2021. That’s why we think it’s important to get the most out of that little, yet powerful camera in your phone.

Whether you’re making memories at a socially-distanced date with friends and family, a hike in the woods, or a day in the park, here are some tips to get the most out of your phone’s camera.

 

Turn on the grid

First thing’s first: To make a good image, you need to create a good composition to ensure the elements in the frame are positioned in a pleasing way. 

To help you frame the photo properly, you may have heard of the “Rule of Thirds,” the concept of splitting the frame into a 3×3 grid or nine squares, like a tic-tac-toe grid, and positioning major elements in your photo inside these sections, or where the lines intersect.

Your phone can overlay this grid on your screen to help achieve a more interesting photo. Here’s how to turn on the grid for your Android or Apple device.

 

Try holding your phone horizontally

If you’re used to taking photos with your phone in an upright position, consider turning it on its side 90 degrees. You may see a big improvement in your images. 

That’s because “landscape” photos (wider than they are tall) are how all “old school” cameras shot photographs (unless you positioned them vertically, of course). Horizontal photos provide richer details in the background and can produce more interesting images. They also look better on your horizontal screens, like laptops and TVs.

Of course, vertical orientation is also a great option, but unless you’re taking photos or videos for a social media platform that prefers its media vertically, like Snapchat, TikTok or even Facebook, try mixing things up.

 

Adjust focus and exposure

Today’s smartphones are very good at setting the focus and exposure (in very simple terms, how your camera reads the light) on a subject in the foreground — but it’s not always perfect or not the subject you want to feature.

To change your phone camera’s focus, open your camera app and tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus.

To change the exposure and/or brightness before you take a photo, tap on the screen. For Apple devices, drag the sun icon up and down. For Android devices, you can likely change the exposure with the +/- icons.

 

Explore “portrait mode”

The so-called “portrait mode” of your smartphone camera is a feature that can create a more dramatic image by sharply focusing on your foreground subject and automatically blurring the background. This is a fun way to create portrait-style photos without needing to lug around a big DSLR and fancy lens. Note that you will need to be a certain distance away for portrait mode to work, and you should hold your camera relatively still as the phone may take a little longer to process the image.

All newer Apple devices have portrait mode, along with many Android models. Here’s how to use portrait mode for your Apple or Android device, if supported.

 

Try HDR mode

HDR mode, or High Dynamic Range mode, is a feature in all newer smartphone camera apps that helps bring out greater detail in the darker and lighter areas of your photos, and it generally balances the light and colors a little better. This feature also takes a little longer to process in your app, and there are definitely situations where you wouldn’t want to use this feature, such as for moving subjects or where dramatic contrast is your intention.

Here are some additional tips for using HDR mode, and here’s how you can use the feature on Apple or Android.

 

Avoid using your built-in zoom function

You may be tempted to use the built-in zoom feature of your camera app, which is usually triggered by pinching two fingers outward (zoom in) or together (zoom out).

We’re here to say: Don’t do it — unless you have a newer phone that includes a camera with “optical zoom.”

For most phones, your camera app will use a digital zooming feature, which is nothing more than cropping the edges of your image, enlarging your photo and the image pixels, while decreasing photo quality. A good option is taking the photo without the zoom feature at all, or even better if you can, moving closer to your subject.

If your smartphone has multiple camera lenses, it’s possible your phone may have a limited fixed optical zoom feature, which will take better zoomed-in photos. Check with your manufacturer if your phone has this option.

 

Turn off flash & use natural light, if you can

Light is one of the most important factors in photography — and natural light is almost always better than using your smartphone’s flash, which can result in less-than-perfect images.

When shooting images with natural light, pay attention to where the sun is in the sky if you’re outside. Try to ensure the sun is lighting your subject, not the camera on your phone. Indoors, try using window light or more overhead artificial light, and ensure your subject is standing closer to the light, not in the shadows. Many newer smartphones work exceptionally well in low light conditions, so try taking your photos without the flash, then again with the flash, to see which one you like better.

 

Edit your photos

Lastly, you can turn a good photo into a great photo with a little editing. The built in editing features in your Apple or Android photo apps do a pretty good job helping you crop and adjust exposure, brightness, shadows and highlights, color, saturation and a lot more. 

To take your photos to the next level, you might want to check out some photo editing apps for more advanced features and filters. A few good photo editing apps include PicsArt, Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, Adobe Photoshop Camera and Pixlr.