Good cell phone photo hygiene

To be clear, if hygiene makes you think of germs, then yes, you need to clean your cell phone regularly. (If you’re looking for tips for that, use a 50/50 mixture of water and alcohol and a microfiber cloth. Use a cotton swab for the crevices.)

But this post isn’t about germs. It’s about the photos on your phone that seem to multiply like bacteria.

Do you have thousands of photos on your cell phone?

Are you paying monthly fees to back up your phone photos even though you never look at the backup and have no idea what photos are being stored?

Do you struggle to find a particular photo on your phone when you want to show someone?

Well, this post is for you. It’s time to clean up your photo routine. No rubber gloves necessary.

Here are four tips for better phone photo hygiene.

Delete liberally.

Just because you took the picture doesn’t mean you need to keep it. We are no longer living in the film age where we got double prints of every camera click. You need to go through your digital images periodically and click the trash can icon at least half as many times as you clicked the “take picture” button. Face it: Most digital images are junk. You tried different lighting, or you turned your phone sideways, or you took a close up, or you snapped a shot of an item you wanted to buy (and now you’ve purchased it), or you just accidentally took extra pictures. Delete the ones that don’t matter. Yes, right now. Or at least take a few minutes at regular intervals (the first of every month or every Sunday night or while you’re waiting for your hair stylist/doctor/oil change) to delete mercilessly.


Backup the photos on your phone either with a cloud service or by saving to your computer or thumb drive. If you’re not sure how to save photos to your computer, check how this post on how to find your DCIM and move photos from your phone to your computer.

After backing up your photos, consider deleting them off your phone. Blasphemy? OK, you don’t have to delete all of them (though I do because I absolutely hate showing people photos on my tiny phone screen), but you can delete older ones and ones you no longer want to show other people. If you have photos on your phone you want to show off, check out this next tip.

Create albums.

If you have an iPhone, you can tag photos so they appear in different albums. Your phone will do this automatically for some photos, but if you want to show off photos of your kids or your new house, you can segregate those photos into an album so they’re easy to find. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the Photos icon.
  2. Click on “Albums” on the bottom right.
  3. Click the + sign in the top left.
  4. Name your new album (i.e., “Kids,” “New House,” “Biggest Fish”). Click save.
  5. Now tap the photos you want to save in that album. Scroll up and down to see all you have on your phone.
  6. Click Done in the top right.

Now when you want to show someone these particular photos, click the Photos icon, then Albums and find the one you want. Voila.


Many photo print shops offer apps just for this purpose including SnapFish, Shutterfly, CVS and Walgreens (search “print photos” in the App store). To make this work, you actually have to use the app and print some photos. In many cases, you can print items other than simply photographs, like photo books and other tchotchkes. Listen, if the photo was important enough to take and save, then it might be worth printing and enjoying in real life inside of only virtually.

There, now your phone is lighter, at least in terms of ┬ámemory use, and you can better enjoy the photos you’ve decided to keep. Nice work.

Now you can clean up the germy parts.

Good luck!


Tips for taking better arm’s length photos with your cell phone

Spontaneity is a hallmark of summer. Especially in Chicagoland. We are out, about, moving fast and soaking up the sun while we can. The season has only 91 days or, if you’re counting from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, you get 101 days this year. In any case, time is short, and a lot is happening.

Spontaneous photo opportunities abound, and wouldn’t you know it? I don’t have my camera.

But I have my cell phone, and the iPhone 4’s 5 megapixel camera takes fab pictures (the iPhone 4S is even better at 8 megapixel).

Last week, I ran across (not literally) this photo opp as he crossed my street:

It’s not every day one sees a moss-covered monster like this. And certainly not any days in the winter time. He was moving fast. For a turtle. And I wouldn’t have caught him if I didn’t have my cell phone with me.

One of my favorite photos from last summer is this one, taken spontaneously with my cell phone at a Twins game at Target Field:

I love my 17-year-old stepson’s expression of resignation (there’s a current of happiness running through there somewhere) and my husband’s sneaky appearance in the background. I liked it so much, I used it in my Christmas card.

Those arm’s length shots with your cell phone are sometimes the best shots. Here are a few tips for making the most of yours:

  • Clean your camera lens periodically. With as much as you handle your cell phone, who knows what’s clouding the field.
  • Step out. Natural lighting is most flattering, preferably with the sun in front of you or obscured.
  • Switch it up. Some cell phones allow users to turn the lens to front so you can see exactly what you’re framing. The symbol on an iPhone looks like this:
  • Look into the lens, not the display (especially if you switched the lens to the front of your phone).
  • Lift up. The most flattering angle is from slightly higher than eye level. No double chins.
  • Hold your breath for less chance of wiggle and blur.
  • Smile. Come on now, summer is fun!

Let the picture taking begin!