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How often do you use your smartphone camera? With every new model that comes out, it seems like camera quality is often a huge selling point. But do you take advantage of those advancements? There are a lot of neat uses for that camera you carry around everywhere regardless of whether it’s the latest and greatest or three years old.

Personally, I use my smartphone camera maybe once or twice a year. It’s pretty sad and a waste of potential, so I’ve been interested in figuring out how to make better use of it. If you’re in the same boat as me, you may be surprised to find out that your smartphone camera is great for more than just family photos and Instagram filters.

Makeshift Scanner

smartphone-scanner

Based on what I’ve seen, scanners have started disappearing from homes. The only scanners I’ve seen are the printer-fax-scanner all-in-one machines for home offices which are bulky and eat up space. What if you don’t have a scanner and want to scan a document? Nowadays, your phone camera is good enough to do that for free.

With apps like CamScanner (Android, our review Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] Scan Documents On Your Phone With CamScanner [Android & iPhone] When it comes to smartphones, many of us want to be able to use them to do all manner of useful home office tasks just to make our lives easier. So it's a phone, a... Read More ), Document Scanner (Android), and Genius Scan (iPhone), you can take photos of various documents and images and instantly transform them into PDFs that are ready for office consumption. In most cases, the final document quality is on par or better than home office scanners.

Makeshift Webcam or Security Cam

smartphone-security-cam

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Nowadays, most laptops and netbooks come with integrated webcams and some monitors even have webcam capabilities. However, if you don’t have a webcam, you can buy a passable one these days for less than $20 if you look in the right places – or you can just hook up your smartphone and use its camera instead.

There are a lot of smartphone-as-webcam apps out there, both for Android and iPhone, and the level of setup difficulty varies depending on which app you use. However, on the whole, it’s pretty simple. Use your Android as a webcam How To Use An Android Device As A PC Webcam How To Use An Android Device As A PC Webcam If you need to make a few Skype calls or want to start a Hangout on Google Plus, but don't have the necessary equipment at hand, don't run off to the hardware store just yet!... Read More or use your iPhone as a webcam Use Your iPhone as a Webcam: Here's How [iOS] Use Your iPhone as a Webcam: Here's How [iOS] If you're wanting to use your iPhone as a remote webcam, Apple's FaceTime is probably the best option, but there are a few other free and inexpensive apps that are useful and offer a few... Read More , then tell us how it went and how you like it!

By using your smartphone as a webcam, you could even turn it into a security cam. This can be useful in a number of situations, whether it’s to watch for night intruders at home, keep tabs on your children as they sleep, or just as an extra set of eyes for various corridors at work.

Proof and Documentation

Many of us probably know that camera photos can be useful as evidence when something goes wrong, but how many of us actually use our smartphones for that purpose? The most common example that I’ve heard is in the case of a car accident (snap photos of the damage and the offender’s license plate), but this could be applied in so many other ways.

For example, if you frequently sell items online, snap photos of the product just before shipping so you have evidence. Not only does this protect you against a buyer’s retaliation, it can be used as proof against the shipping company.

smartphone-proof-documentation

If you ever rent something, snap photos of any potentially incriminating marks, dents, and damages, no matter how insignificant they may seem. If you document the state of your rental at the start of your renting agreement, you can protect yourself against those who want to pull a fast one on you. This is applicable for vehicles, apartments, etc.

For more personal examples, you could use smartphone photos to document any disassembly you do. When you take apart an electronic or mechanical device for the first time, these photos could prove invaluable when it’s time to put things back together.

And then there’s price matching. If you visit a store with a robust price matching policy, you may be able to present photos of a cheaper price from another store and get them to match.

Memory Aid

Photos were originally meant to capture a moment in time as a memory, so why not use your smartphone camera to help you remember mundane details that you might normally forget? Doing so might reduce the amount of inconvenience in your life.

Before you leave on an extended trip, take a photo of all of your luggage and everything inside each bag or case. At the end of your trip, review these photos to make sure you have everything and aren’t forgetting anything. Quick and easy, isn’t it?

smartphone-medicine-reminder

Similarly, if you park in a multi-story parking garage, you could snap a photo of location signs to help you remember where you parked your car. No matter how good your memory is, there are times when you’ll blank and forget where you parked. Save time and energy with a photo.

“Are you taking any medication?” You’ll hear this a lot when filling out medical forms or whenever you go in for a hospital checkup, but sometimes it can be hard to remember everything you’re on. Take a picture of your medicine cabinet so you can pull it out whenever you need to know. Who knows, it may even save your life one day.

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with taking photos of a family event or your latest trip to the beach, but your smartphone can be used for so much more than that. A few creative applications can turn your smartphone camera from an afterthought into a tool that makes your life easier 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier "Does your phone have a camera on it?" said no one since 2005. Nobody even asks how many megapixels your phone's camera has anymore. With the ubiquity of smartphones today, and the resolution of the... Read More – even the old spare smartphones that seem useless 5 Interesting Uses For A Spare Old Smartphone 5 Interesting Uses For A Spare Old Smartphone Read More .

What other interesting uses do you have for your smartphone? What more do you do than simply take “normal” photos? Share your tricks with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Scanner Via Shutterstock, Security Cam Via Shutterstock, Fragile Box Via Shutterstock, Medicine Via Shutterstock

  1. Deres
    February 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Another use is to take photos of places you can't see directly. For instance inside cramped space or above a wall.

  2. tamilano
    November 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Most times as a handy mirror

  3. molly_dog
    November 12, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Great tips! Never even knew there were apps to use my phone as a scanner. Perfect timing since my HP AIO just bit the dust! Thanks!!

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:11 am

      Glad to help!

  4. Glenn Herrick
    November 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Indeed, so it works as a magnifier. Similarly, I use my iPhone to zoom in on a distant object, e.g., a sign I can't read. Then snap the shot, and again zoom in on that - portable monocular.

  5. Richard B
    November 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    When we moved into a new apartment, the first thing I did was take pictures of things that could be used against us when we move out. It has pictures, and it was written down on the landlords "move-in checklist", so it has double backups. I also use it for CamScan (which is awesome!), and to take pictures of things before I ship them. Luckily I haven't had to use the latter, but you can never be too safe!

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:11 am

      I got burned by a past landlady who withheld my security deposit and blamed me for nonexistent damages. I wish I had taken pics!

  6. Stephanie S
    November 3, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for these suggestions! I also thought of another one or two that are specific to me while reading your article. As always, I come away from this site with new info. :)

  7. Felipe
    November 3, 2013 at 4:35 am

    you can also use it to detect infrared operating devices

  8. Kim Cotton
    November 3, 2013 at 4:25 am

    We take quick pictures of my son holding toys that he wants for Xmas while we are out shopping. We "send the picture to Santa" and end up with a great birthday/holiday shopping list for grandparents.

  9. Tom Henderson
    November 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    I hired a van to move house. I took a snap of the dashboard, showing the mileage at the beginning and end of the hire.
    A few days later, I got a bill for £40 "Refuelling charge".
    The photso I took also showed the fuel gauge. I was able to prove that I returned the van with more fuel than I had started out with. Useful things these camera phones;)

  10. Robert
    November 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    I recently was charged by a rental car company for a broken windshield. I'm confident the windshield was not broken when I returned the car. I plan to take pictures of the car when I pick it up and when I return it on all future rentals so I have proof if this situation occurs in the future.

  11. Sadden
    November 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Use it for grocery shopping - take a shot of you kitchen list with you. Saves a lot of returns for forgotten items.

  12. Jane
    November 2, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I am using my phone monitor a leak. Is it getting worse or have I got it under control!

  13. Marvin Heng
    November 2, 2013 at 3:14 am

    I started using smartphone to do a quick snap of the whiteboard sketches and writings during and after meetings before it's being wipe off, serve a proof that we had the meeting and the items discussed and also as an image to jog my memory later when I put them into papers.

    At first people laugh and joke at me but after a while, it actually rubs on the others and now almost everyone is doing that! It's like a trend and every time someone wants to wipe the whiteboard he/she will asked around 'Anybody want to snap before I wipe'? :D

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:09 am

      Haha, that's awesome. It's funny how good ideas are first mocked before they proliferate. :P

  14. Ajarn D
    November 2, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Another way when you want to clean your computer keyboard and you need to remove all the buttons. Take a picture of the keyboard. Great tips here.

  15. Pat H
    November 2, 2013 at 2:29 am

    When you go to the mall or some county fair or something, snap a photo of your kids in case they get lost -- security knows exactly who to look for.

  16. JuliEsther
    November 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    You can also use it to record business open/close times. Rather than transcribing them, take a pic of the time placard by the front door.

  17. Mary
    November 1, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    If taking small children out for the day, take a photo in case one goes missing. It may be impossible to remember what a child was wearing if you are panicking

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:08 am

      Yikes, that's a pretty good one! I never would've thought of that in a million years. Thanks!

  18. Dan N
    November 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    This is also good advice for the iPad. Same uses. I use mine with Dropbox, Evernote and the several Skydrives to backup things like medicine lists, home inventory, contact lists etc. Encrypted, it's as safe as a bank lockbox. And i can retrieve anything from several operating system domputers.

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:08 am

      Combining the memory aspect with cloud storage is smart. Thanks for the idea!

  19. Dominic
    November 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Weegee said the secret to good photographs is "f8 and be there". Cell phone cameras are fantastic for this. I use mine all the time. I usually delete 90% of the photos I take, but the 10% are absolute gems that I could never had captured because I would not have had my DSLR in that situation.

    Of the last 20 photos taken with my phone, 1 was a paint can label for which I needed another can tinted the same colour, 2 were for a car part - wanted the part #, 6 were sheets from a bird auction that I was interested in bidding on.

  20. Keith
    November 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    That was far from enlightening.

  21. Keith
    November 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Not very enlightening. : -/

  22. John M.
    November 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Another one I find quite useful is an inexpensive camera app (for iPhone, doubtless similar for Android) called DateCam, which automatically stamps a permanent date on the photo. I take photos for construction progress documentation all the time, and we find date stamps to be essential.

    • Joel L
      November 12, 2013 at 2:07 am

      That's pretty useful! Plus it adds a bit of nostalgia as it hearkens back to when film cameras also stamped the time on photos. :)

  23. Joan
    November 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Loved this article. I'm a crafter and make my own greeting cards. Before posting I set the card up with a name on a piece of paper along side and take the pic. Probably not unusual but being in my 70's it ensures I don't send the same card to the same person more than once.

  24. Derek
    November 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    You can also use the camera as an IR detector. Aim your TV remote at the camera to see if the remote is working/needs batteries.

  25. ianpps
    November 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    We write our shopping requirements on the kitchen whiteboard and then take a photo of it before going shopping. The photo becomes our shopping list.

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Much easier than typing it into notes by hand!

  26. Ivan
    November 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    If you're taking anything apart, take a pic every step of the way that way you'll know what went where when putting it back together , my smart phone/iPad etc is part of my tool collection.

  27. Robert M
    November 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    As an IT professional, I use my phone quite a bit during the day. Just a couple of the things I've used it for:
    *Picture of a serial number on the back of an appliance that would have been very time consuming to unbolt and look at.
    *Picture of wiring in a cramped space.
    *Picture of an error message on a crashed computer.
    *Picture of the existing wiring on a panel before I removed it.
    *Picture of jumper settings before testing changes.

  28. Kelli ham
    November 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    My eye doctor recommended this. If you are trying to read a label with really tiny print or anything really small (like some over the counter medicines or a serial number on electronics equipment), you can use your phone's camera. It will focus on the tiny print and enlarge it on the screen so it's readable.

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Ah, yes, that's a good one!

  29. Pablo
    November 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I would add this interesting hack: http://www.instructables.com/id/10-Smartphone-to-digital-microscope-conversion/ It lets you use your phone as a microscope. Its an easy-cheap hack so its a great way to use a camera.

  30. vesteve
    November 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I've been looking to rent or buy a place so I have been snapping all the FOR SALE and FOR RENT signs. I also have pics of IDs and documents with numbers of bank accounts or invoices that i might need to have access to in the future.

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Very nice! Much better than pulling over and writing down those sign numbers (or, in today's era, typing them into your notes app).

  31. Patrick Rosewell
    November 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Great article. I'm always snapping images when places, items or circumstances present themselves. Another good habit is to geotag those places you've been to. Tagging your favorite places or places of interest for future reference or conversation is a fun and efficient method I've been trying to create a habit for. Cheers.

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      I just looked up geotagging (hadn't heard about it before) and it sounds like a cool concept. Thanks, I learned something new today!

  32. Vikas Kumar
    November 1, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Too good Joel.

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      Thank you. :P

  33. Shauna, Secret Secretary
    October 31, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Great article, things I hadn't even thought of, thanks Joel! I particularly like the CamScanner and taking photos of your medications, brilliant!

    • Joel L
      November 1, 2013 at 12:58 am

      I'm glad you found it helpful. Thank you!

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