Smartphone camera tips: 8 unexpected ways to use yours that make your life easier

Smartphone Photo Tips: 8 Unexpected Uses | Cool Mom Tech

As much as I use my smartphone camera to take photos of my kids — okay and take selfies, too — I actually use it for way more than that. So I’ve put together 8 of my favorite smartphone camera tips to help make your life easier, more organized, or less stressful. It doesn’t matter whether you are an iPhone user or an Android user; if you’ve got a phone with a camera, I’m willing to bet that these simple suggestions will come in handy more often than you think.

1. Mirror: I realize that there are plenty of mirror apps, but the camera works just fine for me to do a quick make-up and teeth check. I use it to apply lipstick more than I should probably admit. But hey, it’s much more convenient than remembering to carry an actual mirror.


Creative ways to use your smart phone | Cool Mom Tech

2. Remembering Your Parking Spot: If you have a habit of forgetting where you parked your car in a giant lot, then snap a photo of your parking spot, specifically the floor or the actual spot number. Remember, a photo of the car you’re parked next to is useless if the driver happens to leave before you return.

3. Saving Your Plane Ticket: I pretty much always get an e-ticket when I travel, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve had slow cellular service or no WiFi, which makes it hard to access. Once you get the e-ticket sent to your phone, grab a screenshot so you can pull it up right from your photo library without worrying about log-ons or wireless service. Same goes for train or bus tickets, most of which don’t even need to be printed now.


Use smartphone camera to save kids' artwork | ©Liz Gumbinner for Cool Mom Tech

4. Preserving the Kids’ Artwork: For years we’ve been advocating for our readers to photograph all those art projects, school essays and crafts that the kids bring home, to eliminate the clutter while preserving their masterpieces (like this one from our editor Liz’s daughter) forever. Apps like Artkive make it easy to organize by child or school year, even letting you print the photos as an album at some point. Plus you can fiddle with the cropping and adjust it with a mobile app like Snapseed. Really smart use of the phone for parents.

5. Saving Directions: It’s an awful feeling when you’re desperate for your Google Maps app to work but you hit a bad reception area. So, load your directions before you leave and take a screenshot of the map and the directions (if you need them) so you’ve got it all easily accessible. This is especially great for rural areas with iffy reception, and urban dwellers who don’t have service in the subway.

Speaking of which, a screenshot of the local subway map when you travel never hurts.

6. Remembering Good Links on the Web: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across a tweet, a website or a link that was so awesome, I want to remember to check it out later–only to completely forget where I saw it. Grabbing a screenshot means avoiding that smack-your-head moment later, and is way faster than emailing a link to yourself.


Smartphone camera tips: photograph cool finds to remember | Cool Mom Tech
7. Visual Reminders: Whether I’m at the grocery store, a local boutique, or a flea market, I use my camera to take photos of items I want to learn more about. Maybe I want to find a better price online, or get more info about it before I buy (like these cool Blockitecture blocks from Areaware that we discovered at Toy Fair recently). It’s much easier for me to just pop out my camera and snap a photo than it is to type out all the info in my notes.

8. Saving Copies of Important Documents: Take a few moments and snap photos of your driver’s license, passport, and other important documents, especially if you’re about to travel. If your phone settings require a password to get in (which it should), you won’t have to worry about someone else gaining access. Plus if you use an auto cloud-syncing service you’ll have it backed up off your phone. You can also forward a photo to a family member or trusted friend for extra safe keeping.

Need more tech tricks and tips like these? Check out our archives.

[top image: vernieman on flickr via creative commons license]

Kristen is CEO/Co-Founder of Cool Mom Picks and a busy mom of four kids who lives in the Philly 'burbs. Though really, what mom isn't busy?


  • Reply February 26, 2014

    Penina Scullion

    The most obvious for a parent…before taking your family into crowded events, or if you are a school trip chaperone, take a great photo of the kids in your charge, so that if they get lost, you instantly have a photo of exactly how they looked/dressed that day to provide to authorities.

  • Reply February 26, 2014


    I have done all of these! A twist on #7: I snap shots of my kids holding toys that they want while we’re out shopping – it makes a handy reference when grandparents ask about birthdays and Christmas, and it helps my kids avoid the gimmes. I’ve even ninja-snapped pics of these my husband has pointed out so I don’t forget about a perfect gift idea!

  • Reply February 26, 2014

    Molly Mahoney

    I also use my smart phone to take photos of work related receipts. My android automatically uploads photos to Dropbox. When it comes time to fill out a credit card report at the end of the month, I look up the photo by date in my Dropbox account. Love it!

  • Reply February 27, 2014


    I use my camera to send images of the REQUIRED ITEMS on the grocery list to my husband at the store. So he knows EXACTLY what brand/type we need.

  • Reply February 27, 2014


    You might keep in mind that taking pictures in stores isn’t always allowed; avoid confrontation by asking if it’s okay first.

  • Reply February 27, 2014

    Laura Sweet

    Taking photos of your prescription bottles so you always have the correct dosage and RX number for refills, as well as a photo of your car’s license plate for when you have to add that on any forms helps tremendously as well.

  • Reply February 27, 2014


    Well…I’m not a mom but for some of these tips there are actually better options. If you want to remember good links from the Web, use Pocket (for you pc/Mac and mobile devices) to store any page or picture that you come across; you can read the links when your offline plus it automatically stores the URL and lets you add tags to make searching easier. It also has options to easily share your favorite links to other (social media) channels. I absolutely love it because it syncs to all my devices and I use it every single day!
    Pinterest (when you’ve installed the Pin it extension to your browser) is also a good option but you have to be online to see your pins. For saving important documents (which you can also do for free trough Dropbox or Google Drive-meaning it doesn’t clog your phone’s memory) or any other type of thing you need to remember I would highly recommend Evernote, although the free plan has limited storage, you can save anything you like in seperate notebooks (like pictures of your kids artwork, gift ideas, travel notes etc etc etc) and it also syncs to all devices or computers that you install it on.

    Eds: Thanks Meg, great ideas for apps! We like lots of them too–but for a quick snap without having to search for and log into any apps, register for anything, or pay for anything, we find the camera is a really great time-saving tool that a lot of folks don’t think about. Plus…totally free!

  • Reply January 18, 2015


    I have a heart rate monitoring app (to manage a condition), and it uses the camera somehow to check my pulse. Amazing.

  • Reply January 10, 2016


    I always snap photos of my son’s sports practice times & game schedules (they have the date,time, location, & opposing team listed). This makes it easy to send to relatives & I always have access to it, even though it’s on the fridge. I also take photos of birthday invites as they come in(so I have the address) & weekly spelling words(his are lost by Wed.each week…lol).

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