The statistics on Flickr and other image sharing sites are clear. The most popular phone out there is the iPhone 4, which features a top of the line digital camera. In some ways it was inevitable that cell phones would start dominating the point and shoot market.
Never underestimate the market power of convenience. While cell phone cameras may not offer the best quality, they offer the most convenience and quality that is sufficient and improves with each new generation.
Since we’re all carrying cell phones anyway, might as well make the best of it.
The following are seven tips on taking crystal clear cell phone images.
1. Strong point of interest
A cell phone is basically a point and shoot camera with a fixed, wide angle lens. So apply the same guidelines for composition as you would to any wide-angle shot.
For most cell phone cameras, the best results start with a strong foreground subject and directional lighting.
2. Use your feet
Even though some cell phones have digital zoom capabilities, it’s recommended not to use them whenever possible. Digital zooms have a tendency to introduce some strange artifacts to the image.
The best zoom, the one you can always count on, are your feet. Adjust the composition by moving to the spot with the best frame.
3. Take lots of shots
When National Geographic photographers are on assignment they can take anywhere from 350 to 1,000 photos a day, which adds up to 20,000 to 60,000 on an assignment. The 10 or 12 you see in the magazine represents the best of a huge number of photos.
Use the same principle in your own photography. Take lots of pictures. Get down low, find a high angle, move around a little and shoot different angles. Shoot them all and sort it all out later in post.
4. Use high resolution
Cell phones frequently default to photo sizes smaller than they are capable of taking. Make sure you’re shooting at the maximum resolution.
You want photos as large as the camera can produce.
5. Steady does it
The big challenge with cell phones is taking the shot and holding still. There’s a tendency to torque the camera pushing the shutter button yielding a blurry photo.
Sometimes there’s a lag between the button push and the camera actually capturing the photo, so practice steady hands and holding still until you’re certain you have the shot.
6. Optimize the camera settings
Your camera phone probably has a few settings you can use to optimize your exposures. All the same rules apply that you know from using your digital camera.
If there’s an ISO setting, take it off Auto. When you’re outdoors in daylight, set the ISO to its lowest value to minimize the digital noise in your picture. In lower light settings, bump the ISO up as high as it’ll go.
Likewise, you might have some control over the JPEG image quality. Always go for the lowest compression/best quality option available. After all, camera phone pictures are starting at something of a disadvantage to begin with; don’t compound the problem with lots of photo-damaging compression.
7. Keep your lens clean
One of the challenges with many camera phones is keeping them maintained and clean. Phones spend a lot of time in pockets, in bags and being used in all manner of weather and conditions.
As a result, they get dirty and can easily become damaged. Fingerprints are a common problem on camera lenses, especially if your phone doesn’t have a lens cover. From time to time, clean the lens of your camera using a soft cloth.
Whether you’re a pro shooter using the gadget of the century to help fuel your creative inspiration or you’re just looking for a way to take a picture of product without a blurry image, these tips should help demystify the great camera phone snap.