Your camera phone is a cool tool for capturing wonderful images when you know how to use it. Helen Bradley reveals the secrets to success.
You’ll probably never win a major photographic award with a photo snapped using your camera phone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some wonderful photos if you work within its limitations.
Camera phones are getting more sophisticated by the day, but they still don’t have as many features as even an entry-level, point-and-shoot digital camera, but when you know what it can do (and what it can’t!), you can capture some fun and, dare we say it, artistic photos.
Shooting in poor light
Let’s start with the limitations of your camera phone. First of all, it probably doesn’t have a flash and, if it does, its range will be so limited that it will be next to useless. So, taking shots in poor light or at night is seldom an option, unless your camera has a night mode, or unless you can light your subject some other way. If your camera phone has a night shooting mode, use this and hold the camera very steady to shoot in the low light, as the shot will take longer to capture and any movement will ruin it.
Shooting in sunlight
On the other hand, the camera probably won’t do so well in extremely bright sunlight either, without some help. If your camera phone takes photos that look over-blown out in sunlight, see if you can adjust the exposure levels so the photos are darker and less blown out. If not, move around your subject to find the best place to shoot from often moving around so the sun falls in a different place will be the difference between a well-exposed shot and an average-quality one.
As you probably won’t have a zoom on your camera phone, you need to get up close that means moving closer to the subject so it fills the viewfinder. If you’re used to having a lot of room around your subject’s face, move closer so that their face totally fills the viewfinder. Don’t worry if you cut off a person’s ear or part of their head as you do this, the photo will be all the better for doing so.
If your camera shoots landscape mode photos, turn it on the side to shoot portrait or vice versa the difference can have an impact on how much you fit into your shot.
When shooting with your camera phone, hold it steady like any other camera, the shot won’t be in focus if you move. Forget taking a photo holding the camera with one hand out from your body. Instead, hold it close to you and with both hands, if possible, or brace the camera phone against a fence, wall or tree. Just before you shoot, take a deep breath and hold it as you take the shot, then breathe out.
Capturing your life
When looking for things to capture, concentrate on fun and creative subjects and think of your photos as being a visual diary of your life. You can snap informational subjects like bus timetables and train routes, restaurant menus or a picture of the wine label of a bottle you like and want to buy again.
Instead of sticky notes, capture a picture of the note so you have the information with you. Most cameras let you use an image as the wallpaper for the phone and you can use anything for this fun to look at or practical to use, it’s your choice.
When photographing small things that are close to the ground like pets and children, get in close bend your knees, kneel or sit at the same level to capture the shot. The results will be more compelling when you do.
Sharing your snaps
Many sites are popping up with tools and features to help you download your camera photos and do something with them. For example, Flickr (www.flickr.com) has a tool you can use to email photos direct from your camera phone, and Kodak offers a free 90-day trial of its Kodak Mobile product (www.kodakgallery.com). Sites like these overcome the problem you have with many phones of having to organise to be near a computer to download your images.
Editing your pictures
Where possible, always edit your photos on your computer rather than using your phone’s tools, simply because the tools available on your computer are far more sophisticated. Some programs, like Microsoft Digital Image Suite, have special fixing tools for camera phone photos this removes any colour cast and noise, and adds some sharpening to make the image clearer.
If your phone offers a choice of quality settings for capturing your images, it’s best to choose the highest quality. Although you may not notice a difference in quality when viewing the photo on your phone, you will notice it if you’re viewing it on a computer screen, or if you capture a really nice shot that you want to print.
Camera phones may not have all the features and settings of dedicated cameras, but having it to hand wherever you go means you’ll never miss a shot again. And you never know what photo opportunity is waiting round the corner.