Cameraphones have come a long way since the days of the RAZR and its VGA camera. Today's cellphones boast cameras that are sophisticated, accurate and, in many cases, the only camera people own. With more photos then ever before being taken by cellphones, everyone should take note of these five simple tips that'll help get the most out of them:
The number one advantage smartphones have over any other camera is a development platform. Need a self timer? Done. Want to give your photos a vintage analog look? There's a slew of apps for that (My current faves are Camera Bag and Hipstamatic for the iPhone). Image editors let you crop, rotate, manipulate and tweak your images to get the most out of them. No other digital camera has this level of control without the aid of a computer. Jumping in blind is overwhelming, so be sure to pay attention to star ratings and comments.
Below, you'll see a pretty marginal photo taken with the default camera app on an iPhone 3G. Churning it through Camera Bag helps eliminate some of the distraction while giving a pretty compelling vintage look that fits with the car.
Camera phones aren't as sensitive to light as a pro-level DSLR with a huge sensor. As a result, it's easy to get blurry photos. One trick for the iPhone is holding your finger on the shutter button while you compose the shot. Then, the only motion the camera gets is from the lifting of your finger. If you have something solid to lean against, like a table or wall, do it. It'll keep your photos sharper in low light.
Everyone knows what a camera looks like, and as a result, this makes it very hard to steal photos of people when they don't expect it. Camera phones offer perfect cover. Because they're part of a multifunction device, people can't tell if you're texting or shooting. It's a great way to capture reality in a way that no other camera can. Even using them in prohibited spaces is possible with a bit of tact.
As Chase Jarvis says, "the best camera is the one you have with you." This is only halfway true though, if your camera stays in your pocket. First off, it's digital, so taking photos is free. If something is interesting, shoot it. If it's not interesting, keep shooting it until it is. Change your angle, search for the best composition. Not only will this improve your photo, it will improve your abilities as a photographer. It's an excellent way to experiment, without having to lug anything around.
The "zooms" on camera phones are not optical. They're digital. That means the camera is just throwing away information and not actually adding any. The "flash" isn't usually a flash, but a super-bright LED. This is bad for a couple of reasons, first being the delay it adds. On an iPhone 4, it flashes the light to focus, then flashes it again to take the photo. Normally, this leads to uncomfortable expressions on people, while they endure two blinding spotlights. Second, LEDs are not the same color as daylight. They add weird casts that no amount of software (aside from dropping to black and white) is going to correct. Sometimes, this can be cool, or at least useful. Avoid using either of these technologies and your photos will look better most of the time. Trust me, nobody outside of a tanning booth wants to look like this:
Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a host of other online services allow mobile uploading. MMS and email are great, but feeding shots to the public allows for everyone to see, and without any additional fee. It turns everyone into on-the-spot photojournalists. While some standalone cameras have this capability, they won't work without Wi-Fi and they don't allow for robust tagging. You can even send them out for printing. Hipstamatic prints straight out of the phone hold up pretty well all the way to 12-inch square.