If you’ve ever had to take a photo on the fly, you likely know what’s it’s like to reach for your smartphone only to be frustrated at the quality of the shot.
Cameras were once nice-to-have add-ons for cell phones. But thanks to innovative software and technology, they can be just as powerful as the digital camera available at your local electronics store. For example, we recently launched the Nokia N8 exclusively for Rogers customers, offering a 12-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens and the ability to shoot video in 720p HD resolution.
Since almost every mobile phone nowadays has a camera, how do you ensure that you’ll get a great keepsake from that impromptu photo?
I asked that question to Andrew Tolson, Director of Photography for Macleans magazine – who lives and breathes photography. He’s almost always got a camera on standby whether it’s his professional SLR or his iPhone.
Regardless of what smartphone you use, here’s a summary of our meeting to help you get the most out of your device’s camera.
1. Keep your expectations in check. Use your device’s camera as a way to have fun and to take impromptu shots – but don’t rely on it for really important situations. Getting married or seeing your nephew for the first time? Bring an SLR or a point-and-shoot digital camera.
2. Check your settings: Make sure to go to “options” or “settings” on your phone and set the image size to the largest possible. That way, if you want to print it’ll be big enough – and your friends won’t need to squint to see it on a computer screen.
3. Grab additional storage: Some devices have both built-in memory and the ability to increase storage. Since you can pick up a 2-GB MicroSD memory card (which can hold hundreds of photos) for less than $10 nowadays, there is really no excuse to run out of space. Another benefit: you can pull out the memory card to print photos or transfer to your computer.
4. Light your shot: While you can’t always plan the perfect shot in advance, always remember: never shoot in bright sunlight (move into open shade if possible); always find a light source, even it’s just moving a lamp nearby; and never, ever shoot in front of an open window. Silhouettes are virtually impossible to repair with software.
5. Stay steady: If you can’t use a tripod (yes, they exist for smartphones too), lean against a wall or put your elbow down on the table to keep your hand steady. And don’t forget to hold it there for a second after you activate the shutter – because if you point, shoot and move, odds are it’ll come out blurry.
6. Grab some apps: Mobile photo-editing software today is incredibly powerful and incredibly cheap. You can add filters and change the look and feel of a photo with just a few touch-screen swipes – things that used to be complex and costly. Some of his favourites for the iPhone include Photoshop Express (Free); ToonPAINT ($1.99); Camera Plus Pro ($2.49) and Hipstamatic ($1.99). Other photo-editing apps can be found at BlackBerry App World, Android Market, Windows Phone Marketplace or Nokia’s Ovi Store.
7. Use flickr to share: There’s a reason 5-billion pictures have been uploaded to flickr.com: it’s easy to use, easy to organize photos, easy to share those pics with friends; and photo buffs love it. Basic accounts are free and you can get a mobile app that integrates your smartphone with your account. Or, you can easily email them directly to your account, just like sending an attachment.
What are your smartphone camera tips? Do you have a question for Andrew? Submit your tips or questions below.
Richard Bloom is a regular contributor to RedBoard.