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Shooting With Your Phone

February 20, 2012
By Dave Hecei ( , The Post-Journal

There are some great digital cameras available today. This includes DSLR and point-and-shoot models. By far the best camera is the one you have with you. I can't count the number of times when either I or someone near me has said, "Oh, if only I had a camera!" If you own a late-model smartphone, like an iPhone 4/4S or one of the new Android models, then you actually have a pretty decent camera. The best part is that you probably have it with you all the time.

No, a new iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy Note will not replace a Canon T3i or Nikon D5100 for versatility or quality. The problem is that most people won't carry a DSLR or even a compact model everywhere they go. But they will carry their phone. This is why it is important to know how to get the best results out of your smartphone's camera system.

Just like any digital camera, there are some simple tips that apply to phones too. Here is my Top 10 Smartphone Photography Tips.

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Get Close - The No. 1 problem I see in photos taken on a phone is the subject is too small. Most phones only have a fixed focal length lens not a zoom. Whatever you do, don't use the digital zoom. When you use this function you are just zooming in on the sensor and reducing the effective megapixels you have to work with. If possible, always move closer to your subject to fill the frame. If you can't move in closer, then crop it in your photo-editing program later.

Light - Proper lighting is key to get the best out of your smartphone. Try to only shoot with the sun behind you. If you shoot into the sun you reduce contrast from glare and can confuse the exposure system. This is ok if this is the effect you are going for. An example would be if you want your subject to appear as a silhouette.

Flash - Most of the newer smartphones actually have some type of auxiliary light/flash for using indoors. These flashes work only in a normal-sized room (not a gym or auditorium) and are only effective out to about 8 to 10 feet. If you can get away without using flash, do it. You may need to hold the phone much more steadily, but you can always take extra shots if you get motion blur.

Keep Level - Holding a phone to take pictures can be difficult - it's a phone not a camera so handling wasn't a big part of the design. Some phones are difficult to hold steady and push buttons or touch the screen. It may take a little practice, but look closely at the whole scene and make sure that vertical lines are vertical. When shooting landscapes, especially those at the beach or on a lake, make sure the horizon is level.

Orientation - It might be easier to hold your smartphone vertically, but then all your photos will be vertical. Try to shoot both vertical and horizontal shots of your scene or subject. Remember, if you decide to shoot video with your phone - shoot horizontal. I don't know of many HDTVs that stand vertically.

Play - This is the best part of digital photography. Whether it's on a phone or a big DSLR, it doesn't cost you extra to shoot 20 shots compared to 10. Experiment and play around with a scene. You might be surprised with what you get. Try out some odd angles.

Accessorize - Smart phone photography is really starting to take off. I know this because of the many accessories that are out there for the many different phones. These include tripods, mounts, add-on lenses and add-on lights.

Apps - The great thing about the latest smartphones are the plethora of Photo Apps available. These can be used to enhance your photos, but some are there to play around with your images.

Know Your Phone - To get the most out of the camera in your phone, it's best to know your phone. Check the settings for the camera and make sure you have it set to the highest quality settings. I just recently got a tip for the iPhone. If you tap the screen it will focus on that spot. If you tap and hold it for a little longer the screen will flash slightly and now the focus and exposure will be locked to that point on the screen.

Clean - The last tip is to make sure your camera lens is clean. Since a phone is constantly handled, the lens can get dusty or smudged with greasy fingers. It only takes a second to wipe off the lens. The best thing I've found to do this job is a micro-fiber cloth. These can be found at most camera centers, your optician or in your local drug stores and 'Mart' stores.



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