Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tips for Better Mobile Phone Camera Photography

As time goes by, mobile phone cameras are getting better and better. Gone are the days when your phone was only capable of taking a blurry snap at a tiny resolution. Many camera-phone makers are starting to pay more attention to sensor quality, speed, and optics, rather than just one-upping each other on megapixel specs. But as with any type of photography, the equipment is only a small part of taking a memorable image.

Follow Rules of Composition (and then Break them)
Learn some basic composition ‘rules’. (for example – the rule of thirds – ie don’t place your subject squarely in the middle of your frame but a third of the way in). Simple tips like this can bring life toyour photos.
But then also remember that the beauty of a camera phone is its ability to break all conventions – some of the best shots around break all the rules. So shoot from the hip, the floor, up high, up close – anything goes.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Forget the Zoom
There’s an inherent issue with trying to make phones increasingly thinner, yet also increase the quality of a camera. Trying to include a usable zoom in a very thin piece of equipment is incredibly difficult, and leads to this function being generally atrocious on most phones. You’ll find that the camera uses a digital zoom, which is best left alone at all costs — otherwise you’ll end up with a pixellated, unattractive image.

A better thing to do is to wait until you get back to your computer, and crop the image down to focus in on the important elements. This is becoming increasingly possible with regular bumps to the resolution of images taken by camera phones. The best option in most cases is to just get closer to your subject.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Shoot Now, Edit Later
One way that phone manufacturers try to differentiate their model is by offering an array of editing functionality in your phone. This might be useful in a few limited cases, but it’s best left alone. Resist the urge to add that sepia effect to every image, and leave the post-processing to Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture rather than your phone’s limited processor.

The important thing to do is to keep shooting. You’ll kick yourself if you miss a beautiful composition because you’re desperately trying to figure out how to add a fake tilt-shift effect to your previous photo…

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Lighting is Still Key
Although camera phone sensors are coming on in leaps and bounds, they still have some way to go before they’re able to rival your SLR. One of the key areas that many phones struggle is in capturing enough light. You can help with this, by ensuring that your subject is well lit before pressing the shutter. Turn on the light, open the curtains, or wait until the sun is a little higher in the sky!

If your camera has a flash function, give it a try. Although it probably won’t be powerful enough to make a huge improvement, it can be very useful when you just need a slight boost in the light conditions. Try using it outside as a fill-flash — it might just give that extra “punch” you were looking for.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Free Up Some Space, and Backup!
Two tips in one here… Just in the same way that packing a couple of memory cards is advisable, it’s also good sense to regularly check your phone’s memory to ensure you have plenty of space for snapping ad-hoc photos. Don’t be caught with a phone that’s so full of games, apps, and music that you don’t have any space to capture the photo of your son’s first few steps.

Equally important is to ensure that you regularly download the photos from your phone, and back them up to your computer. The nature of a phone means that it’s far easier to lose, or have stolen. It’s bad enough to lose the phone, but it would be more devastating to realise that you’d never copied any of your photos back to your computer.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Avoid Direct Sunlight
Another tip that applies to mobile phone photography, just as it does everywhere else, is to avoid direct sunlight. Don’t encourage your subject to stand directly facing the sun, as you’ll have harsh shadows and a poor image. Head into the brightest area of the shade to set up your composition, and you’ll be far more pleased with the result.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Take It Everywhere!
As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. The beauty of your mobile phone is that it’s almost always in your pocket — there’s no need to carry around an extra point-and-shoot, or remember to charge a second device.

Although it will never be a replacement for a powerful digital SLR, the humble camera-phone has come a long, long way over the past few years. I now take more photos using my iPhone than I do any other camera, and it’s an incredibly capable piece of kit (just check out the examples at the bottom of this page if you don’t believe me).

Take it with you everywhere, follow these simple tips, and enjoy the freedom of being able to snap a beautiful image regardless of whether or not you remember to pack your photography kit!

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Don’t Throw Away ‘mistakes’
Remember that on many phones the quality of the screen will not be as good as your computer’s. So if possible hang onto your shots until you can get them on your PC. You might just find that they come alive on a quality monitor. You’ll also find that even ‘mistakes’ and blurred shots can actually be quite usable (in an abstract kind of way)

Take loads of Shots and Experiment
The beauty of all forms of digital photography (including that of camera phones) is the ability to shoot off many shots quickly and without cost. This means you can experiment with different modes and composition and discard those that you don’t want to keep.
Camera phones are particularly good for experimenting with new angles and perspectives – shoot from down low, up high, close up etc and you’ll end up with interesting and fun shots.

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 (sunglasses cleaning cloths are great).

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Observe Camera Phone Etiquette
While there is no formal set of rules for using camera phones – it is worth considering how you use it and what impact it might have upon others. There are many cases of camera phones being abused to take sneaky or voyeuristic photos. Ask permission to photograph strangers, consider restrictions on the use of cameras in places like theaters and concerts etc.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Keep Still
As with all digital photography, the more steady your camera phone is when taking your shot the clearer your image will be.
This is especially important in low light situations where the camera will select longer shutter speeds to compensate for the lack of light. One trick is to lean your camera phone (or the hand holding it) against a solid object (like a tree, wall, ledge) when taking shots.
Keep in mind that many camera phones also suffer from ‘shutter lag’ (ie the time between when you press the shutter and when the camera takes the shot can be a second or so). This means you need to hold the camera still a little longer to ensure it doesn’t take a shot as you’re lowering it away from the subject.

Panorama, Macro and other Awesome Lingo
If your phone has a Panorama shooting mode (any decent phone should have it), use it for shooting landscapes and those scenic views. Panoramas are when you take a series of photos and your phone stitches them together to create a wide photo (okay, that’s too simple an explanation, but I guess it’ll do). :-)

If you have a Galaxy S2 or iPhone 4S, you can try your hand at macro photography too. Macro photography is one in which you blur a background and shoot a really neat close-up of the subject. Saw those spider webs’ photos with the background all blurry and you can even see the water droplets on the web? Yes, that’s macro for you!

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Editing your Photos and Applications Galore!
If you have a smartphone, you can find several apps that can help you edit your images easily.

Plus, your phone may also give you some editing abilities over your photos. Word of caution: unless absolutely necessary, don’t play with the image compression. Always opt for the highest quality of images — saving a few KBs is just not worth losing the charm of your photos. You can always rely on proper compression and editing tools from the app market or on your computer.

Picture taken with iPhone4S and edited with Photo-editing Apps. Picture Copyright Shahnaz M.

Stay Fabulous,

Nifty Fifty: Quick and Forgotten Tips For 50mm Lens Users

Prime lens are fixed at one focal length (i.e. 35mm, 50mm, 55mm, etc.). They do not charge focal lengths like zoom lenses which are named after there zoom range (i.e. 17-35mm or 70-200mm) The fact that prime lenses don’t zoom, at first, might seem like a turn off. Oh, but wait. Prime lenses have much more to offer:

Relatively inexpensive
Compact and lightweight
Tack sharp image clarity
Very controllable shallow depth of field
Amazing Bokeh
Great for portraits
Fabulous in low light
Incredibly Fast Glass
Little to no lens distortion
Simple and long-lasting construction

One of the most valuable and versatile pieces of equipment a photographer has is a 50mm lens. When we first start using it, we are immediately astonished by just how much the image quality of our cameras can improve. However, we also do tend to forget lots of points that are important to know in order to ensure optimal image quality and excellent results. Here’s a list to keep in mind.

Remember To Zoom With Your Feet
Because a photographer no longer has a zoom lens on their camera, he/she must remember that zooming with your feet is essential. That means that if you want to take a picture of a building, bird, person, etc then you’ll need to get up close enough to ensure that your subject fills the entire frame.

Stop the Lens Down
Most 50mm lenses reach optimal sharpness at F4. Remember that keeping your lens wide open at F1.4 or F1.8 will not allow users to get as much in focus as needed. That said: don’t get distracted by the bokeh effect in which you just try to get images with a nice blurry background. Focus instead on what you’re actually trying to capture and capture it well. This is essential with portraits as you can sometimes get your subject’s nose in focus and not the rest of the critical features such as the eyes.

Sometimes Manual Focus is Best
50mm lenses can be plagued by autofocus problems. Because of this reason, users should learn to manually focus their lenses.

Pay Close Attention To Where It Focuses
When shooting at wider open F stops like F1.8 or F2, it is very possible for the photographer to think that they are getting everything that they want in focus. Try moving the focus ring around that intended area of focus and watch how your subject moves sharper in focus and out of focus. Stopping your lenses down also helps.

Take Off Your UV Filter
As probably the most important thing for beginners to know—your UV filter can destroy your image quality. If a salesperson tells you to buy one, then the reasons are possibly to protect your lens in case of a fall or because they merely want to make a sale. Either be careful with your camera/lenses or keep your lens cap on. Another option is getting a lens hood of some sort for your 50mm.

Stay Fabulous,