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Simple Ways to Make Better Pictures with Your Camera Phone
By Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm,
Authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures

As camera phones become more prevalent, they are expected to become as popular for casual photography as regular point-and-shoot digital cameras. Unfortunately, camera phone photos are often poor or mediocre. But that is usually the fault of careless shooters, not the quality of the phone's camera.

Here are five simple ways to instantly help you make better pictures with your camera phone. Professional photographers Michele and Tom Grimm offer these and many more tips in their brand-new handbook, The Basic Book of Digital Photography.

keep the camera phone steady

1) Keep the Camera Phone Steady. Many cell phones are small, lightweight, and awkward to hold for shooting. In order to prevent blurred pictures, use both hands and brace your arms against your body. For additional support, lean against something solid, such as a tree or a wall. A common problem is the delay after you press the shutter release until the camera fires, so remember to remain motionless until you are certain the shutter has opened and closed.

2) Get Close to Your Subjects. Move closer physically, or adjust an optical zoom lens (if available) toward its telephoto setting. Note that shooting close up at a wide-angle setting can distort your subjects, which is particularly unflattering for people. Do not use a digital zoom function; it only enlarges the pixels in a picture, which degrades the image.

3) Make Sure Your Subjects are in Good Light. That way your pictures will show the most detail. Beware of harsh sunlight that creates dark shadows and high contrast in phone photos. If available, use the built-in light or flash even in daylight to give more clarity to your subject. Or, when indoors, turn on more lights if you can. Try to avoid backlighted subjects, unless you want them to turn out as silhouettes.

4) Keep the Lens Clean. Most lenses are protected only by a see-through plastic or glass cover, which can quickly get dirty when carrying your camera phone in a pocket or purse. Also, the lens is quite small, so dust or finger smudges will be more evident in your pictures. Wipe the lens gently with a microfiber cleaning cloth designed for regular camera lenses or eyeglasses.

5) Always Shoot at the Highest Image Quality. The names of the quality settings vary with the phone manufacturer. For example, the choices might be called: high, medium, low; or super fine, fine, normal; check your phone's user guide. Image files are automatically compressed to save space in the phone's internal memory or on a removable memory card; the higher the image quality you set, the less compression.

You'll also find settings for image resolution, which may be called image size. We recommend you always select the highest resolution, especially if you expect to print your photos. The higher the resolution, the larger the picture will be displayed on a computer or television screen. Also, more detail will show in the image. Image resolution/image size in some camera phones ranges from 320x240 pixels (low) to 1600x1200 pixels (high).

By the way, do not confuse image resolution with the resolution of the image sensor in a camera phone, which is expressed in megapixels, abbreviated MP. Little attention is paid to image sensors and their maximum megapixels (MP) in camera phones, but higher-end models range from 5 MP to as many as 10 MP.

If you are serious about getting quality photos and are buying a new camera phone, look for a model with high-resolution capability, autofocus, an optical zoom lens, built-in flash, and a large LCD screen to compose and review the images. For the most versatility, the camera phone should also have a slot that accepts a removable memory card. As you might expect, top-end camera phones can be expensive and often cost more than regular non-SLR digital cameras.

Most user guides for mobile phones have minimal information and instructions for the camera, but read carefully to learn as much as you can about its various features, as well as any limitations. For example, most camera phones can be set to shoot in black-and-white or old-time sepia tones rather than color.

Try out all the different settings by shooting practice photos, and then analyze the results. It is worth the time to become familiar with the camera operation so you won't be fumbling with the phone and pressing the wrong buttons when a photo opportunity suddenly appears.

Photos you make with a camera phone are automatically saved in the JPEG (.jpg) image file format. They can be viewed on the phone's LCD screen as a group of thumbnail photos or as larger individual images. On the screen, you can select images to delete, or to send to another mobile phone, a Web site, desktop printer, photo kiosk, or computer.

Camera phones with WiFi, Bluetooth or IrDA (infrared) technology make it easy to download images to a wireless-enabled computer or printer, or to a photo kiosk that makes prints. Some phones have a port to plug in a cable that connects to your computer to download the image files. Of course, if your camera phone has a removable memory card, it can be inserted into a memory card reader that is built in or connected to your computer.

However, you probably will be sending most images from your camera phone directly to another mobile phone or to a Web site or in E-mails. The fees to transmit image data from a camera phone can add up quickly. If you shoot and send many photos, we suggest you buy an unlimited media package from your mobile phone service provider in order to save money.

Finally, as with any camera you use, remember to be respectful of your photographic subjects and situations. Despite the temptation, don't take voyeuristic photos or use your camera phone in places where photography is prohibited, as in health club dressing rooms, and many museums, theaters and concert halls.

©2009 Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures

Author Bios
Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures, are a husband-and-wife photojournalism team who have spent nearly four decades traveling the globe; the couple has visited every continent and more than 130 countries in search of the perfect photographic image. Their photographs and articles have been published worldwide in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. The Grimms are authors and illustrators of thirteen adult and children's books.

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