The Best Camera and Phones
What is the best camera? This is a question I hear a lot and the best answer I have heard - "The best camera in world is the one you have with you". Now days the camera you are most likely to have with you is the camera in your phone. The good news is that smartphone cameras just keep getting better and better. They are for the most part great cameras for the casual photographer. And in the hands of more serious photographers and pros they are getting some pretty amazing results with both still photographs and video.
As good as the cameras have become there are some limitations and drawbacks to the cameras. Understanding these limitations and working around them can yield much better photographs and make your photography much more enjoyable. Here are a few of my tips for using smartphone cameras.
1) Forget all the hype that all the phone manufacturers put out about specs and features. For the most part all phones of reasonable quality are very capable cameras. Don't get caught in all the megapixel hype for phones and cameras in general. A lot more goes into the quality of a cameral than raw megapixels. The cameras today have more than enough megapixels for the average photographer.
2) All smartphone cameras have a very scratch resistant piece of glass protecting the lens. Keep it clean! This sounds like common sense, but because our phones tend to be carried around and laid around in all sorts of places they tend to get dirty. Check often and clean with a soft cloth.
3) One of the disadvantages of phone cameras is that they have just a single lens (for now). Most of the cameras have what they call a zoom lens. This is not really a zoom lens, instead it is just cropping into the image. You are better off moving closer to your subject whenever possible to compose your photo. This is actually one situation where more megapixels are an advantage, that if you need to zoom in cropping the photo - the bigger image size helps.
4) When holding your phone camera treat it as a bigger DSL camera. By this I mean hold it close to your body and breath out when taking the photo to hold the camera steady. This also allows for you to at least partially shade the rear screen from sunlight with the bill of a ball cap, etc. This is my biggest compliant about all new cameras is the rear lcd view finder. These are very hard to use in sunlight. One trick I use if possible, is to stand in the shade to take the photo - much easier to see the screen. The other thing that helps here is that most phones allow you to take the photo using one of the volume control buttons. This is much easier and better than holding the camera out at arms length to push the on-screen shutter button.
5) Image size and aspect ratio. Most of the new phone cameras allow you a choice of image size of resolutions. The bigger the resolution, the larger the image size and the more storage room it takes up on your phone. As the cameras are coming with higher megapixels which each new model this becomes a concern. If all you are going to do is take pictures to share with friends on Facebook, or look at on a computer then a smaller image size will work just fine. On the other hand, if you plan on printing your photos then use the larger or maxium resolution. No matter what image resolution you choose to shoot there is one time when you should definetely use the highest resolution. This is when you find yourself in an incredible photographic opportunity because of scenery or light. You may just get a very good photograph that you may wish later you shot at the max image size.
The aspect ratio refers to the shape or proportion of the image. For still photographs a good all round aspect ration is 4:3 - a standard photo size. This is most likely the ratio of the image chip and by using 4:3 ratio you are getting the most out of your camera. Your camera will most likely have a widescreen 16:9 ratio and maybe even set as the default. This is meant mostly for video shooting and is actually cropping this ratio out of the image chip, meaning you are getting the most from your camera. Some of the new cameras actually have the image chip with this 16:9 ratio that opens up some interesting possibilites for both still and video photography. Check out you phone manual.
6) Now this last tip will most likely fall upon deaf ears, but read your phone manual! Learn about your phone and all the features the camera may have. It is will be well worth the time. These smartphones have become quite sophisticated little pocket computers.
These are just some basic tips for shooting with a phone camera. I will be talking more about this and more advanced uses in upcoming articles.