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8 Tips For Awesome Cell Phone Camera Shots

It's increasingly easy to take fantastic cell phone camera shots that can rival the quality of those produced on digital compacts. I've recently discovered this to my delight, after purchasing my first ever iPhone.

I realized how much I've fallen in love with my iPhone camera the other day, when I was standing with my Nikon DSLR hanging around my neck and reached into my pocket to take a snap with the phone! For convenience + quality, today's camera phones are hard to beat. Here are a few tips for making the most of them...

1. Getting closer is better than zooming in

If at all possible, always choose to move physically closer to your subject rather than zooming in on it to get the shot you want. Why's that? Well, even in the best camera phone, the technology for zooming is likely to be something rather feeble known as 'digital zoom'. All this does is crop the picture as you 'zoom' in, re-displaying it as the full image in the viewfinder, causing a big reduction in quality.

It is much better to get closer and take a full sized image. If you feel like re-composing the shot and cropping it later, you can simply do this in Photoshop!

2. Lock the focus and re-compose

On many cell phone cameras, and certainly on the iPhone, the point of focus can be chosen manually. You do this by simply tapping the screen in the relevant area and waiting for the camera to re-focus. Once this has been done, the focus is locked and will not automatically re-position itself to a central location if you move the camera around to adjust composition.

3. Mess about with angles

My camera phone has actually helped me to re-discover what photography is all about: playing with vision. I'd become rather precious and careful with my DSLR. It's no good going around with the viewfinder constantly at a convenient eye-level. You have to reach up high, down low, through gaps, around obstacles etc. It's way easier doing this with something light and nifty like a phone than a DSLR that can feel more like a dumbell.

4. Shoot in good light, duh!

Taking good pictures on a cell phone relies more on 'good' lighting than normal digital photography. The lack of manual controls (some top phones do actually boast pretty decent manual controls, though) makes it very difficult to get the most from limited available light. So, on the whole, it's best to avoid taking cell phone camera shots in dim light, which will can cause blurry pictures.

That said, if your camera has a decent flash, this can rescue lots of pictures. In fact, my iPhone 4S not only has good flash, but also a bright f2.4 lens, which makes indoor and low light photography very possible. All the same, you will almost certainly have a higher hit rate of good shots in strong light.

5. Steady Eddy hand holding technique needed

The absence of control over exposure settings both demands good light and steady hands! Sometimes, when there is slightly less light than you would like, 'camera shake' can become a problem. In other words, the camera needs longer to collect enough light to form a well exposed picture, which gives enough time for the slight movement of your hands to create blur in the photo.

Often cell phone camera shots only have a tiny bit of blur, but that's enough to ruin them when viewed at a larger size. You can guard against this problem simply by making an effort to hold the camera really steadily. Leaning against something and tucking your elbows in tightly will help a lot.

Another top tip: even with the best camera phone, you'll often find there's a momentary delay between the time when you press the button and the photo is actually taken. This is called shutter lag and a simple remedy is to hold the camera still for a second after you take the picture!

6. Set the image quality to maximum

Lots of cell phone cameras allow you to adjust the resolution of photos. Phone cameras obviously don't offer brilliant resolution at any setting, so it's well worth ensuring you have selected the highest quality possible. Whilst this does mean that you will be able to store fewer pictures on your phone and pictures will take longer to send as part of a message, they will be much better for viewing.

If there's a chance you may want to print out your cell phone camera shots at a decent size then the resolution is especially important. Similarly, a high resolution makes it easier to make adjustments in Photoshop without losing quality.

7. Get hold of some cool filter and processing apps

Apple's absurdly diverse array of applications extends well into their camera phone niche. So if you're an iPhone user, there are lots of nice filter effects and post-processing tricks you can make use of. New ones are appearing all the time, so get down to the app store and see what's on offer.

8. Use the 'physical' shutter button

My iphone has 2 options for the shutter release: a touch screen button and volume up (+) button on the side of the phone. Although the side of the phone is wafer thin, it's just wide enough to accommodate user-friendly buttons. The volume up button is miles easier to use for taking pictures than the touch screen option, and its location resembles that on a standard compact camera.

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