Cell and Mobile Phones: You Took a Cool Picture, Now What?
They cell phone cameras are not the best. Maybe so, but they are getting better. Even National Geographic put out a book on taking pictures with cell phone cameras. I'll make sure that you get the most out of your cell phone camera, even if it is practically a toy. This article will make sure you're taking the best photos with your cell phone camera, and that you crop, resize, and compress them just right for what you want to do with them.
Let's start with some tips for your picture taking.
Your first step is to get to know your cell phone camera's weaknesses. The design probably has some short cuts.
First, let's consider how bright the environment is. Some cameras are blinded by the light. A bright day bleaches out anything light, like a pale shirt or an off-white building. If the camera has trouble with contrast, shadows may appear black. Stand in a shadow, and you are exiled from the picture. Other cameras have a hard time with limited light. Even in twilight, the picture is quite grainy or blotchy. You need to be close enough that your flash will help if you have one. But if you get too close, you may have too much bright contrast, so there is yet another thing to practice.
If there is anything like a wall that will reflect light into the shadows on a person's face, this can cut the contrast so you will get more detail. You might even have someone hold a bright piece of poster board or something that will bounce light into the shadows. This is called "fill light.
Remember that flourescent lights are designed to save energy by fooling your eyes. They put out about half as much light as they appear to, because of how your eyes work, producing "persistence of vision. To make up for this, even thought it seems bright, use a flash, and turn on some regular incandescent lights if possible.
Your cell phone camera probably has settings for different light conditions. It's definitely worth reading your manual so you know what each one is for. That will make a big difference.
Before you take any really precious shots, test your camera under different light conditions so you know what it can handle.
Now, consider problems with distance and focus. Cell phone cameras do not have sophisticated lenses. They usually have no ability to change focus. Take shots at various close distances until you find out how close you can be and still get things in focus. Don't trust what you see on your cell phone, though. You'll need to get the images onto your computer screen and see which ones are truly clear. The cell phone's small screen may not tell you if things are a little out of focus.
You also want to know how people look. If the lens is a very wide lens, it may give people a big nose if they start to get close. Test this and see what the best distance is for portraits. After all, you'll probably be taking plenty of pictures of your friends. Of course, we love dogs with big noses, so they can get closer.
The other problem with a wide lens is that things get very small very fast as they move away from the camera. If you can see what the camera sees when you look at the cell phone screen, then you can see this without testing. You just need to think about how much space is surrounding the main object in the view. You might need a little practice at this.
What about framing? Most people don't know how to "frame their subjects. Framing means that you are really seeing what the picture will look like. Really look at the screen as you position the camera. Think of the edge of the screen as a frame around a picture. Does your subject pretty well fill the screen? Don't let a person's head sit right in the center of the screen, and don't chop it off. Is there a poll or street light sticking out of their head? Reposition yourself for a better background. Is there some scenery that would give a nice touch. An artistic use of a non-symmetrical placement of items in the image can cure a case of the ordinary picture blues.
Finally, consider a few more miscellaneous tips.
Many cell phones are hard to hold still when you press the shutter button, so you'll want to practice this move. Once your pictures have no blur, you're there. It helps to place your feet apart and one of your elbows against your body or a stationary object to support the cameral with no motion. You can lean against a wall, too. Press the button with a smooth, Zen motion.
Remember that most have some amount of lag time between pushing the button and the picture actually happening. This is a real problem for action shots, and you can easily miss the action. Unless you can foresee the future, you'll just have to snap your picture before the action is about to end.
Since your cell phone may spend time jangling around in your pants or purse, remember to keep the lens clean with a clean cloth. It wouldn't hurt to take some lens cleaner along.
Once you have your photos on your computer, you'll want to make sure they are the right dimensions and file sizes for your purposes. If you're going to post them to a social networking site, you'll want to check on what size is best. If you're sending by email, then you don't want to send giant pictures. 400 pixels wide is nice, unless it's so artistic that you want more resolution.
You can resize your photo with a simple photo resizer, such as our featured program, Bulk Photo Resizer. We'll refer to two different kinds of sizes, so I'll explain to keep things from getting confusing.
Dimensions means the size of the picture that you see on the screen. File size refers to how much data the picture contains. The bigger the file size, the longer it takes to download in someone's email, or appear on a web site. And the more images there are, the longer it takes for them all to appear.
Fortunately, you can shrink the file size without giving up too much photo quality, by using compression. Bulk Photo Resizer makes this easy.
Bulk Photo Resizer makes this very easy. You can click on Resize and then select custom size to get the exact width you desire, or just pick one of the pre-set sizees. Just set the width, and Bulk Photo Resizer will give you exactly the right dimensions to avoid any stretching of your photo. This is called preserving the "aspect ratio.
Here is a very important tip for camera cell phones. If the resolution of a photo is not so good, then you could make it a smaller size so that it is less noticeable. Learn how to adjust the resolution on your cell phone camera. It could be that it is too low. But if you want to get more shots into memory, you might go for a lower resolution, as long as you don't end up with postage stamp photos. Learn to adjust the resolution on the fly, so you can beef it up for those really special photos.
Now that you've selected the size you want it to be, decide if you need to crop it before you resize it. When you crop a photo, you trim the outer areas of the photo. This is a way to fine-tune your framing and feature the important objects or people in the photo. Our featured program, Bulk Photo Resizer, makes this very easy. If you don't like the result, discard the change and try it again. You can use Bulk Photo Resizer for one picture at a time, or you can use it on hundreds of photos all at once. Our testers tell us that it's nearly impossible to make mistakes.
But here's one mistake you don't want to make. Be sure to save your photo with a different file name when you make a major change to it. This way, if you decide you don't like it, you can start over with the original image. I like to add an underscore, and then the number one for the major version, then a letter for the smaller changes. My first change would end in "_1b.jpg, for example. I might even add something to remind me what I did, if the project is likely to get complicated. For example, "_1b_crop.jpg. The nice thing about 1b, 1c and so forth, is that it keeps the image versions in chronological order when they are sorted by name in Windows Explorer, the program you use to look at the directories and files on your hard drive and peripherals.
On the other hand, you don't want to fill up your hard drive with junk. So don't be too sentimental about deleting photos or working copies once your done.
If you are going to put the photo through email or on the web, you will need to know how much compression to use. A compressed photo takes up less file space, and it downloads to your visitor's browser or loads into email faster.
The problem with compression, though, is that you lose some quality. If you compress it too much, then your photo will get pretty blotchy. Nearly all the images you see on the web are compressed. The .jpg files are best for photos.
Bulk Photo Resizer makes compressing your photos quite easy. For compression that is not too obvious, use 80. The scale is zero to 100. 60 is a lot of compression, but the image may start to be noticeably blotchy at that level. You probably won't be able to tell there's compression at a setting of 90 or higher, but it will still reduce the file size a good bit.
Remember that web sites such as social networking sites have rules as to how many kilobytes a photo can be. Check the size of your photo in a program such as Photo Resizer to see if your photo needs to be compressed or made smaller. Either action, resizing down or compressing, will give you a smaller file size.
Now that you have cropped your photo, you are ready to resize. Be sure not to enlarge the photo. Bulk Photo Resizer will prevent this. The reason is that when people enlarge digital pictures, they start to get jagged edges, that we call the "jaggies. I'm talking about the little squares that make up the image. When they get too big, they look like the effect used on TV to obscure someone's face or license plate. That is called pixelation. You've seen pixelated images on the net, and it looks pretty amateurish.
As you might have guessed, cropping the photo gives you smaller dimensions. Bulk Image Resizer keep tabs on this for you. You will know the exact dimensions of the photo.
You can get a Ph.D. in photography if you want, but we have covered the most important things: camera tips, cropping, resizing, compression, and saving. Now get out there and have fun with your cell phone camera. Maybe you'll snap some shots you can sell to the paparazzi or the local news!
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