Friday, October 1, 2004

Tips for getting better pictures from your camera phone


By Peter Aitken

Digital cameras have come a long way in the past few years. More megapixels (do we ever have enough?) is the most obvious improvement but not the only one -- better lenses, better sensors, and improved controls are part of the picture, too.

But in one hot area of digital imaging, technical specs have taken a huge step backwards. I'm talking of course about camera phones, those ever-more-popular combinations of a cell phone with a digital camera that you'll find in more and more people's pockets, purses, and belt clips these days.

Megapixels? Forget about it -- you'll be lucky to get one megapixel and something on the order of 300-600,000 pixels is a lot more common. Zoom lens? In your dreams, baby. Some camera phones offer an essentially worthless digital zoom, but a true optical zoom is a thing of the future.

Exposure control? Don't make me laugh. Camera phones are all in the "set it and forget it" category, except that you don't even get to set it first! Despite these limitations, camera phones have become very popular because of their wireless abilities. But what's a tech-savvy photographer to do to get the best possible picture quality?

The first thing I suggest is to accept the limitations and special qualities of camera phones. There's just no way you are going to get tack-sharp 11x14 prints, or even 5x7 prints in most cases.

A camera phone frees you from worrying about camera settings because it doesn't have any, or at most a very few. You can concentrate on the photo, and you can be more spontaneous and creative, at least that's what lots of users find.

I think the quest for technical perfection is way overdone by many photographers, at the expense of the more creative aspects of photography. A camera phone is a great way to let your right brain take charge for a while!