couple sitting by the sea 311.
(photo credit: Tom Langford)
Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a
never without my cellphone and I use its integrated camera almost every
day. A few years ago cellphone cameras could only take low quality
snaps but now they can produce excellent high resolution pictures that
are often as good as many compact cameras.
The older models had
fixed focus lenses and recorded small-sized images only suitable for
texting or emailing. Modern “smartphones” have autofocus, scene modes,
digital zooms, and many features found on proper cameras. You can take
pictures that are of good enough quality to enlarge for exhibitions.
They do have limitations, however, and you need a little skill,
knowledge, and patience to get the best out of them.
the best picture quality, shoot in bright light outdoors. Avoid using
the digital zoom because this can degrade the image. Zooming simply
enlarges the picture while cropping it to fit the screen. It magnifies
the small movements of you hands and can cause “camera shake” and
blurred pictures. Rather than zoom go closer to the subject, or crop the
The sensor, or “digital film” chip, is truly a
technological marvel. It is necessarily tiny, perhaps only 3 x 4mm, and
is usually crammed with at least five million light-sensitive cells.
It’s about one eightieth the size of a professional camera’s sensor and
this causes problems, especially in lower light levels.
taken in room lighting can be grainy and blurred as the sensor
struggles to record an acceptable image. If your phone has a flash it
will be too weak to help much. You usually get the best results if you
switch off the flash, hold the phone very steady, choose a moment when
the subject is still, and take three shots. If there is a “burst mode”
use this to take a number of quick consecutive shots. Choose the
sharpest picture afterward.
Smartphones, such as the iPhone and
Galaxy 9000 have an unexpected advantage if you are taking candid shots.
Stand with your left side to the subject, hold the phone in your left
hand to your ear as if making a call. Use your right hand to press the
on-screen button to take a candid shot. Of course you will have to take a
few shots to make sure of the composition.
of the greatest disadvantages of pictures taken with cellphones is that
almost everything is in focus. This is fine for family snaps where you
want to see people clearly, but is limiting for creative photography
where out-of-focus effects are important.
It is possible to
create a blurred distant background but only if you first focus on
something very close to the camera. You can use this limitation to your
advantage by looking for compositions with a natural focal point close
to the camera complimented by an interesting background that will be
In my photography career I have very often had to work
within quite severe limitations and yet produce professional results. I
enjoy the creative effort necessary to get good shots out of my
cellphone, and if you do too, your photography will improve.Send me a cellphone picture
Send me an exceptional cellphone picture and I will publish one at the end of my next article with some constructive feedback.
Send one picture only, at a reduced size to email@example.com
. Mention “cellphone picture." Tom
Langford is a commercial photographer, website designer, and
professional retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners and
advanced. Details of his courses and field trips at: www.langford.co.il/coursesPhoto critique
Leigh of Southend-on-Sea took this excellent, creative shot of the
seafront. Few enthusiasts could have taken this shot since it shows a
very high level of visual awareness. What works?
arresting composition that contrasts hard, mechanical shapes with a
romantic couple against a lovely sunset. As a visual awareness exercise
it gets top marks.What doesn't work?
tell stories, but I’m not sure what the story is here. The bike
probably just happened to be there, but there is no relationship between
it and the couple. The prominent handlebar silhouette looks
uncomfortably like a military weapon.
Could it be improved, and how?
sunset and the couple are romantic and this could be emphasized by
omitting the bike. The bike could be replaced by the silhouette of a
clocktower, some street lamps, a statue, a fountain, or some trees, etc.
retouched the shot to indicate some possibilities. The palm trees were
the first silhouettes to hand – slightly less exotic tress would have
been more appropriate for Southend-on-Sea.
suitable contrasting foreground object could be a traffic sign. The
Stop sign makes a slightly humorous reference that many people in
relationships could appreciate!