Cell Phone Camera Guidelines for Print Display Project:
To keep up with the “times”, I am expanding the list of
Home Shooting Photo Display Project.
Although it is easier to shoot on a standalone camera, transfer the images to a
computer, and send to Walgreens with the decline in personal home computers, and
the proliferation of SmartPhones as the SOLE camera/internet connection, this is
In the last few years, SMARTPHONES have rivaled the basic Point & Shoot to the
point that SmartPhones at least exceed the low end P&Ss. In fact, the average
8mp cell phone camera will be at LEAST as good as using the classroom 2008 8mp
Nikon L18. Pretty much anything that is 4 years newer in technology is going to
be more advanced. Considering the smartphone comes with a bunch of other assets,
such as it is always going to be with you, you have a charger, it has built in
processing with lots of specialized apps (Autostitch, HDR), GPS tagging,
Gyroscope and stabilization, social posting, easier to get your pictures online,
etc. it is only logical to embrace the smartphone.
In fact, this writing is in part inspired by a student comment that a cell phone
is all their family has now and will so in the future. I thought about that, and
realized it is probably true, especially going into the future as a personal
computer and the stand alone camera diminish in priority.
Whatever device you use, you HAVE to ensure good quality pictures. Indeed, over
the years, I have seen some real bad pictures come in for grading from pretty
good cameras, so I guess things can’t get any worse. And, if consumer
photography is going to evolve to primarily cell phone, we might as well as
Please keep in mind that cell phonetography IS limited.
There are just certain things you should still use a larger, more capable camera
for. Namely zooming in and action/sports. I continue to recommend that 1st year
photography students, especially those really serious about their photography,
should shoot with a DSLR or a high end P&S. Get with a friend, go shooting
together. Find an advanced camera in your family. Or, simply invest in what will
likely be a family camera for a very long time.
A $400 cell phone is NOT going to out shoot a $400 DSLR.
What, you only paid $99 for your Galaxay III? That is because you signed a 2
year service agreement that will cost you $600+ if you use the phone or not.
Using a SmartPhone for your Home Shooting assignment will introduce some
And since I have not explored all of the ramifications of getting the images off
the phone, into PicasaWeb and to the store, you must be willing to assume some
of the problem solving inherent with using a new technology. The bottom line is
that you are expected to 1) meet the assignment requirements and 2) meet the
quality expectations of a full size camera. 1 and 2 are not a problem if you
follow these guidelines.
The camera HAS to be stable.
This is probably the number one reason I was hesitant in allowing cell
phones...they are difficult to hold steady. And I am not talking about STEADY
by your standards by looking at the image on your cell phone. I have gotten
and can get GREAT results with my iPhone 4s. But that does not mean I can give
a person my phone and expect the same results. It takes practice and patience,
sometimes shooting multiple times the same scene, sometimes numerous more
times than a standard camera. In other words, there is more trial and error,
more duds. Part of the problem comes from the relatively slow capture speeds.
Not the shutter speed, but the point of exposure after the shutter button has
been pressed. There is a slight lag, and many people just don’t hold the
camera steady. In fact, I have worked a great deal to develop a tripod system
for my iPhone to ensure the highest of quality images when I do use the iPhone
in place. The other problem is the basic challenge of trying to push the very
camera you trying to hold steady. And because it is small, and thin, it is
actually more difficult to hold steady than a larger camera. Here are some
Use a self timer
to isolate the pushing of the button and the actual shooting. IOW, push the
button, and the picture will take a second or two later depending on what
app/phone you are using and the actual settings. iPhone - download a free
app called “Camera Awesome” that has a self timer. IOW, a self timer is NOT
just for running to get in your own pictures, it can help get steady shots.
Put the camera down
on a flat surface and use a self timer as detailed above.
Confirm Focus lock...which is tricky on a small camera.
Even with fancy Face Detection, the camera is prone to back focus. And, even
on a “large” Cell Phone screen (that is an oxymoron), you may not detect that
your images are out of focus until you get them on a large computer monitor.
Many cell phone camera apps have the ability to touch focus. This is usually
better than letting the camera decide where to focus. Touch exactly where you
want to focus, and wait for confirmation that the camera has achieved focus.
Do NOT use digital zoom.
Optical zooms for a cell phone have been slow to market because of physical
limitation. Less people are going to want to a phone that is thicker to
accommodate a zoom lens. There is a phone rumored to be in the works. I have
had some success in purchasing lens attachments for my iphone (a macro, Wide
angle and a 2x Tele), but they are clunky at best.
Send the HIGHEST resolution image possible to the store.
Extra caution must be taken that the image sent to the store is either an
original file from the main camera app, or a full res file from a saved app.
If the image is opened in a FREE or LITE app, for post processing, it is
possible that the image may be scaled down. And, if you are shooting with an
app other than the main built in app, you may not even be able to shoot on
full res. IOW, if you use some freebie app, that automatically colors
everybody’s skin green, you may only be at a small snapshot resolution.
The pictures have to be reviewed LARGE, preferably in the field.
Don’t just shoot a bunch of pictures viewing them at only screen size. Take a
photo, and at least pause to zoom in and check sharpness. Before shooting too
many pictures, you should shoot, transfer them to a computer with a large
monitor, and check for quality. Make sure what you see on the phone is the
same quality on the computer. Specifically, the iPhone with it’s retina screen
tends to minimize challenges with an image. I will THINK I have a nice image
on the phone, only to look at it on a computer screen and see that it is soft
and/or noisy from being shot in poor conditions.
Make sure you have a reliable way to transfer the images.
This is the tricky part. Dropbox helps, but you still need a computer to get
them into Picasa, and then upload to PicasaWeb. Another option is to use
Do a test print.
You will not really know if you are getting good quality pictures from YOUR
device until you see the results. Take a photo, download and install the FREE
Walgreens App, order an 8x10 and see how it turns out.
Keep the lens clean.
You would be surprised how a dirty lens will affect the quality. Avoid using
your shirt to clean the lens. Use a microfiber cloth with a little moisture
from your breath.
- feel free to post process the image all you want (LoFi, Retro, B&W, etc.),
but capture the image in a clean, straight format. Then tweak it later, after
- Shoot all 12 pictures in one succinct time period. Within reason, shoot all
of the pictures on the topic with a 30 minute time frame. This is approximate,
such that if you are covering a birthday party or a wedding, and you are
shooting over several hours, that is fine. The idea is to shoot FOR this
project, on a topic and subject inspired by this project. It is NOT acceptable
to look back through your phone picking out 12 pictures that fit a topic.
Likewise, it is not acceptable to shoot one or two pictures and apply 10
filters to try to come up with 12 files. The idea is to go shoot. If you are
going to do this project on a cell phone, fine, just make sure you are
shooting like it was a real camera. I do it all the time, and expect you to do
so as well. Personally, I ALSO shoot on a full size camera AND my cell phone.
- This is not a complete list. I am not going to try to list all the possible
devices, but you should consider this list in comparison to what you have. YOu
may have an older version of a device that is ok. The bottom line is check your
camera specs. If the camera is NOT high enough resolution and does not produce
good enough results, you will be disappointed in the results when you make your
8x10s, and you will have wasted your money and time. An example is the iPhone.
iP3 is NOT good enough. iP4 would be BARELY be useable, while a iPhone 4s or 5,
when well shoot will produce very nice results. It would be better to go shoot
with a friend who has a FULL size camera, or even a friend with a better cell
phone. When my wife and I share a camera, we shoot our hand to designate when we
iPhone 5 and 4s - 8mp
Galaxy II and III - 8mp
HTC EVO - 8mp
Pretty much any 8mp camera or phone should be ok.
iPhone 4 - only 5mp. Produces good images for screen, but 8x10s are bare
iPod 5 - only 5mp, although same resolution as iPhone 4, not as advanced
optics nor dynamic range.
iPad 3 or iPad Mini - only 5mp.
Galaxy Nexus or Galaxy I - only 5mp
Do NOT USE
- for any reason!
Any 1.3 to 3mp camera phones. A LOT of basic, non-smartphones, for the last
5 or so years, have put basic cameras. These are VERY, VERY limited cameras.
Sure, it is neat to take a picture, but they will NOT make suitable, quality
Any Front Facing camera...these are always lower res with limited optics
like focus free, with limited dynamic range.
iPod Touch 4 - ABSOLUTELY DO NOT USE! Only a 1.3mp camera! Very limited
iPad 2 - Camera is the same as the iPod Touch 4. LAME!!! In fact, it was
lame of Apple to even sell this model when the much more capable iPhone 4
camera was readily available. This was a marketing attempt by Apple to drive
repeat generational sales.
It should go with out say, but regardless of your camera TYPE, it should be
in good condition. After a couple of failed photos were turned in by a student,
I asked to see their phone because I couldn't believe that it was producing such
BAD pictures. This is what I found:
- iPhone specs