Wick Communications

Shooting with your phone

In Photography on 16 Sep 2010 at 5:10 pm

For many of us, our phone is our camera. We are more likely to have our iPhone with us when news happens than that wonderfully expensive DSLR back home, the one nestled comfortably in the really cool camera bag we bought at the same time.

While new camera phones are fantastic devices, they can present their own challenges. Compounding both the wonder and the potential for befuddlement, is the fact that there are a wealth of applications and tips online to help you use your camera phone. But be careful: Many of these tips are inappropriate for news reporters. For instance, this blog from DVICE includes some hints that you probably wouldn’t want to use at your newspaper (such as fake sepia tones, adding a vintage look through an app, etc.)

Half Moon Bay Review photographer Lars Howlett had some good ideas, gleaned from the use of his own iPhone…

  • Don’t poke the button. Lars showed me how you can press the button on the iPhone as you compose your shot. Then, when you have it just as you want it, simply lift your finger. It keeps the frame steady and avoids a “bounce” effect that is sure to come if you punch the button instead. Sounds subtle but give it a try.
  • Get close. Lars points out that most camera phones take low-res shots. Consequently, you have to make the most of the pixels you have. He suggests getting close to your subject; if you have to crop it back at the office, you are losing a lot of information available at the time of the shot.
  • Let the light in. Lars says his iPhone tends to shoot dark photos. He points out that Photoshop has a free app for download that is pretty cool. You can crop, lighten and send your photos to Facebook all for free and with the touch of a button.
  • Watch the contrast. Most camera phones are burdened with low dynamic range, Lars cautions. By that he means they don’t handle contrast well. He suggests trying to shoot in the shade or without a bright light in an otherwise dark room.

I’d love to hear your own tips. Camera phones have revolutionized the way we record our world. There are camera phone shots from just about every newsworthy event. Make the most of yours.


  1. I liked the photo phone piece in The Kicker. Don’t know if this is worthy of mention but the resolution and overall quality of the camera on the iPhone 4 is stunning in comparison to earlier models. I’ve been using mine more and more to take shots for my phodoodle. (Marc is the “phodoodlist” for the Review. He does Photoshop editorial cartoons that are really cool. — Clay)

    Also, users should explore the many photo apps available. Gorillacam, for example, has a number of useful settings, such as allowing you to take rapid fire single frames and an interesting “best of 3” option that takes 3 quick shots when you snap the picture you want and then gives you the best one.

    You can sometimes get a little fancier if you can borrow a second phone that has a “flashlight” like app – one that fills the screen with white light. If you’re shooting close up on a subject, you can shoot with one hand while you hold the second phone with the other to provide “fill” light.

    Finally, If you’re QuickTime savvy and your phone shoots video, you can also snag still frames from a clip. Usually there’s some blur in the image but occasionally you’ll strike gold with a particular subject.

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