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TAKING GREAT PHOTOS WITH YOUR MOBILE PHONE

By NBF NEWS
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Taking great photos with your mobile phone
A camera is not one of the gadgets a non-professional photographer will always carry about. But it is not unlikely that most people will always be with their mobile phones. And if it is a phone with a built-in camera, chances are that that phone will be useful someday when a situation that needs to be captured for posterity presents itself.

Unfortunately, many of the pictures taken with camera phones are poor in quality. This might partially be a result of lower quality cameras - but it is also often a result of poor photographic technique.

To take expert photos 'on-the-go', you need to enhance your knowledge of mobile phone technology -that does not, however, mean that you need to be an expert in mobile phone technology.

Follow the guideline below to take interesting photos with your mobile phone.

Image size and quality
Though every phone model is different, Stuart Headlam, writing in www.videojug.com, says there are some common options you should look at on any handset to get good image size and quality.

Firstly, somewhere in your camera setting should be a menu that controls the size of the image your camera takes – set it to the largest option. If you don't have a clearly labelled 'maximum' setting, remember that the higher the number of megapixels, the better quality the image.

A rough order of camera phone image quality starts at VGA, which is equal to 0.3 megapixels and is the lowest quality camera you'll find on a phone, SVGA, which is 0.5 megapixels, 1.3 megapixels, 3.1 megapixels, 5.2 megapixels, and so on.

Larger images will take up more space on your phone, but will give you a much better quality image. In the same menu there may also be a setting for image quality. Also set that to maximum.

Common settings
Before you take your shot, see if your phone has settings for indoor or outdoor conditions or low light. Try turning them on to see what results they give, but you don't have to stick to what the setting's are for, though. The key here, Headlam says, is to be creative.

White balance
White Balance adjusts for the different kinds of light. For example, daylight is actually quite blue while electric lights give off a yellow, orange or even green light. Your phone's white balance settings will allow you to match your pictures to the lighting conditions and produce more natural looking colours in your photos.

Light your subject well
The better lit your subject is the clearer your image is likely to be, says Darren Rowse in an article published on www. digital-photography-school.com. If possible, he suggests, shoot outside or turn on lights when shooting inside. If you're turning on lights in a room to add extra light to your shot be aware that artificial light impacts the colour cast in your shots and you might want to experiment with white balance to fix it.

Some cameras come with a built in flash or light - this can really lift a shot and add clarity to it, even if you're shooting outside (in a sense it becomes a fill flash). If your camera doesn't have a flash or light you should avoid shooting into bright lights as you'll end up with images with shadows.

Taking the picture
When taking your shot, Headlam advises that you hold the camera as steadily as possible and continue to hold it in place for a few seconds after you hear the shutter noise as some phones can take a few seconds to actually 'take' the picture even after they've made the noise. You get better, more interesting pictures if you try and snap the action as it happens around you. This may mean you have to be practically sneaky with your camerawork, but the results are usually worth it.

Rowse also advises that you should get close to your subject. One of the most common mistakes with camera phone images, he explains, is that their subject ends up being a tiny, unrecognizable object in the distance.

Camera phone images tend to be small due to low resolution (although this is changing) - so fill up your view finder with your subject to save having to zoom in on the subject in editing it later (which decreases quality even more).

He, however, warns that getting too close on some model camera phones creates distortion and focusing issues (particularly if the camera phone doesn't have a macro or close focusing mode).

Take several shots
The key to a great photo, says Headlam, is actually to take as many shots as possible. Even if you're happy with your first shot, try and take a few more from different angles or with different settings – you may get a picture that's even better than you expected.

Taking several shots may help build the confidence of people who are traditionally camera shy. If you explain beforehand that you'll take a few photos and let them pick their favourite, the chances are you'll end up with a picture that you're both happy with.

Printing and editing
If you want decent quality prints, you need to take your pictures with at least a two, maybe three megapixel camera.

However, Headlam believes you have to put your pictures onto your computer first to get the most out of them. Once you have got your photos onto your computer, Mac users can drag them into iPhoto, where you can adjust the appearance of your pictures and tidy up anything you're not happy with.

Windows Vista users can do the same with Vista's built in Photo Gallery. If for some reason you don't have a suitable program on your machine, you can go to Improveimages.com where you can upload pictures and they will be automatically 'improved'.

Neat image
Neat Image is great because the most common problem with digital photos from mobiles is that they can be very grainy or 'noisy', especially if they've been taken in low light.

Neat Image is a simple program that automatically cleans up most of this noise and that's something that even the mighty Photoshop struggles with. The results you get can look a little blurred as a result of the cleaning process, but you can always artificially sharpen them again with other programs and at the end of the day, it's up to you if you want to live with the grainy photo.

If you have a noisy photo that is not suitable for cleaning, Headlam suggests you can use iPhoto or photo gallery to make the image black and white? This not only hides most of the noise but what's left helps add character to your shot.