How to Take Half Decent Pictures With Your Phone.

About: A Northern Ireland based maker with a propensity to cause trouble and freshly constructed family.

A phone camera is not the most capable of cameras with their tiny apertures and fixed focus but there's no need to take terrible pictures, this instructable is here to help fix that little issue...

It also applies to webcams to some extent...

There has been a plague lately of very poor pictures on instructables and the excuse being they were using a phone...

Thanks to Anarchistasian, he gave me the idea after saying about an 'ible where I was forced to use a phone camera by the theft of the old one, so thanks again you mad asian...

Step 1: Light Light Light.

These little cameras have tiny apertures, as said, this means that darkness doesn't do well. Couple that with a pretty weak sensor and you've got to be working hard to get a decent picture.

So to help with this:

- When possible take pictures outdoors on nice days, always better.
- Use a white background, to help reflect light in, unless you have a white object then use a coloured or dark surround.
- When using artificial light find a bright place in the room and make it diffused since they don't deal well with glare.

Remember that the light should be hitting them, if it comes from behind the subject you'll likely end up with a silhouette

below are examples of not enough light and proper light, I'll do this for each step, to help show how much the differences can be...

Step 2: Funny Coloured?

You should just use the auto for general phototaking outside, it has a habit of not changing for indoor lighting, go through each one, looking for the right setting, it probably wont be the one for the lights your using, that's why you look for the one that's right.

Also look for ones that take the best advantage of lighting and have the least graininess, also look out for ones that look nice despite having off colours, arty shots can go down well...

Step 3: Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture...

Now since they're so small and not very interested in light they have a habit of being very slow with the shutter, to combat this problem you'll need to be steady...

So take the phone in your hand in the best way to take a picture, usually landscape works well, now you need to brace against something like say, A wall.

Tables are good aswell, basically push gently against the object while you're taking your photo, to help eliminate camera shake, or with small things simply set the phone on the table and hold it up while taking the photos.

Your other option for standing shots is to simply tie a string around the phone in a non obtrusive way and stand on the other end while pulling gently, creating a tripod sort of contraption.

If you do get the shot wrong the first time try it again, it's just lazy not to.

Step 4: Macro You Say?

Now not many phones have a macro function, only some of the ones with proper camera crammed in to their straining innards...

For the likes of instructables the images are displayed at 500 X 335, now the bog standard phone cameras are mostly 2.0 megapixel which comes out at 1600 X 1200.

See where I'm going with this, though you can't get the phone to focus up close you can crop the image to show what you want at normal size on 'ibles, since they make the images smaller when you upload...

So take the picture at a distance it can focus at, so the shot you actually want fills the middle well or at least a fifth of the screen.

your other option is to use a magnifying lens like the many instructables about the place, that way you can get pretty impressive close ups if you learn to use it right, even with just a magnifying glass it can be done...

Step 5: Tidying Photos Up After You Take Them.

Once you've committed the photos to the phone memory you can tidy them up on your computer later, with the likes of photoshop or the GIMP.

Things you can do to help include:

- Adjusting the levels, if people are sketchy on this one leave a few comments and I'll make an instructable about doing so.
- Adjusting contrast, to help give images better definition.
- Removing noise, either in program or you could use a freeware program like neat image.
- Adjusting brightness, to help with glare etc, levels will also help with this
- Cropping, to cut down unneeded or unwanted bits of images
- Removing background, to bring focus to the object, this could also be done in other ways.

Most of all having a bit of wit while taking phone photos instead of just abandoning hope of them being decent.

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    57 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    took this pic with an LG Viewty believe it or not. no fancy pants tripods or anything


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Correct me if i´m wrong: It's not about how many megapixels u have in your cameraphone, the lens-quality is the one which makes the difference. Megapixels are the maximum resolutin of the photo taken. For example some cameraphones (like newer nokias) have the CarlZeiss-lens and you really can't compare two phones with CarlZeiss 3,2mp and some other 3,2mp phone can you? My brother has Nokia n95 and i do have Nokia N73. We made a little test: -Same object to shoot picture of (an old colourful painting on our window, bright daylight) -Same length to the painting (about 1 meter, with macro-function) -No flash (u cant compare n73 and n95 flashes 'cause n95 has a real one, not led) -Printed to photographpaper with Hp Photosmart B9180-printer Result was that u can't see the difference between photos!! Of course the difference will be notable when u zoom fhotos with your computer, but if printed to 10x15cm photopaper... And for a tip: If your camera has delaytimer, set it to 1-2 seconds and take the photo. It'll help u to keep your cameraphone more still!! I'm using it all the time with my photos! Sorry my bad english, i'm from Finland myself ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Lens quality and construction does play a bigger part in the way image ends up on phones usually, I have an old canon A60 which has a great lens but only 2MP it still takes great photos, as a comparison between that and my cheap little tesco camera which was higher megapixels but rubbishy fixed lens, so it took poor photos. The point about the delay timer is good, something that's good with longer exposures and anything that requires delicacy..

    Two... Most phones have either a 2.0Mp camera or a 1.3Mp camera, the 1,3's can be better sometimes because they have more light hitting each pixel...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Umm nope, there are camera that are of a higher resolution than the grain of 35mm film, granted they're massive and could be used to print on the side of houses...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    All the same 6.0 MP will give a similar quality with most low and standard quality film grains, it's just that pixels are a lot more obvious to the eye than a natural grain.