Camera tips

This is a generalised guide and as such cannot cover all equipment and scenarios.

Devices may differ in image quality, storage, and features.

Youtube is often a better source for informative videos than most manufacturer's websites. I have provided certain information below to try and help with the basics of both camera phones and small cameras that some may find useful.

Camera Phones (Smart Phones)

Different models of devices have slight layout changes and different specifications so it may be best to view the manufacturer's website for the exact model of your phone to see what features it has or get advice regarding the camera.

That said, most the of basics stay the same and are similar even between different brands of phones.

For text information on features of the most popular phones:

This video link on Youtube explains the basics (using an Apple iphone 7) that are common between most versions of Apple iphones and ipads including:

  • * How to focus on a specific point temporarily (tapping once on the point of focus on the screen).
  • * Using AE/AF lock (to lock the focus point) by holding your finger on that focus point.
  • Changing the exposure (brightness/darkness) by tapping on the screen and adjusting a slider left and right or up and down.
  • * Using Burst Mode to take multiple photos (tap and hold the shutter button).
  • Taking Panoramic shots to extend the width/height of a photo to fit more in the shot.
  • * Using the Flash
  • * Selecting HDR (High Dynamic Range) to obtain a balance in light and dark detail.
  • * Using a Timer either for selfies or when using a stand/tripod with your phone.
  • * Filters (often best not used for competition photos, although can be used to change a colour photo to black and white)

* = same for Samsung Galaxy phones (S6 onwards and possibly prior to S6)

Here is a link to a video for Samsung users (using the Samsung S6 (which I use))

It covers:

  • Quick access
  • Settings
  • Grid lines (assists with keeping an image straight or dividing it into 3rds)
  • Voice control (an alternative to physically pressing a button or the screen)
  • Assigning button function to volume keys (such as shutter button)
  • Selective Focus
  • Pro mode (briefly) - changing the WB (White balance), focus, filters etc.

There are many other videos available so if you have a different brand or model you are sure to find a video on Youtube for it.

General tips for smart phones and small cameras

Tips to aid taking a steady shot that is in focus

Sometimes in your camera's options you can set volume or other buttons to act as a shutter button to avoid having to touch the shutter button on the screen, or can even assign a speech command to take the shot. This can help to avoid moving the camera when pressing the shutter button that otherwise can result in a blurry image.

Other things that may help is your stance. It is far easier to take a still image if resting the phone on a nearby surface such as a wall or by using two hands rather than one (one to hold the phone and the other to press the shutter button). Camera bean bags can also be used as an alternative to tripods.

When a stable surface is not available it may help to reduce shaking by supporting your phone with your arms i.e. not extending your arms fully. If your phone or camera has image stability it will help reduce shaking drastically.

Maintaining quality in your images can be achieved by reducing the amount of digital zoom used (like that used by zooming in with smart phones) as this decreases the image quality. It is far better where possible to get closer to a subject than rely on digital zoom.

Cameras with optical zoom however do not lose image quality. Sometimes small cameras may use optical zoom to a degree before switching to digital zoom but this change is normally visible on screen (see your camera's instruction manual).

Having your camera set to maximum resolution and image quality will also help.

If you have access to a computer and use photoshop then you can resave an image from a high quality digital file such as Tiff to a Jpeg as required for the competition. If not, then setting your camera to save in Jpeg will be best.

If an image is cropped, some quality will be lost. With modern Smart phone cameras and other digital cameras, resolutions tend to be quite high and so small amounts of cropping or digital zoom may not lose so much quality. It is important to remember however that a small mobile or camera screen are much smaller than a 6x8 or 5x7 printed image, or a laptop screen which the judges may be using to view the images for the competition which may show the true quality of an image.

Bigger resolutions require more storage so it may be worth only changing to highest quality if you know you will be using an image for a competition. That said, storage has increased to the point in some devices so this is no longer such an issue. Generally your phone or camera should indicate how many photos you can take/store at a given resolution and quality so it is best to refer to these settings for information and to select what you are comfortable with.

Photos can often be backed up wirelessly to a cloud (online) or manually to a hard drive on a computer to help free up space on your device. Apps (Applications) pn devices can sometimes affect the same storage used for photos, so by deleting apps you can help to free up space (if needed).

Detailed shots

Most smart phones can take images close up without requiring the user to make any changes. Some small cameras / DSLRs however require macro mode to be selected (a logo of a flower) or super macro mode in order to obtain sharp close up photos of flowers and plants. If your camera has an aperture priority mode this can also help to reduce background focus and blur unwanted details, instead drawing focus on to the subject you want noticed.