Making the best out of shitty cellphone photos

Even though my camera is already compact, I'm the type of person that doesn't like carrying around a lot of things with them. I think I envy guys in that respect. At least they don't really have to worry about purses, which are expensive and cumbersome at times. Anyway, there are times when I'm going somewhere and I either forget to bring my camera or I just don't want to, so then I rely on my phone to capture any moments.

Not that my phone's camera is bad, but it's definitely not that great. In fact, my old Rhyme with its dinky 5 megapixels had better image quality than the S3, but that's just my opinion. I would've gotten the HTC One if it was available for Verizon since it seems like HTC knows whats up when it comes to cameras on phones. Grr...but that's a-whole-nother topic to talk about another day. My point is, I've had my gripes with cellphone quality photos, but sometimes it's all you have and it doesn't mean you can't make it work.

I'm no photographer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But I do find that pictures tend to look better on camera phones when you try taking things in a different perspective. Don't treat your phone like it's just a phone. Pretend you're holding an amazing, fancy SLR camera and WORK IT.

TIP 1: Avoid taking pictures from a normal 'eye' level.

Here's  a seemingly normal looking photograph. It doesn't look "bad" necessarily, but it's kinda boring right? Yay it's a Starbucks card and I love Starbucks, but don't you think everyone knows what Starbucks is? Why not skew the perspective a bit? If it's iconic enough, people will recognize it anyway. 

A different angle makes all the difference in the world. Even though it may not show the entirety of the card, does it need to? We all know what a card looks like, and the design aspect of the card is pretty much all in the photo shown. Don't be afraid to zoom in and look at things in different angles. 

Don't be afraid to take multiple shots in different angles. I find that sometimes, even if I think a shot looks terrible, it ends up half decent looking when I pull it up on the computer. Save all your photos because sometimes your phone may not be representing the images as clearly or correctly.

Once you've chosen an angle and photo that you like, then you can post process it however you please. If you don't have Photoshop accessible or some other image editing program, there's plenty of apps out there for iOS and Android that can do pretty much the same things in terms of color correction. Instagram is one that I'm sure everyone knows about. 

I made a coloring tutorial a little while back here, so if you want, you can use it as a guide. Just remember to always experiment with your own colors and play around with your coloring programs or apps. 

TIP 2: Unless it's to show off your face, makeup, or hair, avoid "selcas" to show off something that you're wearing.
[selca = self cam]

I wanted to show my jewelry without having to take a picture of them by themselves. I wanted the jewelry to be on me, as I feel like it makes the jewelry look a bit more sentimental. Most commonly, you would just take a mirror shot or take a selca shot, like so:

The problem with selcas in where you are trying to focus on something you are wearing, as opposed to your face, is that you will always capture your face more prominently than the thing you're 'trying' to focus on. Not making eye contact does help. Cropping out my arm, where it would show that I'm clearly extending to take the shot of myself and positioning my arm so that it stands out, help in getting your eyes to focus on the jewelry instead of my face, but I feel like it's not really that interesting. More importantly, it's hard to capture the essence of the jewelry because it's hard to capture the light that reflects it without having to compensate with bad lighting on my face instead.

Try the 'faceless' selca approach:
By showing the jewelry on my body, without having to show the entirety of my body or face, you can still get a sense that you're looking at something through someone else's perspective and it feels a bit more personal. At the same time, it also feels more like I'm definitely trying to show off the jewelry and not 'me'.

Post process as always, how you like. Always experiment. You may not agree and like the vividness of the colored photo, but I prefer this soft black and white instead. Why? At the risk of sounding vain and OCD, I would've liked it better if my watch was silver or gunmetal to match with the rest of the metals. It's really more about coherency though. In black and white, I feel like it's also more 'timeless' and not overpowered by the blue. It just feels classier.

TIP 3: Utilize depth of field and damn good lighting.

I actually wanted to talk more about depth of field (or DoF) but I want to save that for another post because I think it's really crucial in taking photos, to understand DoF in a more thorough manner. Trust me when I say this: It makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. This above image is straight from my phone; unedited, and no post processing. This was taken on my 5mp phone cam no less and is one of the crispest photos I've ever taken on my phone. It's not particularly the best composition, but I think everything works really well. Capturing the Monster Hunter 3 background was a total accident, since my bf was playing it when I took this photo, but it works. What keeps it from looking chaotic is the depth of field (focused foreground object on a blurred background). Because there is only one strong focus, the objects behind that focus are secondary. 

Anyone can take a clean, crisp photo with their phone. All you need is good light (natural light here), an interesting background, and have a focus on the subject. Going back to what I said earlier, it's also about angles. Don't shoot it from eye level. This was shot from ground level, looking up, but it's subtle and not an extreme angle. It's just enough that it gives the illusion of the toy being bigger than it is. 

That's all I have for now. Next time I'll go into a bit more on DoF and also share a little bit on how I 'fake' pictures to look better than they are. I mean, I think that's my forte--to fake shit. 

A lot of these things are pretty 'basic' but it's good to keep it in the back of your mind if you want to have decent photos from a cellphone. The next time you go snap a pic on your celly, keep in mind these few simple tips. 

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