Written by Kevin Purdy
The best camera, the saying goes, is the one you have with you. Whether that’s an impressive iPhone 3GS or a $20-with-2-year-plan flip model, you can pull off great shots and make life easier with these cameraphone tactics.
10. Get macro-style close-ups
Macro shots aren’t just for passionate foodies with tolerant friends. We’ve shown you how to use an old DVD lens to create a simple, portable cover-up lens to get serious short focus on whatever you’re shooting. Lack an old player to tear apart? You can probably find some cheap add-ons for your makeshift macro shots. Either way, you’ve got a nice little macro package that’s cheap enough to bring everywhere and shoot everything, without worrying too much about it.
9. Capture your car travel
iPhones and other web-capable cellphones can be used as turn-by-turn GPS navigators, so accessory makers have cranked out lots of mounting gadgets for them. That’s very convenient, but not half as fun as directing a low-budget thriller about your drive to work. To give your character his mood-setting opening montage, simply drill a hole in the camera spot and find an app that allows for time lapse photography, or a video recording function that doesn’t require too much fiddling while driving.
8. Find your car in huge parking lots
Remembering where one parked is one of those skills everyone assumes they’re great at until put to the test. The Digital Inspiration blog suggests that, among other creative uses of cameraphones, using it to snap a picture of the exit or elevator you’re closest to in a ramp, or landmark or other marker in an open lot, might save you a lot of hassle upon returning from an epic shopping trip or sports event. It takes less time than texting yourself the coordinates, and you’ll earn instant respect when you’re the only one with a bead on where to find the ride at the end of the night. Photo by Luciano Meirelles. (Original post)
7. Document what you packed
A lot of bags are packed in frantic fashion, but take the 15 seconds to snap a shot or two of what you’re throwing in the case before you close it. If the airline, hotel, or shuttle service loses or damages your luggage, you’ll know exactly what’s in your right to claim inside it. If you want to be absolutely sure you didn’t pack sunglasses before you run out and buy them, you’ll know whether to keep digging. Months or years later, you’ll get a laugh out of how much you thought you needed to do nothing on vacation. Photo by Muffet. (Original post)
6. Create PDFs from document pictures
One hour and many arguments later, the whiteboard at work is filled with actually feasible ideas and team commitments. Now, how will you remember it tomorrow morning? Free cameraphone conversion service Qipit can, depending on your camphone’s quality, accept whiteboard snapshots, printed documents, or handwritten notes with white-ish backgrounds and convert them into plain old PDFs, then email them to your regular address. We just wrote out a potential work-related use for that convenience-let’s assume you can think of many, many more interesting uses than that. And if you ever need to actually fax one of these documents, Qipit has you covered.
5. Punch them up on your Desktop
Some cameraphone shots capture perfect moments, but were taken in not-so-perfect conditions. Whether you like doing it yourself or leaving it to some well-considered software, it’s fairly easy to drag a decent-looking image out of a rough snap. Windows users should grab the Mobile Photo Enhancer for a quick fix that corrects common problems. Got Photoshop, the GIMP, or another photo editing solution handy? Try Jackson West’s tips on punching up a photo in under 60 seconds tested out on a pretty sweet shot of a bulldog taken with the lackluster iPhone (2G) camera. (Original posts: Mobile Photo Enhancer, Punch Up a Photo)
4. Enforce a diet
Back in the day, when the idea of phones with cameras was new to the world (okay, this was only 2005), the MyFoodPhone service offered, for $149/month, then $10/month, to have a dietitian review any photos you send in of your food and ping you back with a quick take or suggestion. As you might imagine, that service doesn’t seem to be around anymore-perhaps because, for many people, the act of simply committing what they’re eating to a camera, and maybe even making it public, is enough to start dropping pounds. It’s akin to the idea of calling a parent every night you hit the town and telling them how much you had to drink or how much you spent-you would, almost certainly, cut back, and you’d also have photo evidence and reinforcement of the times you managed not to kill off that entire Cheesecake Factory plate. Photo by Sebastian Mary.
3. Grab and send photos without fees
Tied to an older phone that won’t let you get pictures out without paying exorbitant MMS/email/"upload" fees? Enter BitPim, a free software tool that connects to your phone over Bluetooth and opens it up in a major way, even if your Bluetooth capabilities seem very limited. We walked through backing up and syncing your phone with BitPim, performed on a very limited clamshell model, the cheapest that came with a Verizon contract. Check to see if BitPim supports your phone. If so, feel free to reach into your little bundle of circuits and free the pictures, videos, and tunes that are rightfully yours. Oh, and throw some custom-made ringtones in there, while you’re at it.
2. Master the form
Even with the high-end 5-8 megapixel models on the edge of being available, shooting with a cameraphone is not the same as with a standard handheld camera. The sensors, lens curvature, capture abilities-it’s all been optimized for a device mostly meant to pass voice and data from twisted antennas. That said, you can learn how to get better shots out of the camera you always have with you, as Gina learned and related:
Plan for shutter delay
Like many consumer digital cameras, there’s most likely a delay between the exact moment you press the shutter button and when your cameraphone captures the image. Plan for this: hit that button half a second in advance to get the exact moment you’re looking for, and keep the phone steady for a few seconds after it’s pressed, too. A little practice will help you perfect this.
1. Make it your second brain
Get a free Flickr account, and add your secret, automatically private, instant-upload email address to your phone’s contacts. You’ve now got a tag-able, high-quality, almost infinite space to stash everything you’re likely to forget or need to pool your thoughts on. Wine you want to buy, the perfect gift you stumble across in June, your new gadget’s serial number-anything not already in this list, in other words. If you’re more likely to actually organize your camera thoughts, Evernote offers a similar free space and private email address, but doesn’t allow for tagging by email, making the otherwise brain-expanding service, oddly enough, a bit less useful for this hack you’ll find convenient at just the right moments. Photo by solson.
What secret superpowers does your cameraphone have, through your own doing or others’ suggestions? We want to hear about them in the comments.