A Blog for Cell Phone Camera Enthusiasts

I am an amateur photographer and video recorder, and since I always carry my my iPhone with me, I’ve spent a lot of time finding tips to improve my iPhone photography and videos. Because I work at a cell phones repair shop, so I am quite familiar with cell phone guts. For instance, did you know that the iPhone video camera has a higher potential bitrate (for video recording) than Apple’s camera app allows you to use. In other words, if you use a different video app, you can record higher quality videos from your iPhone.

Here are my suggestions for taking better videos with your iPhone.

First of all, since the Apple camera app doesn’t allow you to access the higher bitrate, try another app. There are plenty to choose from, but make sure you can access the higher bitrates. Filmic Pro is one I use. You can visit the Filmic Pro website to see some amazing videos shot with only an iPhone 6 camera.

Now that you’ve got a decent video app, you need to set the scene. Lighting is of utmost importance, so be sure you know where your light sources are, and what kind of light is available. Sunlight is best, but not when directly in the sunlight. Be aware of shadows particularly if you are videoing outdoors. If you are videoing something that isn’t moving around a lot, as in an interview or a video blog post, then you can adjust and lock the auto-focus and auto-exposure. If you have taken video with your iPhone, you’ve probably had the focus change when the subject you are taking video moved to the side or leaned in slightly. Everything gets blurry, then slowly refocuses. Or everything gets darker suddenly and then slowly readjusts back to how it was to begin with. Locking the focus and exposure prevents this from happening. you don’t want to use these features if you are videoing while you or your subject is moving around much.

Again, if you are taking video for your video blog or something, then another tool you should use is a mount. There are a variety of types of mounts that you can use for keeping the phone steady as you video. Be sure to mount to something that will stay steady. If you are in the wind, mounting to a flimsy tree won’t help as it may sway in the wind. Likewise, don’t mount on a table if jostling around may cause the table to move.

Battery life is an important factor. If you are using a higher bitrate, and filming for extended time, then you will run your battery down in no time. Here are some suggestions. Obviously, you can keep it plugged into a power source. You can use an external battery pack, as well. Most importantly, you’ll want to put your phone in Airplane Mode. This will prevent phone call interruptions, as well as disable many of the typical battery drains that compete for your precious battery life.

Keep these tips in mind when you video and you’ll be surprised at the quality of your resulting videos.

August 15th, 2015

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iphone 6s

The iPhone 6S ninth version of the iPhone has just been announced, and the good news for you (if you get one) is that there are some nice enhancements over the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, including improved camera performance with the front and back cameras.

The front camera is getting a much larger sensor. The front camera will be able to record video at 1080p and can take 5 megapixel photos. The camera software is also adding features to compliment the boost in the camera’s capabilities. You will be able to take ‘panorama selfies’ with the front-facing camera. You will be able to take slow-motion video and use the screen as a sort of flash for low-light selfies.

The backside camera is getting major improvements. To begin with, the camera is bumped up to 12 megapixels, and can record 4K video. Besides higher resolution, the new and improved sensor is expected to provide greater color accuracy, take better photos in low-light situations, and reduce ‘noise’ in the picture, creating greater clarity. We’ve been told to expect superior picture quality due to these improvement.

There is also a new photos feature, called Live Photos, that take advantage of the new 3D touch feature. When you force-touch a photo, a couple of seconds of audio and video (which were saved near the time of the photo) will play. It’s not a new concept, as HTC and Nokia have implemented similar features previously, but Apple’s huge user base should bring the idea main-stream, with the help of Facebook support later this year.

There are too many changes to the 6S to review here, but on improvement we always like to hear is with the screen. The new Ion-X screen covering is touted as stronger and more durable. I suppose that means fewer cracked iPhone screens. Let’s hope so. We’re truly excited about the improvements developed for the iPhone 6S, but we want to hear from you. What do you think?

September 14th, 2015

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We’ve become accustomed to using our phones for just about everything. It seems like every week a new revolutionary app is announced. So what about the old fashioned camera app? It’s been around a while, but it once was one of those revolutionary smartphone features. But it’s not obsolete, we just have to be creative in how we use it. Here are a list of our favorite unintended uses for the cell phone camera.

Little Words

When you get a bit older… OK a lot older, your vision goes. Just reading the menu at a candlelit table can be a real chore. Forget reading the fine print on a contract or the nutrition details on your can of Hormel Chili. We’ve found the answer. You can use your camera to zoom on the type. You don’t even need to take the picture, just hover your phone over the words, and use your fingers to zoom. Voila! Everything’s nice and big for us elderly to read.

Those Pesky To Do Lists

Do you have a To-Do List app on your phone? I do, in fact I’ve got three or four. How many do I use? None, I have to admit. It’s just not easy to give up the pen and paper, or the DayRunner calendar for writing down what you need. Besides, I’m usually on my cell phone at the time I need to jot something down. So what do you do. Take a picture of your notes or to-do list. This also saves you from having to lug your DayRunner around. I hate the feeling you get when you arrive at the grocery store, just to remember you left your grocery list on the table. Forget bringing the list, just snap a photo. Then delete it when you’re done with it.

What’s That On My Back?

If you’ve ever gotten a scratch or bug bite or other unknown affliction in an area of your body you can’t view, you know how annoying it can be to wonder what it looks like. Is it bleeding? Is there puss? Is it red? Oh the curiosity! If you could only see it. If you’ve got the flexibility and/or a selfie stick, you can. Reach around and take a picture of it. Since you can’t see where you are taking a picture, you may have to try a few times. Depending on what and where you are photographing, it might be a good idea to delete the pictures before you forget.

What’s Behind There?

My dog bumped his ball under a shelf in a place where I couldn’t see where it was, and it was an odd angle for me to stick my hand under it waving around trying to find it, besides, I might run my hand into a nest of spider or something awful like that. So I used my camera phone at different angles to get a good feel for where it might be. Sure enough, I was able to locate it right away by viewing my pictures. I don’t want to talk about the dust monsters and random artifacts that were also there. I think I might have seen a mummy in one of my pictures. No spiders, happily.

This also works for peeking around the corner if you are trying to avoid someone that you saw coming your way. You can reach your phone around the corner, snap a photo and see if he/she is gone yet. This tactic actually works against you at night. Flashes tend to draw attention. Just sayin’.

Where Did I Park?

That’s pretty self-explanatory. If you are going to be away from your car for a few hours or all day (or 5 minutes for us elderly folks), you might forget exactly where you parked. No need for a fancy app, just take a picture with a recognizable landmark or garage section numbers in it. Done, go enjoy your shopping!

Some ideas that didn’t make the cut…

  1. Take a picture of the guy trying to mug you at night so the flash temporarily blinds him, allowing you to escape. You have his picture now, too.
  2. Taking a picture after you’ve gone to the bathroom to show to your doctor. That’s just not right!
  3. Taking a close up of a bug, spider or snake. You really don’t want to be that close to one of those critters.
  4. Trying to take a picture of the guy who cut you off in traffic. It’s not worth it, not to mention, you’ll never get a good enough picture of the license plate because there’s too much motion. That’s what we’ve heard, anyway.
  5. Taking a picture up your nose to see where that booger disappeared to.


August 10th, 2015

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Due to leaps and bounds in technological advances over the past few years, your cell phone camera has the capability to take really awesome pictures. However, all that technology won’t take good pictures by itself. After all, it’s not the camera that makes a picture great, it the photographer. We’ve put together a few of the best tips for taking excellent pictures with your cell phone. Follow these tips and you’ll enjoy better quality photos.

1) Take Care Of Your Equipment

It’s been said that a camera is only as good as its lens. It’s true that your lens is of utmost importance when it comes to the quality of your photos. A scratch or a smudge on the lens of your camera will affect every picture that you take. Just like a bad fax machine has a black line down the side of every fax it sends, your lens will have the same effect on every one of your photos and videos. To prevent damage to your camera’s lens, keep your phone in a dust free environment if possible. That’s not always possible, the next best solution is to keep a lint-free cloth with you to keep your lens clean. Before wiping your your lens do your best to blow away any dust or particulates.

2) Lose the Flash

Can you remember the last time that you used a flash and liked the resulting photo? We can’t. In fact, when my camera flash does go off, it’s only because I forgot to turn it off before taking my photo. The flash should really be the last resort for lighting. Before you take a picture, consider the lighting in the area. In dimly lit areas, put the light sources behind you so they are shining on your subject. If natural light is available, it is almost always the most effective lighting. On the other hand, in brightly sunlit areas, shadows can be an issue. Your subjects may also be affected by light in their eyes. The sun may also cause glare on the lens. Be sure to take note of the environment’s lighting and adjust your positioning accordingly.

3) No Digital Zooming

Your camera probably has digital zoom. This is often utilized by spreading two fingers on the screen. As you zoom, your subject will grow closer – but if you look clearly, you’ll notice that it also seems to make the picture fuzzier. That’s the drawback, so we recommend not using digital zoom. The pixel density these days is quite high, which yields very high quality pictures, so a better solution is to crop the picture on your computer.

4) Take Multiple Shots

If you’ve seen a professional photo shoot, you know that the photographer’s camera shoots almost non-stop. If a professional doesn’t rely on one shot to catch the perfect picture, why should you. If you see a great shot through your viewfinder, then make sure you catch it by taking multiple shots. You never know what you might catch in a photo in the moments following your first shot that you wouldn’t have seen if you only take one shot. You also run the risk of someone or something not being completely ready as you take your picture.

5) Be Still and Know…

Unless your camera has a very high-speed shutter, moving the camera as you shoot can be a problem. If you can use a tripod or stand, that’s the most stable. You probably don’t have time to set up a tripod for most of your pictures if you are an impromptu photographer, so just do your best to hold still when taking your picture. If you have trouble trying to touch the picture button without moving, sometimes you can push the volume buttons to take a picture. Just use whatever works best for you. Another thing to keep in mind is that the photo-taking process goes from a manual button push on the screen to a digital process as the software tells the lens to focus and the shutter to click, then back to the physical actions of the lens refocusing and then shutter opening/closing. All of this can take a short time, so keep the camera still for a second or two after taking the picture.


Good luck shooting!

July 28th, 2015

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Of the countless functions a cell phone has, one ‘hack’ is so simple and functional that it was almost revolutionary – the camera flash used as a flashlight. Cameras have always had flashes, but that’s all they did – flash – and quickly at that. When someone realized that a cell phone camera’s flash could be kept on, the world became a better place. No more burning your fingers with a lighter at a concert ballad. No more stubbing your toe getting to the other side of the room to turn on the light, no more fumbling around in the dark trying to get the key in to the dang keyhole. You have a light in your pocket!

But someone, in fact many ‘someones’ has taken this innocent, super-functional feature and turned it into a sinister, devilish, Orwellian tool. One glaring example is Goldenshores Technologies’ Brightest Flashlight app for Android. This app collected location information and unique device ID’s from tens of millions of its users, and then shared (pronounced sold) it to advertisers, even for users that specified they did not want their information collected or shared.

When you install an app, you are usually prompted when the app requests certain permissions. Here is a list of the rights requested by the #1 flashlight app for Android, Super Bright LED Flashlight…

  • control cell phone flashlight
  • prevent device from hibernating/sleeping
  • list of apps currently running
  • modify system settings
  • modify or delete your USB storage
  • take pictures/videos
  • view available Wi-Fi connections
  • get phone status and unique iD
  • receive Internet data
  • full network access
  • change system display settings

Now ask yourself, why on earth would a flashlight need anything beyond the top one or two items on the list? The obvious answer is they wouldn’t need those permissions. I’m sure if you read the fine print of the agreement when you installed the app, or if you ask the software company’s CEO, those reasons would be rationalized with some phony lawyer/developer jargon.

The best policy for installing any app, whether flashlight app or not, would be to review the permissions requested during installation. If you find the permissions to be liberal, then opt not to install the app, or if possible, install it without allowing it the permissions you prefer not to grant. It’s too bad that as soon as someone creates a revolutionary idea, someone else will find a way to exploit it.

July 19th, 2015

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I can still remember my first camera phone. The pictures were terrible, but I was so enthralled about not having to lug around a separate camera bag that it didn’t matter. Back then, the camera software was remedial, and photo editing non-existent and why would anyone need an accessory for that lousy phone camera? Well, that’s all changed now. Camera and phone now go hand in hand. Some of the cameras on today’s cell phones can legitimately be called enthusiast’s cameras. So of course there are accessories to go along with your camera phone. We will go over some of the must have accessories for your mobile phone camera. (more…)

July 9th, 2015

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May 7th, 2015

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