A very patient and knowledgeable salesman showed me different models and explained the different qualities of each. As he came to the model I now own, a HTC Incredible, he pointed out how good the camera was on this phone. I slightly puffed up, explaining him that I'm a professional photographer and surely would NOT ever use a cell phone to take pictures...mark my words...Long story short, I ended up buying that model, for the simple reason that I could remember it's special feature, the camera....
So far so good, after a few challenging weeks I finally mastered my new "device" and was happy. Not long after I went to the beach with the dogs, needless to say without my camera equipment but with my phone, and the light was just perfect. Muttering to myself that I should have taken the camera, a little voice whispered in my head: "your cell phone has a camera...". Well, I had nothing to loose, right? So I tried it, and took one photo, hmmm, didn't look too bad, took another one, even better. Meanwhile I had to download my images twice to my computer because the phone storage was full......
Still, even the best cell phone camera can certainly not replace a SLR, but for sharing on the web and small prints it actually can work.
On a recent trip to Oregon I exclusively used the phone to take pictures, not because of the lack of equipment but because I either couldn't take the camera or we went spontaneously somewhere and I didn't have my camera with me.
Since almost everybody now has a camera in his or her phone, I thought you might enjoy a few ideas on how to get better images with it:
This outing to Arnold's Ice Cave was one of the unplanned side trips and I knew I wouldn't have a chance to come back. As you can see, it got quite dark there towards the entry of the cave, and also very cold...;-) As with a normal camera, your phone probably has an ISO setting. If you are trying to photograph in darker areas, change your ISO from 200 or auto to 800 or as high as it goes. Since you won't print your photo big anyway, it does not matter if it's a bit grainy, at a small size you won't notice and it prevents a blurry picture, just don't forget to put it back to normal after the shoot.
Avoid very contrasty scenes. Luckily the clouds here were not bright white and I avoided to include the part of the rocks that was already in deep shadow.
If you have an even lit scene with one bright spot, it's likely to blow out and ruin the photo. Try tilting your camera slightly, up or down, left or right. I have have no explanation as to why this works, I guess it helps if the light hits the lens at an angle.
Since you can't manually set your exposure or use filters, sometimes it's just hit or miss. Again, tilting the phone a bit often helps. At the above scene the foreground is a bit to dark, in the below image it worked...
The lens on the cell phone doesn't have a lens cap and it is most of the time exposed to all kinds of dirt in your jeans pocket, purse or car. Check and clean before you shoot.
Forget about the "I can fix it in Photo Shop", it doesn't work, or at least not as good as with a "real" photo. I tried to tone down the blown out water in this image of Tumalo Falls, without great success.
Due to the shutter lag (you press the shutter and it takes a short but noticeable time until the camera takes the photo) anything moving fast is a challenge. If you can, have your "model" slow down or stop before you take a picture.
The phone camera is perfect for "out of the airplane window" photos, just don't forget to put it in airplane mode!