Why Camera Phones Don’t Work For Assignments

by William Lulow

I thought I’d say a few words about camera phones. These days, they are trying to make them better. Some boast resolution up to 8 or 10 megapixels. So, people think that they are appropriate for making professional-type images. They do make great images for viewing on cell phones, but the problem comes when you try to use them for any kind of print or web job. There are several problems which arise making them really unusable for such purposes:

  1. They cannot be used with any off-camera light sources except hot lights (even then, the quality is not good enough)
  2. By the time the images are compressed by the phone’s camera, they are too small to be used elsewhere
  3. It is often extremely difficult to hold the camera phone steady enough for really sharp images
  4. Most camera phones don’t have threads to allow a tripod to be used
  5. The lenses, although pretty good for their size, cannot compete with even low-end digital cameras
  6. It is impossible to control exposures accurately
  7. If you try to use flash, you can’t control exactly when it will fire.

In addition, camera phones (and many lower end DSLRs) are designed to yield decent exposures and take care of the focusing for you. This actually inhibits much of the creative use of these cameras. The image won’t be recorded until the camera automatically figures out the correct exposure and focus. So, often, the moment you were trying to capture is lost.

I think I have a pretty steady hand and yet this was the best I could do at a recent  wedding:

Nicole&AndyStylized8x10This image was downloaded to Photoshop, retouched slightly, converted to black & white and sized to 8×10. It really isn’t too bad when viewed on my iPhone, but it wouldn’t stand even an enlargement to 4×6!

The point is that in this digital age, when we are so used to viewing images on one type of screen or another, we get fooled into thinking that the images are “good.” Or, that they are “good enough” for whatever purpose we have in mind. I can’t begin to tell you how many prospective clients say, “Oh, all I need is something for the web. It doesn’t have to be hi-res.” Well, there is an old saying in photography, especially digital image making that goes something like, “garbage in, garbage out.” This simply means that if the image lacks enough resolution to begin with, there certainly won’t be enough after it’s processed.

Don’t be fooled by the camera phone’s boast of 8 to 10 megapixel resolution because after the phone takes and processes the image, it is hardly ever usable except for viewing.

If you need a professional image, hire a professional and expect to pay what it costs for good, useable images.