The smart phone undoubtedly represents the most advanced collection of devices in the history of humankind. If you want to contact someone, anywhere on the planet, you have a myriad of choices to accomplish the task: telephone, instant messaging, email, etc.
If you need a gadget, the smart phone can become it: a calculator, a compass, a GPS, and thousands of other functions.
One of its most common uses is that of the camera obscura. In fact, it contains 2 cameras. The rear or normal camera and the front or ‘selfie' camera. Everybody has become a photographer. Or has he/she?
Although smart phone cameras and apps are capable of some stunning results, to get the very best results, they require some knowledge of basic photography. And these results are attainable only using the normal camera. That selfie camera is a flawed and compromised device by comparison. I almost never see a good photo shot with a selfie camera. Don’t believe me? Look at a few cover photos on Facebook. Very few good ones. These are the ones shot with either a rear camera or a dedicated camera. Most shot as selfies are dreadful.
Let me explain some differences.
We’ll start with resolution commonly referred to as megapixels. Generally, the higher the number of megapixels, the more content in the photo. This can equate to sharper images that can be cropped with better results. The rear camera can have as many as 3-4 times the number of megapixels as the front camera. Advantage rear camera.
There is also the matter of pixel size. This is not often considered, but is pretty important in many circumstances. The larger the pixel size, generally, the less light is required to get a good image. Pretty important when you are in a low light environment, which is usually the case indoors. The pixels in the rear camera sensor are bigger, so again advantage rear camera.
Now let’s compare lenses. The normal camera, although it doesn’t have a long focus lens, doesn’t have as wide angle a lens as the selfie. The selfie camera lens is designed to be used close to the subject – within arm’s length. In order to capture the subject in the frame, therefore, the lens must be wide angle. Here is the problem. When wide angle lenses are combined with close subjects, the perspective does some weird things. The objects closest to the lens appear proportionally bigger than they do normally. So, if your camera angle is low, and the subject is your face, your chin is exaggerated. Not a flattering result. If the angle is high, the forehead gets big. Also, not flattering – especially with receding hairlines. If the angle is square to the subject, the nose is pronounced. Who wants that? Advantage rear camera.
The solution? Well, there really isn’t a perfect one. The camera is a combination of compromises. The best solution is to have someone else snap the picture using the rear camera. But if you insist, to get the best results with the selfie camera:
1. Increase the distance to the subject. That requires a selfie stick. If the resulting image is too wide, use your digital zoom or crop it. This will reduce resolution but will reduce distortion. Note: Try to keep the camera steady to keep the image blur manageable. And practice being smooth with the shutter release. A difficult task with the camera at the end of a long stick (but very important no matter which camera you are using.) Another of those pesky compromises.
2. Use a slightly higher than square camera angle. That will usually put the inevitable distortion in the least objectionable spot.
3. Make sure the light is NOT behind you. The light will fool your camera’s exposure sensor and make the subject appear dark. If positioning so the light is coming from the front isn’t possible, use the flash. That might cause red-eye in the subject, but most smartphones can adequately correct this.
Hopefully, I have given you some ammunition to get selfies that are less fuzzy, blurred, and dark. But, if in doubt, you can always hire a professional photographer.