Tips for Holiday Windows Phone Photography

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This week Microsoft announced a new Windows Phone Photo Challenge for holiday themed photos taken with your Windows Phone.  I’ve been taking a lot this month with my Windows Phone already, so we thought it would be fun to share some tips to help you get more interesting holiday photos.

Use Fingerprint smears on the lens

Usually, fingerprint grease on the lens makes for blurry or distorted images, but it’s not always noticeable.  When you take pictures of bright lights however, you can certainly get some interesting streaks out of those lights.  So why not use some of that fingerprint grease to your advantage?  In the above header photo I decided to actually rub my finger across the lens in a particular direction in order to get the lights to streak across the frame which made for an interesting effect.

Clean Fingerprints Off the Lens

Of course, sometimes those fingerprint streaks are completely unwelcome.  I like to carry a lens cleaner cloth in order to easily get rid of those distortions on the camera lens since you’re bound to get them on there just by holding the phone in normal usage.

Hold Still

A lot of your holiday season camera phone photos are probably going to be taken in low light.  Most phone cameras don’t have enough “speed” to get sufficient light absorption into the sensor fast enough to freeze action or avoid camera shake.  The Nokia Lumia 920 can help with this problem since it has hardware optical image stabilization which attempts to keep the camera modules steady for longer shutter speeds that can absorb more light. If you don’t have image stabilization, a good trick is to hold the phone against something solid like a telephone pole or the corner of a wall.  This can help significantly with maintaining image clarity in low light situations that require longer shutter speeds.  Additionally, if you’re taking pictures of moving subjects such as people, be sure to tell them to hold still, too!

Don’t Zoom or Crop Unless You Have To

In the above photo I chose to crop in on some Christmas decorations using my camera software, but already you can see a reduction in detail.  Most smartphones implement digital zooming, which basically simply reduces the photo to using a smaller portion of the sensor.  That means you’ll be capturing the light with far fewer megapixels.

Still, sometimes you need to crop in order to improve the composition. You can do this with a number of different photo editing apps that you can download, or you can use the native cropping tools built into Windows Phone 8.  Always try to keep cropping to a minimum though in order to maintain as much image quality as possible.

Know When To Use Autofix

Windows Phone includes an auto-fix option in the picture viewer that will look at the exposure of a photo and make some adjustments.  Usually this means balancing the histogram and bringing up the values in the shadow areas.  This is important since Windows Phones don’t have custom tonal curve settings and are generally tuned towards maintaining detail in the highlights, which when combined with a linear tonal curve, can make the shadow areas look underexposed.  The Autofix button often goes a long way in fixing those under-exposure issues.  However, as in the above photo, sometimes you want the shadows to stay dark.  In those cases, obviously you may not want to apply the autofix.

Have you taken any Holiday themed photos with your Windows Phone this year?  Be sure to check out the #WPphoto twitter stream to see some from other Windows Phone users this month, or feel free to post some of your own in the comments below.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!