Fixing your cameraphone photos, easily and on the cheap

The only cameraphone that I regularly have with me is the camera in my Motorola Q Smartphone.  Unfortunately, the camera is really bad.  You need a steady hand and LOTS OF LIGHT to get a somewhat OK picture. However, you can use some free software to help make them better.

First, let’s talk about the cameraphone.  To get acceptable photos, you should set your resolution to the highest that your phone supports.  If you have the option, you should set the brightness to something appropriate for everyday use. On my Q, that would be ‘0’. Your zoom should be 1x.  Most camerphones only have digital zoom.  Set it to 1 so your photos won’t be overly blocky.  White balance should be set to automatic.  Unless you are specifically taking lots of photos in inside, automatic should work fine.

Once you have taken your photos and imported them into your computer, you are ready to begin fixing them.  It is possible that some won’t need any work. That is fine, just ignore them.  For our purposes, the photos will need some work.

There are two decent-and free-tools you can download to aid in fixing your photos. One is specific to Windows and the other is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.  That is Picasa from Google.  Both applications do a decent job at fixing basic problems like color balance, sharpness and contrast.  Both feature an automatic fix button, which does surprisingly well and will suffice in many cases.

Picasa 3

picasa3edit1 Select your photo and double click.  You will see your photo in the editor.  You have several options to choose from. Look at the tabbed pane on the left side of the window.  To perform an overall ‘fix’, click the ‘I’m Feeling lucky’ button.  Contrast, color balance, and light are all fixed, at least as best as it can.  Picasa offers a few more fixes that you can do manually.  Say your photo is an outdoor photo, but the sky is not the proper color.  picasa3edit3 Go ahead and click the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button and then click the Tuning tab.  Next, look for ‘color temperature’.  Slide the bar to the left to make the photo bluer or to the right to make it more orange.  Blue is cool, orange is warm.  You want warm is the day was really sunny and you want cool if the day was more overcast.  You also want cool if you want your photo to appear more blue if the camera did not capture the sky correctly. Frequently, my Moto Q will render the sky more white or grey if the lower portion of the photo is busy and colorful. I have yet to figure out why it does this.  If any photo experts know, please share your knowledge with us.  Anyway, the next thing you can do to ‘punch up’ the photo is experiment with the shadows. Move the Shadows bar to the right just a little.  Portions of the photo will picasa3edit5 darken.  Don’t worry.  Slide the Fill light bar to the right to balance out the rest of the photo.  By experimenting with these two bars, you should get a reasonable looking photo.  The highlights bar should not be moved much at all.  All it will do is enhance the noise in the picture.  I usually leave it alone.  If you look at the bottom of the Tuning box, you will see the ‘natural color picker’.  This works well when you have a legitimate color to select. Usually something white.  Click the button on the right and then click a white area on the picture.  Picasa will make a best guess-which is often correct-as to the proper color tint and balance.  If you don’t like it, you can click the undo button. Once you are satisfied with what you have done, click the ‘Back to Library’ button above the options.  Remember to save your work once your back to the library.  You will find the save button in the upper right of the current library selection.

I will focus on the Windows Live Photo Gallery in another post.

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