BlackBerry photos don’t have to suck

The latest edition of Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Connection newsletter went out yesterday, and the mailing included more than a dozen tips and tricks on how to improve your BlackBerry-digital-camera know-how.

Most of the suggestions are fairly basic, but they’re worth a look—especially if you frequently employ your smartphone to snap pictures. I’ve also got a couple of related tips of my own that you won’t find in any RIM newsletter. Keep reading for specifics.

First, RIM’s tips:

  1. Get closer to your subjects
  2. Hold your hand steady
  3. Be patient
  4. Use the flash when necessary
  5. Use photos to help remember future errands/tasks/etc.
  6. Organize your digital media using BlackBerry folders
  7. Share images via digital photo apps like Flickr, Facebook or MySpace for BlackBerry
  8. Use a photo editor (There are free options)
  9. Modify white balance settings
  10. Experiment with built-in color effects like black & white or sepia
  11. Employ geotagging, where available, to tie location info to images
  12. Modify BlackBerry image quality camera settings

Again, most of these are somewhat obvious, but each and every one will indeed help to make you a better BlackBerry photog. And much more detail on each item is available on RIM’s site.

I use my BlackBerry camera fairly frequently, and I’ve experimented with all the suggestions mentioned above and more. One tip that’s often overlooked due to its simplicity: Make sure your camera lens is clear of dust and other debris.

The simplest way to do this is to wipe both the lens and flash, found on the rear side of your camera-equipped ‘Berry, with a Q-Tip or other cotton swab. I’m also a fan of La Fresh’s Travel Wipes, which can be used to clean your smartphone’s screen in addition to your camera lens. If you don’t have any of these products handy, a paper towel or tissue will do, but make sure to use a quality brand that won’t just leave more of a mess.

My other suggestion is an extension of RIM’s second tip: Hold your hand steady. I’ve had the best luck using both hands. I use one thumb and forefinger on the top and bottom to hold my BlackBerry horizontally in place while my other hand holds the device like I normally would, with a thumb on the trackball and the rest of my hand wrapped around its side.

This is particularly helpful when using RIM’s new BlackBerry Curve 8900 or Storm devices. Both handsets have higher resolution cameras than other BlackBerry models—3.2 megapixels compared to 2.0 megapixels—as well as a new autofocus feature.

The autofocus in particular really makes a difference in picture quality. But it also causes a delay after you click your trackball or screen to snap an image, so holding your device steady for those final few seconds is crucial.

In addition to the cameras usage tips, RIM also included a breakdown of the BlackBerry Camera Settings in the newsletter. I won’t get into details, but if you’re new to using a BlackBerry shooter, these tips are a great place to familiarize yourself with RIM’s camera application.

The most interesting tidbit from the camera settings section:

“If the [BlackBerry] battery power level drops below 20 percent, the flash dims to conserve battery power. In cold temperatures, when the battery power level drops below 20 percent, the flash might turn off.”

Apparently there are battery-life-protection measures built into the camera app that jump into action whenever the temperature drops below a certain level. Who knew?


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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