What is the camera that we carry around with us the most? Usually it's a camera-phone. It's compact, light and it's a necessity at this point in time where pay-phones are a dying breed. You can't find a pay-phone to save your life. Most people carry cell-phones and gone are the days when they were simplistic bricks that you used just to dial out or receive calls. Nowadays, it's like carrying a personal computer in your purse or pocket.
So how do you utilize it to best effect if you see a photo opportunity and don't have your expensive DSLR with you? Needless to say, it isn't the best solution to a DSLR but at least it will prevent the "moment" from getting away from you. But how do you get the best image possible out of your phone?
1. Avoid Subjects in Low Light - Low light on a camera phone is noise squared. The "gunk" that you get in your image - such as one like the stuff you see around the streetlight...is noise.
2. Avoid situating your subject in front of a lamp. The hotspot will create a flare that will drown out your subject in light. Remember phone cameras are extremely sensitive to light.
3. Avoid Zoom on your cell-phone camera - If you use zoom, you end up with noise. If you must get in closer, than move yourself physically closer to the subject.
4. If you have white balance capability, use it. The iPhone has automatic white balance that immediately gives you the proper white-balance. Other camera phones may not so check your user's manual.
5. Don't use your flash to illuminate subjects. Camera flashes are preset to the most powerful flash possible and you cannot lower the amount of flash. If you use flash indoors, you're breaking rule #1 and foremost your pictures are going to end up with ghost face (meaning white and featureless).
Solution:Position yourself half way between two decent light sources pointing 45 degrees towards the front of the subject and shoot (flash off). That way you don't have to utilize the flash and you avoid ghost face with camera flare as in this photo. Better yet, avoid taking photos in a bar.
6. For anything not a portrait, think about using rule-of-thirds. On the iPhone there's a grid function. Until you get the hang of shooting "rule of thirds" utilize that function. Position your subject so that it is dead in the center of one of the four grid intersections. Rule of Thirds creates tension in a photograph where your brain is trying to continue to resolve the tension (such as a portrait of a couple staring out towards an off-frame subject - utilize rule of thirds and you'll keep the viewer wondering just what the couple's attention is captured by) where as placing a subject smack in the center just creates a static image: "there it is...here you are."
Good photos are possible with the phone camera, it is just a matter of utilizing it to its best advantage.
These photos were all taken on the iPhone 4s.