Why are my mobile photos rubbish?

March 28, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hello there, and welcome to my first blog.

There is an increasing use of mobile phone images used on a daily basis for business. Reasons are fairly straight forward, you already have one, quick to use and straight to social media feeds. So why do your mobile images look so bad after spending a fortune on your new phone?

First off let's praise the mobile phone, a pocket computer that can put you in touch with family and friends anywhere in the world, keep you on track with maps, video calls, take photos and the font of most of humanities knowledge available at the click of a virtual button.

Mobile manufacturers spends countless millions on improving the camera specifications every year to persuade you to part with your hard earned cash. I believe Apple has over 800 staff working on the camera alone. A major investment. So why are some of the photos you take for your family or business not so great?

Let's look at how they take a photo. The Camera sensor in a modern mobile is about 1cm (ish) with multiple lenses and they headline the sales pitch with massive megapixels. But is more better? Imagine a pixel as a bucket that catches light. The bigger the bucket, the more light it can capture, the more light, the higher quality image. So the larger the sensor, the better right? Maybe...

Mobile phones use computational photography to gather light in as many pixel sites and combine them to form an image. However, when the light is not bright e.g. in the evening or inside a building your phone will try to compensate for the low light.

It does this in a couple of ways.

One, it will slow the shutter speed down so low that blur will occur unless the phone is really steady and your subject is also rock steady.

The other way is to supercharge the sensor to make it more sensitive to light, the trade off with increasing what is known as the ISO sensitivity, is to introduce digital noise which again degrades and softens the image.

If you're outside on a sunny day you're golden, with plenty of light the mobile camera will not be stressed, every setting will be nominal and you get great results.

The sensor in an actual camera is much larger in size and in most cases with less megapixels, captures more light, generating higher quality results, especially indoors.

So how can you get better results with your phone? Simple really, and I'm sure you have guessed, either steady the phone and subject or get more light, preferably both.

There is an increasing market online for constant light sources that can range from a few pounds on Amazon (other outlets are available) for a small unit, to eye watering, bank balance busting solutions from the likes of Kino Flo. 

So what do you look out for when you're buying? First, ensure the lights are safe as there are some out there that may not fully conform to UK safety specs, so buy from a reputable dealer. Ensure the lights, usually LED, are daylight balanced for accurate colours. A fair few come as RGB enabled so allow for different lighting effects. (I would keep clear of the large curly light bulb type as they're a bit rubbish).

The larger the subject the more powerful the light will have to be. You're not going to light up a person with a small torch but you do not
require a massive light set up if you're photographing the likes of jewellery.

You can also make the light source larger by placing it in what is called a soft box, this diffuses the light making it larger and less harsh.

The other solution is to hire a photographer who knows their camera system inside out as a trade tool and is knowledgeable about lighting.

On that note thanks for staying till the end, hope that helped a bit.

Next time I will have a go at how to get the best out of your mobile camera.

Regards, Dave


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