Inspiration for a picture can hit at any time and not having a digital camera on hand can destroy that creative moment. This is where mobile camera phones with their new and enhanced resolutions and technological gadgetry are opening up the possibilities of artistic mastery. There are a number of things which people can then do to enhance their camera phone pictures, as Lorna Phillips explains.
Those special moments at your child's first birthday or your sister's wedding are easily caught on film but it's the unexpected pictures which are harder to capture. Those moments where flashes of joy pass across a friends face as they receive good news, or when you walk pass a beggar on the street and realise the terribleness of their situation and want to record that moment and the feelings you experienced. Digital cameras are no use at these times because these images have to be captured instantaneously. Most people nowadays do however have a mobile phone on them.
"I think that for everyday use camera phones are taking over from normal cameras. Most people now carry a mobile phone as a matter of course so if you have a camera phone then you always have a camera with you as well," said Lorna Phillips.
Mobile camera phones can certainly look and function much like digital cameras with their zoom and flash functions which create a number of artsy effects. Most will have sliding covers to protect the lenses from dust and the resolutions have got a lot better too. A digital resolution of two megapixels is now commonplace and Samsung recently unveiled their new eight megapixel camera which can produce images matching that of many digital cameras. Charlotte Nunes from the communications team at Uswitch recommends Sony Ericsson as being particularly strong in camera technology.
The technology it seems has finally caught up, and photographers now have too. There is a growing acceptance of mobile camera phone technology and an admiration for the photos which are produced.
Thirty-five year old Lorna Phillips, an artist from Bogota, Colombia, understands just how useful a mobile camera phone can be at that crucial moment. You'd expect an artist like Lorna to have the newest model of digital camera, yet she prefers her simple but functional Sony Ericsson K800. The camera on her phone has a modest 3.2 megapixel resolution, as well as an autofocus and bright xenon flash.
"I purchased the phone when I left the UK for Bogota in December," she said, "it's easy to use because there is no particular technique involved with taking pictures - you just point and click. I think that is one of the reasons why camera phones are so popular."
The ease and discretion of using a camera phone is certainly high on the agenda of many would be photographers.
"I don't go to any particular location to take pictures...the convenient thing about camera phones is the fact that they can be more discreet than taking out a conventional camera, so you can capture more opportunities during everyday life," said Lorna.
It's the ability to capture these unique moments which makes camera phones so practical.
"I think they are used by younger people more often though, perhaps because most young people own a mobile phone, and feel more comfortable with the technology of camera phones," said Lorna.
Indeed, it only takes a few minutes around a group of teenagers to see how much the mobile camera phone is a part of their lives. This is how they capture the world, share their moments, and show themselves. Most teen images on Myspace for example, are taken with a phone. This is unlikely to change as they get older because it is becoming a natural part of their life.
"I think there will still always be a place for normal cameras though," said Lorna, "they have a wide variety of uses which can't always be covered by camera phones."
So what else attracts people to camera phones?
Perhaps it is the multitude of facilities they offer the user. You can send pictures to friends and family quickly, anywhere in the world. They also have memory cards which are removable and slot into the computer easily for downloads. Most phones now have Bluetooth so if you are in range of another device, you can switch it on and send pictures for free. The arrival of 3G in 2002 also meant that network providers offer a web based storage facility which means you can upload your pictures from your phone and manage them on-line.
We also have ‘mobile weblogs,' where people can post their images and text on-line via their phone. Moblog is one of those sites which allows users to send camera pictures directly from their mobile phone to be put on-line in individual files, instantly sharing special moments with the rest of the world. The ability to publish a tale of your life immediately, as it happens, is all too rewarding. Surprisingly, a survey of users on Moblog found that the majority of photographers, 44%, used only a mid-range camera phone of one to two megapixels whereas only 1% used their digital cameras of three megapixels. Considering Moblogs are relatively new phenomena, you would assume only the photographically savvy would use them, and so have higher resolution cameras.
Lorna regularly uses these sites to post her camera phone pictures on-line.
"I post photos using Flicker because I think it is a great resource for photo sharing. It's possible to get great feedback worldwide for your images, and to view other peoples work to get inspiration for your own photos," said Lorna.
Flickr is certainly a popular site for camera phone lovers. There are an abundance of forums where users exchange their opinions on other people's pictures, and you also have the opportunity to become ‘buddies' with fellow artists.
Even if your camera phone is still not quite up to scratch, it's not a problem as there are always ways to improve your images once they're on-line.
"Using sites such as Picnik, you can link to your Flickr account, and it enables you to adjust your photos and improve them. Other than that, it's just practice, and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves," said Lorna.
Mobile camera phones have also created on-line gaming communities. Phone Tag is a particularly interesting site. It runs contests for people who take images with their mobile phones. Players are given a phrase or a term that they have to take a photo of, with themselves, and a sheet of paper which has Phone-Tag.com written on it. They send this photo to the website through their phone or by email as proof, for prizes. Other users vote for the most creative pictures.
You could easily assume then, that camera phones have been around forever especially considering that 95% of new phones sold now include a camera. Actually, the first was invented in 1997 by Philippe Kahn, an American technology innovator and entrepreneur and they were only available to buy commercially as recently as 2000. The first camera phones were also bulky and came with separate camera attachments which were difficult to use.
Nowadays, images from camera phones are constantly making it into the art world. The Newsflash competition, co-sponsored by the Times newspaper receives thousands of entries each year for the title of Camera phone Photographer of the year. Television stations also increasingly rely on customer-based content; pictures from the mobile phones of people who witnessed an important event. Camera phones are in this sense, also being used in photo journalism.
As an artist Lorna certainly finds her Sony Ericcson practical for those ‘I need my camera right now' moments. Her favourite camera phone picture has been added to the Flickr website and is entitled ‘Morning December Sky.'
"It is my favourite because it captures the colours and the movement of the sky in the early morning in December. I think you only get skies like that in the English countryside. It was taken at my mum's house which is in the South Cheshire countryside, and I was staying there just before leaving the country for Colombia. So it reminds me of my last few days in the UK," she said.
"I get inspiration from life generally and from other users of Flickr, and also my boyfriend who is an artist and photographer. It's all about spotting opportunities," she added.
And perhaps for that very reason camera phones are here to stay.
Link to Lorna's picture: www.flickr.com/photos/15185049@N02/2103093593/
Words by: Laura Hinton