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Lights! Camera! Action!

Wed Jul 9, 2008 - 2:45 PM EDT - By Joe Tunon

Intro: Say "Cheese"

In three little �how-to�s�, I�ll help you get the most from your Centro�s (or Treo�s) built in camera. I�m not going to turn your phone into a 5 megapixel camera, but between the manual that you never read (or read and forgot), the menu options you�ve seen but never clicked on, and a little undocumented playing around, there are a few things you can do that turn your cheesy little camera into� well, a slightly better cheesy little camera!

Part one: Lights!

Every Treo and Centro owner is painfully aware that the camera takes better pictures outdoors. Every time I read one of those how-to articles informing you that �for the best quality possible, take pictures outdoors or in well lit situations�, I feel like shooting someone (and I don�t mean with the camera). Gee, thanks for enlightening us to something we figured out the first time we took an indoor and an outdoor picture and saw the annoying difference! I won�t bother you with the same painfully obvious tip.

But there is a neat trick you probably didn�t know. And again, this will not sharpen your picture by a single pixel. In fact, this little trick will actually sacrifice a bit of clarity, but it can make the picture remarkably brighter in very dark settings.

Have you ever noticed before taking pictures in dimly lit situations that the camera tries to �figure out� the lighting for a second right after you start the camera application? It takes a second before �settling in� to what it thinks should be the brightness setting, and that setting is usually too dark. Well, you can take advantage of that little adjustment window and get a brighter indoor or at night by snapping the shot before the camera has time to adjust. How? The right timing, the right dim lighting, and a little trickery.

Position your phone to take the picture you want. Once your subject is in frame, hold the phone steady, put your other hand in front of the camera lens so that it covers the lens, showing you complete darkness on the screen. There�s no need to touch the lens, just put your hand in front of it close enough that you do not see fingers or anything, just darkness. (Slightly cupping your hand makes it easier so that you don�t touch the lens). What you�re going to do next is snap the picture, and less than second AFTER snapping it, remove your hand. The timing of this will take a little trial and error. Just try it. It�s actually fun figuring out the right timing. If you do it too quickly, you get a blank shot because your hand was still in front of the lens, or you�ll get a blurry shot of your hand as it�s moving out of the way. But if you get it juuust right, if you can get the picture to snap after your hand is out of the way but before the camera has time to readjust to the environment, what you�ll end up with is a picture that is significantly brighter than how it would have come out without the trick.

Try it! The trick is taking the picture before you move your hand out of the way. Put your hand in front of the lens, snap, and remove the hand. If you got the picture, take it again without the hand in the way. In most cases, you will see no difference whatsoever (especially on the Centro, which got smart and adjusts for lighting more effectively than the Treo). In other cases, the resulting picture might actually be TOO bright! But in a few wonderful, rare cases where the lighting is just dim enough, you will have a perfectly usable shot that would have otherwise been impossible! Getting the right timing at first can border between fun and aggravating, but with a little practice, you�ll be able to tell quickly if the trick will work in your particular lighting, and you�ll be taking shots in dimly lit situations that you used to give up on.

I hope this little trick �enlightened� you a little bit. Next: Part 2: �Camera!�

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