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Camera phone: Jargon buster

A mere decade ago, megapixel counts on digital cameras capped out at 3-megapixels with little chance of pocketability being thrown into the mix. Now, camera phone’s are bumping up the pixels and rocking some pretty impressive lenses considering they aren’t dedicated cameras, making each and every active camera phone owner a recreational photographer.

There’s therefore never been a better time to learn a bit about photography, so we’ve put together a helpful breakdown of terms to help you improve your understanding behind some of the processes, followed by some practical tips and tricks in a companion guide which will be up tomorrow.

ISO: Sensitivity to light

  • Ranges on phones from roughly 100 to 800
  • 100 – not sensitive, 800 – sensitive
  • When you make the sensor more sensitive, on the plus, it picks up more detail in low light, but on the negative, it produces a more grainy picture.
  • High ISO (sensitivity) also means the picture is taken faster, so increasing the ISO can also help with shaky hands and when taking quick sports shots.

White balance: Colour accuracy settings

Cameras have auto-white balance which determines colour accuracy, however, additional white balance presets give the user more control:

  • Incandescent – also known as tungsten lighting, it looks a bit yellow and can be found in most homes
  • Daylight – best enables the camera to cope outside in good lighting
  • Fluorescent – bright, white to blue lighting found in shops tends to be fluorescent, switch to this setting to warm up the shots a little
  • Cloudy – when outside on an overcast day this setting should brighten things up
  • Different cameras have additional options and apply the same logic as above.


There are two types of phone camera:

  • Auto-focus can focus on objects close up and far away
  • Fixed focus can only focus on objects above a certain distance away, usually about 0.5m>
  • Face detection helps both focus and metering lock onto a face to make the best face shot possible.

Camera buttons for auto-focus cameras can be two-stage. This means you can half press to lock-on focus, fully press to take the shot.

Macro: Close-up shots

  • Lens on a camera focuses in on close up objects
  • Only applicable on auto-focus cameras

Metering: How bright / dark to make the picture

  • Makes sure darks aren’t just black blobs and retain some detail
  • Prevents light elements such as sky from being white blobs
  • Centre weighted takes a general centre area when deciding brightness
  • Spot metering takes a specific comparatively small spot, usually in the centre
  • Matrix chooses metering based on the entire shot

Depth of field: Blurry background

  • Shallow depth of field – blurry background sharp foreground
  • Deep focus – everything in the shot is in focus and detailed

If you want to know how to manipulate your pictures, get great metering, perfect your low light shots or indeed blur that background, read on to our Camera phone: Tips and tricks coming soon.


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