As cell phone cameras get more sophisticated, they’re quickly overtaking point-and-shoot cameras as the most popular tool for taking pictures. Each generation of cell phone camera has more megapixels, stronger flashes and fancier features. But these ubiquitous instruments still have limitations. Two professional photographers join Kojo to share tips for getting the most from the camera baked into your phone.


  • Pamela Chen Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic magazine
  • Melanie Otto Professional photographer; Instructor with The Washington Photo Safari


  • 12:07:41

    MR. KOJO NNAMDI...National Geographic commissioned a Grand Canyon photo essay using the new 41 megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020 camera phone. In the hands of professionals, cell phone cameras clearly take great pictures. We've got two professionals here to help us amateurs take good photos, too. Melanie Otto is back. She's a professional photographer instructor with Washington Photo Safari. Melanie, great to see you again.

  • 12:08:07

    MS. MELANIE OTTOIt's wonderful, Kojo.

  • 12:08:09

    NNAMDIAnd joining us in studio is Pamela Chen, Senior Photo Editor with National Geographic Magazine. Pamela Chen, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:08:17

    MS. PAMELA CHENThank you for having me.

  • 12:08:18

    NNAMDIYou, too, can participate in this conversation, you cell phone photo taker, you. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to You can send us a tweet at kojoshow using the hash tag techtuesday. What cell phone do you have, and how do you like the camera? What's your favorite feature on your cell phone camera? 800-433-8850. Let's start with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras. Pam, I'll start with you. They're everywhere today. When you always have a camera in your pocket, how does that effect the way you see the world, and how does it influence the moments you choose to capture?

  • 12:08:59

    CHENI think, well, for me personally, having worked with a professional camera, there's a -- it has a job to do. You're carrying a professional camera, every time you pull it out, you're making a picture that you will have to download and process and upload and -- onto your computer with a card reader, and all these things. But, when you have a camera in your pocket, and it's your phone, it does change the way you see.

  • 12:09:30

    CHENBecause you start to notice the in between moments, things that you wouldn't think would be worth capturing, or would be worth the effort of pulling out a huge camera, composing it, thinking about it. It's a way to see the world through moments that you take for granted.

  • 12:09:53

    NNAMDIAnd the same question for you, Melanie.

  • 12:09:55

    OTTOIt's kind of like a modern version of a Polaroid. Not a serious, you know, not your serious big gear, not even your more serious point and shoot, but something that you have on hand. I find it's really useful, sometimes, to scout a photo location. If I see, if I have an idea from that, I think, oh wow, let me get this, and then I can come back with my real gear. Real, quote unquote. And it's, they're fun for all sorts of stuff.

  • 12:10:24

    NNAMDIHow are advances in cell phone cameras changing the lineup of cameras that you use? When do you reach for your cell phone camera as opposed to a single lens reflex camera or a point and shoot? If you happen to have all of those with you?

  • 12:10:41

    OTTOWell, I'll talk about video for just a second. I had a wonderful cat who I had to put to sleep last year. He was 20. And, yeah, and the last year, I -- you know, he was skinny and little, didn't wanna have him become hawk bait, but I let him go outside and, now and again, and I thought, one day, I wonder what he sees. I've had this cat for 20 years and he walks around very low to the ground. And so I took my cell phone, and I almost say cell camera, and put it in video, and put it down low, and walked along with it, just behind his shoulder.

  • 12:11:10

    OTTOAnd I saw the world in a completely different way. So, you never know where this may come in handy.

  • 12:11:14

    NNAMDIYou mean you crawled along?

  • 12:11:16

    OTTORight. I put it down low.

  • 12:11:19

    NNAMDIAnd then you bent over very, very low.

  • 12:11:20

    OTTOVery. Yeah.

  • 12:11:20

    NNAMDIAnd so you got the cat's eye view of the world?

  • 12:11:23

    OTTOYes. In video. And I just turned it where he looked, and, it was, you know, a completely different way of seeing.

  • 12:11:28

    NNAMDIFascinating. Pam?

  • 12:11:29

    CHENWell, I think, as photographers, we're always looking for ways to communicate visually. And having the phone that you can pull out, it's like a journal.

  • 12:11:38


  • 12:11:38

    CHENLike you're saying, the Polaroid is like a journal. It's a journal of your day. And sometimes, if you don't remember what happened to you during the day, you can pull out your camera roll and see, gosh, I did -- these were the places I went today. And pluck out, I could easily just pluck out one of those moments out of this stream of consciousness, of visual consciousness, and send it to my sister. And say, look, look what I did today.

  • 12:12:01

    NNAMDIWhat cell phone camera do you use?

  • 12:12:04

    CHENI actually have a iPhone 4s right now. I'm very excited about the new iPhone that's come out, but right now, really, it does what I need it to do, you know? It is my journal. It's the way I look at -- I walk through life and I have the camera in my hand all the time.

  • 12:12:22

    NNAMDIHow about you, Melanie?

  • 12:12:23

    OTTOIt's a Droid Razor X. Razor Max. Thank you. Had it about a year and a half. Eventually, you know, it's about the two year time period that you flip them.

  • 12:12:34

    NNAMDIOne of the limitations of cell phone cameras is that they don't, apparently, zoom very well. How do you compensate for the lack of zoom?

  • 12:12:44

    OTTOCropping, which does basically the same sort of thing, but it gives me a little bit more -- very rarely do I zoom it, you know? I'll do it when I have to, but usually I try to figure out if there's a way to -- a friend of mine once called it God Zoom, and I said, what in the heck is that? And she said, your feet. And I thought that was very cute in that, you know, if I can, I will get closer to something or try to, you know, change my angle of view to get that same story.

  • 12:13:08

    CHENI think that's really an important point, Melanie, because I -- the zoom on the camera, I almost pretend that it doesn't exist. Because what happens is it's a digital zoo, it's not a real zoom, so every pixel is being enlarged in the post production process, not actual. So, feet is the only way to go.

  • 12:13:28


  • 12:13:28

    CHENOr change the way you compose the picture and maybe get a wider view.

  • 12:13:33

    NNAMDIAs some veteran war photographer used to say, if the picture's not working, get closer.

  • 12:13:39

    OTTOYep. Yep.

  • 12:13:39

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call for you to come closer to this conversation. It's a "Tech Tuesday" conversation, offering professional tips on cell phone photography. You can also send us email to What images do you capture on your camera phone that you might not get on a regular camera? 800-433-8850. Cell phone cameras do well in strong light and not as well in low light. How does that effect the focus of a shot, and what apps are out there to help deal with light issues? Starting with you, Pam.

  • 12:14:13

    CHENOh. I like to use this app that was recommended to me by some of the National Geographic photographers. It's very popular with them. It's called 645 Pro. And with that app, it really converts your camera, your, gosh, I just called it a camera, your phone. It turns your phone into, the interface, into the back of the camera.

  • 12:14:36

    NNAMDIDo you think of, do you think, do you think of your mobile device as a camera with a phone, don't you?

  • 12:14:39

    CHENI do, actually.

  • 12:14:40


  • 12:14:40

    NNAMDIAnd that's why she keeps referring to it like that? Yes.

  • 12:14:42

    CHENI keep calling it a camera.

  • 12:14:43


  • 12:14:44

    CHENYes, it's a, it turns the interface into what you may see on the back of a camera. And one of the best functions that we like to use on it is it allows you to lock the exposure separate from the focus. So I could expose, for a bright spot of light, and then recompose my picture, and focus on a different element.

  • 12:15:10


  • 12:15:12

    OTTOYeah. As far as the pixel-y noise issue, in low light, there's very little, initially. Post process, yes. To get away from some of that noise, as there has been for the DSLR's. As far as an app that I use frequently, Snap Seed is one of them. I work with a couple different ones, depending on what I'm trying to do. And, you know, if I can do it while I'm shooting, I prefer to do it that way rather than fuss with it afterward, because these are so off the cuff that you usually, you have idea in your mind aside from the initial shot.

  • 12:15:47

    OTTOAnd then, you want to create that thing instead of, like, oh, I'll do it afterward. Hmm. And then, where's the time?

  • 12:15:51

    NNAMDICell phone cameras do not have a very strong or adjustable flash. What challenges does that present, and what opportunities does it present?

  • 12:16:01

    OTTOI think, basically, the best thing you can do is consider using the exposure compensation, which is the brightness factor. And that will help. It is still not as precise as one would wish. The other choice, and what Pamela was just saying, is that you -- that's a fantastic feature on that particular app. The way around it, sometimes, is to simply ask the camera to focus on the thing, whether it's the bright thing or something that's in a dimmer area. And that will adjust the exposure, usually, to match, and that helps.

  • 12:16:32


  • 12:16:33

    CHENI think, with any camera, the phone is another tool for creativity. And I think, as we were talking earlier, having this camera changes the way you see. Well, understanding the limitations of the flash can also help you become really creative. So, if you know the flash is really weak, maybe that changes the way you use it, and I think a lot of our photographers do that. Even the other day, I was taking a picture of my cats at night, and I turned the flash on...

  • 12:17:03

    NNAMDIWhat's it with you and the pictures of the cats? First Melanie getting her cat's eye level, and now you with the pictures of your -- and it's my understanding you do a lot of pictures of your cats.

  • 12:17:12

    CHENOh, I think the world needs more cat photos.

  • 12:17:15

    OTTOOne of the major reasons of using the internet anymore is looking at cat -- anyway.

  • 12:17:19

    NNAMDIYes. Please go ahead. I'm sorry.

  • 12:17:20

    CHENOh, no. You know, I -- there's always a chance to be surprised by the tools you have, and I think the phone allows people to really experiment much more frequently, and through the experimentation, you can get a lot more surprises that you like.

  • 12:17:34

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. You can also send us a tweet at kojoshow using the hash tag techtuesday. You can send email to or, as I said, you can simply call on the phone. 800-433-8850. Let's talk with Lewis in Silver Spring. Lewis, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:17:58

    LEWISWell, thanks Kojo. My problem is one very near to my heart. My wife and I took our 26th wedding anniversary vacation to Alaska, took a lot of photos with my Apple 4s. Verizon is the carrier. I returned home and I found that there was message from Verizon that I needed to update the operating system on my 4s. I did that without backing up my photos, and when the update was completed, I discovered that all of my vacation photos had disappeared. And I'm eager, if there's some way, to get my photos restored

  • 12:18:45

    LEWISI made the mistake of not backing it up, you know, on the iCloud or through any other mechanism.

  • 12:18:54

    NNAMDIAnd you'd like to know if you can get your photos back. My suggestion would be to take another vacation, but that might not be appropriate right now. See what Melanie Otto can offer.

  • 12:19:05

    OTTOWell, that one's really, really tough, Lewis. You know, when we were dealing with the bigger cameras and saving them, and sometimes something would go bad. Your card would go bad or something like that. There's programs out there that are like photo rescue, and that would help -- they would basically hunt around on whatever you told them to go looking in, whether your hard drive, an external drive, whatever. And it would try to find and recapture, and re-put together, like a puzzle, you images.

  • 12:19:34

    OTTOI'm wondering if there is something that you can use, whether it's been fractured, on your SD card. That sort of thing. You might have to hunt around, but that's the only thing I can think of right off the bat.

  • 12:19:45

    NNAMDIAny suggestions, Pam?

  • 12:19:47

    CHENI agree with Kojo. You should take another vacation. It hurts my heart to hear, because, you know, that's, I guess that's another reason why, for me, increasingly, this is a camera that is also a phone. And like any camera, we have to be so careful. I'm completely nervous all the time about losing pictures. I have three constant backups going on regularly. The iCloud, Dropbox

  • 12:20:17

    OTTODropbox is great.

  • 12:20:17

    CHENMy sister turned me on to Dropbox, so every time you're connected to wireless, the pictures you just took would upload into your Dropbox camera uploads folder. And then every month, I back it up to a hard drive. And this is a similar process to what National Geographic photographers do in the field. There's backups upon backups upon backups, and increasingly more, the phone is another camera that you have to think about this with, that you have to do it with. It's really hard to get files back once you've lost them with a system update.

  • 12:20:47

    NNAMDISteve, very sorry about that. Hope this works out for you. Thank you very much for your call. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we continue our "Tech Tuesday" conversation on cell phone photography. Taking your calls at 800-433-8850. What new feature would you like to see on a cell phone camera? You can send us an email to I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:22:55

    NNAMDIIt's "Tech Tuesday" cell phone camera school with Pamela Chen, Senior Photo Editor of National Geographic Magazine. She joins us in studio, along with Melanie Otto, professional photographer and instructor with Washington Photo Safari. We got an email from Tracy who says, "I'm finally trading in my dinosaur phone for a smart phone. Everyone in my family has iPhones, but I think there's another phone with a better camera." Do you have any advice for a luddite, Melanie?

  • 12:23:27

    OTTOWell, if you're looking, check into the Nokia. They've done a bunch of work toward putting in better lenses and a very decent sensor. So, your photos, so when you think, give me my camera, I mean, my phone, you'll get better stuff out of it. They're also using something, we should mention, is called oversampling. And what it's doing is it's picking up information from each of the pixels that makes up the sensor.

  • 12:23:54

    OTTOAnd then it sort of, they're calling them something like super pixels or something like that, and it's gonna cut out a lot of the noise. It's gonna have slightly better color rendition and this sort of thing. They say there's a crazy huge, like, 34 or 41 megapixel. That's relative to the size of the sensor, and the sensors are really quite small. So that doesn't translate into the same thing as a DSLR. But, that one would be certainly one I would look at.

  • 12:24:16

    NNAMDIPam, cell phone cameras have a little bit of lag time when you press the shutter. Any tips for dealing with that?

  • 12:24:23

    CHENYeah, it's a, it's like a dance, actually, I would say. There's a different cadence to it, you know? When you press a shutter on a DSLR, you -- there is also a lag, but you don't notice it as much, and so you get used to it. With the phone, I, I find that I breathe in between taps on the shutter because I don't want the camera to shake. But also because I know that there will be a pause, and if I press it again, it'll crash.

  • 12:24:52

    CHENSo, it changes the way I pace myself when I shoot, you know? Between every picture, there's a breath. And it's like, you can see it disappear.

  • 12:25:02

    NNAMDIAh. That's a fascinating thing. Take a breath. Okay, on now to Steve in Arlington, Virginia. Steve, your turn.

  • 12:25:11

    STEVEThanks a lot, Kojo. My question is, after we have these hundreds and hundreds of photos from our phones and cameras, what are the best options for processing them, renaming them, finally organizing them, and then storing them in the cloud or elsewhere?

  • 12:25:32


  • 12:25:33

    CHENOh. Thanks for that question. It's kind of -- we joke that stories now have a longer now than they ever do, you know? Things never go away. You have to be able to find everything. Once you fill up a hard drive, you have to get another hard drive. It just never ends. And then you have a lot of hard drives. How do you know what's on them? One of the things that I've come to terms with is there isn't a great answer for that right now.

  • 12:26:01

    CHENBut, in the meantime, one saving grace is to keep your meta data up to date. Make sure the phone's date and time is set right, and so every time you take a picture that that time is stamped on the photo. Because, eventually, no matter -- there's a lot of software out there that helps you organize your archive, and you can start treating your iPhone or camera phone photographs as your archive. The meta data will save you.

  • 12:26:27

    CHENSo, every time you upload them into your computer, make sure you're tagging them with a location, with a date at the very basics. Or even with a caption. And so you'll be able to search them. And I think the search is going to be key, no matter how you're backing it up.

  • 12:26:44

    OTTOYeah. I'm usually dropping it into folders that I've labeled by year and then sub folders that, you know, saying explorations in D.C., or cherry blossoms again. Then the year or whatever. Every year, I don't wanna go because, of course, I've got those pictures, but every year they seduce me back, so, yeah, the dates really do matter.

  • 12:27:01

    NNAMDISteve, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. Some cell phone cameras let the user adjust the white balance. For those of us who might be novices, what is the white balance, and how do you adjust it on a camera phone?

  • 12:27:16

    OTTOWhite balance, you're dealing with that light has color. Sunshine today, lovely day. All of the colors are there when the sun hits a prism, you get a rainbow that shows all of them. Our brains neutralize them, normally, depending on what your light source is. And so, when you're taking stuff with a phone, it's going to guess, because it's an automatic white balance. It can get fooled. So, the best thing you can do, and we talk about this in classes I teach, is to determine what the color of your light source is that's going to be landing on your subject.

  • 12:27:46

    OTTOAnd the landing on your subject part is a big deal. And then in your cell phone menus and apps menus, there's always something that says, pretty much, WB. Hit that, and then you can tell it, I'm dealing with incandescent lighting, the common one for most households, florescent, which is usually, you know, in an office. Cloudy days, that sort of thing. And, usually, the color accuracy is much better, you know?

  • 12:28:08

    OTTOYou don't have strange looking skin from being under florescent green lights or something icky like that.

  • 12:28:12

    NNAMDIBack to the telephones. On, now, to Amy in Washington, D.C., who might have a solution for our previous caller Lewis. Amy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:28:20

    AMYHi there. I just wanted to share that on my cell phone, which is an Android phone from Verizon, in this case, that I had a bunch of pictures taken and then the phone wanted to do an update within a few days. So, I did the update, and then a whole lot of my pictures disappeared. And so I took my phone to a actual phone store, you know? And insisted that my pictures still had to be there, and, anyway, it took them a while. They installed a file manager program onto my phone, which made it look more like a computer or a laptop with file folders. And they were able to find my pictures.

  • 12:29:03


  • 12:29:03

    NNAMDISo, you're suggesting that Lewis do the same thing? Go to the store and insist.

  • 12:29:09

    AMYWell, I was very polite, but very adamant.

  • 12:29:12

    OTTOGood for you.

  • 12:29:14

    AMYI had one suspicious thing, when they tried to shut me down, which was that in looking through some of the information about, like, the number of pictures, there was one reference in there that I could find that suggested that it thought I still had, like, 1200 pictures. Yet, it was only bringing up, you know, one or two hundred. And I'm like, I'm like, clearly there's a link there. It still thinks I have 1200 pictures. They've gotta be on this phone.

  • 12:29:43

    AMYSo, in my case, I had a small piece of data on my phone that had me stick to my guns. Of course, I could have been wrong. So I didn't want to make a fool of myself, but I really wanted my pictures back.

  • 12:29:56

    NNAMDIWell, Amy, this sticking to your guns thing seems to work, because we got an email from Chelsea who says, "I heard the caller who lost his pictures after updating his phone. This happened to me, as well. I called my phone company and convinced them to cover the cost of a program that retrieved most of the lost photos from my phone. Look online for a program that you can download to get them back. The price is around 40 or 50 dollars, but it was worth it."

  • 12:30:22

    NNAMDISo, she insisted to her phone company. You insisted at a phone store. Thank you very much for your call, Amy. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. What's the biggest mistake you see with photos shot on cell phones? Some cell phone cameras let you compensate for imperfect exposure. How do you set the camera to make that adjustment, Melanie?

  • 12:30:47

    OTTOThere is that exposure compensation business that I mentioned earlier, having to do with brightness. That's basically it. You can say to the camera, hey look, I need this to be brighter. I need this to be darker, but, there's always a but, if you're asking it to lighten up the image as you're shooting it, what you're dealing with is the camera's going to be basically holding the shutter open for a longer period of time, and that means slower shutter speed.

  • 12:31:10

    OTTOAnd what Pamela was saying about this little dance of don't breathe when you shoot. You really need to do that to stabilize and get less blurry pictures.

  • 12:31:17

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Let's talk with Brett in Manassas, Virginia. Hi, Brett. You're on the air.

  • 12:31:27

    BRETTHi Kojo, and guests. I'm really enjoying the show. I was just tagging on one of your guest's conversation about the phone being a ready journal. And one thing that I've discovered is the -- I have an iPhone 4s also. It is remarkably good at taking pictures of clouds, trees, leaves, just things that you see. And even at night, I've found -- gotten some remarkable pictures. It used to be a hobby of mine. Photography used to be my hobby when I was younger, and one of these days, when I can afford a nice DSLR, it's gonna be a hobby when I'm older.

  • 12:32:15

    BRETTBut, on my phone, I've been able to get some remarkable pictures at night, and also with shadows. I've picked up some -- just taking pictures of shadows and things like that. Just very ad hoc.

  • 12:32:32

    OTTOAbsolutely true.

  • 12:32:33

    NNAMDIPam? The phone as visual journal?

  • 12:32:35

    CHENYes. I, you know, that's another reason why it's my go to camera most of the time. Because it's so versatile. It works in so many situations, and, as Kojo was saying earlier, the limitations really become opportunities. And one of the things that's really exciting, you know, working at National Geographic, is that the photographers who work there, who do this for a living, who also pick up the phone and take pictures, they have different pictures that, you know? They may go on assignment, and you shoot these pictures for the magazine, but then they also pull out their iPhones and take pictures about their journey, about the journal along the way.

  • 12:33:16

    CHENAnd that's all through, as you say, the different times a day, Brett. Just things that we would not think would be iconic pictures still have value. And it's a different kind of value. And it's a different way to communicate. It's a different way of storytelling.

  • 12:33:36

    NNAMDIOn now to Eric in Arlington, Virginia. Eric, your turn.

  • 12:33:43

    ERICHi. Thank you for taking my call, sir.

  • 12:33:45

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:33:46

    ERICMy question concerns the technical developments in, you know, where cell phone photo technology is these days. My question is, do you think it's more important that we move towards bigger sensors or, you know, bigger photo sites? Or more flexibility in outputs such as the ability to shoot in raw, perhaps?

  • 12:34:09

    OTTOYes, thank you. You saw me waving my pen. Eric, I think all of the above, but one of the things that we're gonna see first is out in Europe. This is a personal interest of mine. Sony has something now that's really ingenious. It is a removable lens that is already removed. It's called a QX10, and there's a QX100. The first one's around 250, the other one's gonna be around 5, roughly.

  • 12:34:35

    OTTOWhat's really interesting about these little things is that they almost look, when they're closed and off, like little hockey pucks. They're smaller than that, and what you basically do is you take this little camera with a really long zoom, an actual optical zoom, versus basically a cropping zoom on the cameras, and you sort of like, I don't know if it's blue tooth, I haven't quite got this part, but you basically tap the lens to the camera, and then, wirelessly, what you have with the Sony is communicating to your phone so you can see it live on the back of your phone.

  • 12:35:07

    OTTOWhich means since you're cordless, if you need to reach up high and look down at something, but you can't physically turn the phone so you can what it's getting when you're looking down, here's a great way to remotely do so. I would say, look into technology developments of this kind in the immediate future.

  • 12:35:24


  • 12:35:24

    CHENEven now -- yes. Absolutely. Totally agree. All of the above would be wonderful. But even now, I mean, we are able to print, at print quality, at a pretty decent size, pictures out of even the 4s that I have now. And so it's really only a matter of time, as you say, as we get better. Maybe printing will get better too.

  • 12:35:48


  • 12:35:48


  • 12:35:50

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. We move on to Norma in Silver Spring, Maryland. Norma, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:00

    NORMAHello. Thank you for taking my call. I have a Droid 4G, and I've used it for taking photos and for videos. And last year, I went to South Africa and to Zimbabwe and I created an album when I came back that's online with Phanfare. And I went again -- my husband and I went to Africa again this year, and I've been told that Shutterfly might be a better platform for doing the same sort of thing. So, I'd like to have a recommendation before myself to a bunch of work.

  • 12:36:40

    NNAMDIMelanie recommends that when you and your husband go to Africa next year, you take her.

  • 12:36:46

    OTTOUndoubtedly. Undoubtedly. I'll bring my -- lots and lots of big gear, you know?

  • 12:36:51

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 12:36:54

    OTTOIf you have, please go ahead.

  • 12:36:56

    NNAMDIOr Pam.

  • 12:36:57


  • 12:36:58

    NNAMDIWe're all thinking here.

  • 12:37:00

    CHENYou know, how many pictures do you normally shoot?

  • 12:37:05

    NORMAWell, I maxed out. That's a whole other story. I maxed out my Droid this year, and maybe like, you know, 400? But they're mixed with video and photos, and the thing that I liked about Phan, I like about Phanfare is that you can have on the one page, you can have a video and pictures.

  • 12:37:28


  • 12:37:28

    NORMAWhich kind of keeps people from getting bored. But again, someone has told me that Shutterfly would do a better job for me, but I don't know.

  • 12:37:39

    CHENWell, I think one, one thing that is maybe important to distinguish here is, what -- there's a -- as a photographer, there's a this desire to keep an archive and also a desire to display the photos. And a lot of things, a lot of these sites like Shutterfly and Picassa and other one are great for sharing, and they're great for displaying the pictures, and sending them to your friends, and exhibiting them. But, for me, I still get really nervous at the thought of putting any of them in a site where, you know, maybe not everything is, or maybe not the highest res, or maybe not all 400 are.

  • 12:38:21

    CHENI want to have a place that I can go, where I know where every single picture and every video I have is in one place and safe.

  • 12:38:30

    OTTOOne thing I might add -- when you're out there, if you can take with you -- external hard drives have gotten so tiny. I mean, they're the size of a plump wallet. And if you can take one of those -- I don't know if you're planning on taking a laptop or, like me these days, I'm traveling more with my tablet. And plugging in the phone, and moving those images onto the hard drive of the tablet, or in my case, I actually pass through there to the external hard drive.

  • 12:38:54

    OTTOAnd this way, they're safe. Because, you know, I don't always have uplink ability while I'm somewhere random like outback in, say, Australia, which I haven't gone to yet, but, you know, in the future.

  • 12:39:06


  • 12:39:06

    CHENYou know, it's so interesting Melanie that we're talking about it. We are actually adapting a professional camera work flow to the cell phone.

  • 12:39:16

    OTTOYeah, we are.

  • 12:39:16

    CHENYou know? It's not really -- we're not really creating a new cell phone work flow. We're actually using it as a professional camera.

  • 12:39:23

    OTTOAs if it were. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's true.

  • 12:39:25

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, and speaking of taking photos in Africa, let's speak with Christopher in Boston, Massachusetts. Christopher, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:39:36

    CHRISTOPHERYeah, hi there Kojo. It's great to, you know, hear your panel. I originally went to South Africa and took over a thousand pictures, which I did have to, some of which I did have to put on an external hard drive. But my question was actually really to, you know, some way in which I might be able to either sell my photos or manage the rights to my photos, so that, perhaps they could be published in some way, shape or form, which I actually think might be more rewarding. And I just wanted to hear from your panel on what their thoughts were on that.

  • 12:40:11

    OTTOI'd like very much, if I may jump in.

  • 12:40:13

    NNAMDIPlease. Melanie's first piece of advice is: Don't post them on social media. But go ahead.

  • 12:40:17

    OTTOYes. As a matter of fact, my first -- I feel very strongly about that. The company that I use is called And they're a bunch of -- a family of photographers who, years and years ago -- probably about 10 now -- got that up with what wasn't out there both for protection, imaging management, printing. They're really particular about quality of printing and things like that. And they've just done a huge revamp of their site so that you can lay things out in amazing different ways.

  • 12:40:45

    OTTOYou can sell them. There's different levels that you can buy in for both the protection and the printing ability and that sort of thing. But they're wonderful to deal with. I would highly recommend you looking at them. I wish they would pay me for this, but great, great people. I've had lots of unusual situations, and they've been huge helps.

  • 12:41:02

    NNAMDIAny recommendations, Pam?

  • 12:41:05

    CHENYeah. You know, I defer to Melanie here, I think. With the cellphone pictures, we've -- it's so interesting how people think of it, you know. And on one hand, when it's your personal journal and you don't have any desire to sell or to, you know, generate revenue from them, it plays a different role, I think, than when you are. And once you have to think of it that way -- and many people do need to -- I think then you really have to be very careful of where it gets out, how it's used. And you have to stop treating it like a journal. You have to start treating it like a photograph...

  • 12:41:45

    OTTOLike something that you'd have your rights stolen from.

  • 12:41:47

    CHENThat's right, yeah.

  • 12:41:48


  • 12:41:49

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. If you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. What cellphone do you have and how do you like the camera on it? Send us an email to or a tweet @kojoshow using the #TechTuesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:43:51

    NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Tech Tuesday. We're offering professional tips on cellphone photography. The professionals who join us in studio: Melanie Otto, she's a photographer and instructor with Washington Photo Safari. Pamela Chen is senior photo editor with National Geographic Magazine. The lens on a cellphone camera sometimes distorts the images around the edges. What can you do about that when you're taking a picture, Pam?

  • 12:44:17

    CHENOh, I love that, actually. You know, it's part of, you know, we always talk about knowing your tools and knowing how the camera that you pick up, whether it's a DSLR or a phone, how you have an idea in your mind of how the tool is going to affect what you're seeing. And I would say use that to your advantage.

  • 12:44:40

    OTTOAbsolutely. You don't want people who are very conscious of their bodies in particular don't set them -- this is an applicable rule, no matter what kind of you're working with. When you're dealing with a wide angle with the phones, you're dealing with the distortive aspects. And same as bigger gear, if you put somebody closer to the edge, they're going to look wider. The only people that that's beneficial to are those 2-D runway models, okay, things like that, yeah.

  • 12:45:11

    NNAMDIWe got an email from Mike who says, "It's the software that matters. Forget the hardware. It's the software. I like these apps. Most are free or cheap: 645 PRO for full and total control, VSCO Cam for fun filters that are not excessive, Camera Noir for black and white, Koloid for ancient photo making, using liquid processing on screen, GorillaCam is a nice simple camera for snapshots, for post-process, Snapseed.

  • 12:45:39

    NNAMDIThen we got this from Mike in Baltimore: "The camera brand and model does not matter. Apps are the revolution in photography and what you should base your purchase on. Right now, Apple leads by a mile in apps for photography." Care to comment on any of those comments, Pam?

  • 12:45:58

    CHENVery true about the apps. The whole list of apps there, I've loved them and played with them all. Honestly, I try to reduce the number of apps I have so that I can pull the camera out -- look, I just called it a camera again.

  • 12:46:13

    CHENI pull the camera out of my pocket, and I can immediately go after the picture that I hope to make with as little problems as -- or as little distractions. I don't like to click into too many things and have to set too many things.

  • 12:46:28

    OTTOWhile the subject has wandered off.

  • 12:46:30

    CHENThat's right. But, actually, I would say that my favorite apps are the ones where, whether it's a shooting app or a post-production app, the ones that allow me to save files at the largest size possible. Because some of these apps, they're -- the filters are so heavily destructive on the image that the file you end up saving becomes a very small resolution picture.

  • 12:46:52

    CHENAnd so I -- the Snapseed, as you say, 645, these are all apps that help maintain a larger file size. So if you did want to print something, if you did want to sell it, if you did want to exhibit it, you have the most flexibility in options available to you without messing without your artistic vision.

  • 12:47:11

    NNAMDIThis email we got from Joe: "My problem is the opposite of the Alaska vacationer, who, by the way, needs to go to the Apple store to get the photos recovered. iPhones do not have SD cards. My photos are all over all my devices, and I don't want them to be. I use my iPhone also as a quick document copier backup.

  • 12:47:27

    NNAMDIAnd some documents are confidential. It seems like any image that goes to the Cloud ends up on all my iOS devices. How can one control this a bit better? Is there a way I can get the device to ask me right after I take the picture, do you want this only on the camera, only on the Cloud, only on this camera and the Cloud, or on all of your devices?"

  • 12:47:48

    NNAMDIYes. He wants a lot of questions asked, and we do have some advice, however, from Terry in Annapolis, Md. Terry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:58

    TERRYThank you for taking my call.

  • 12:48:00

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:48:02

    TERRYI've -- I work for a cellphone carrier, the major cellphone carrier. I guess what my advice would be is just to make sure you back up everything. I'm piggybacking off of a few callers ago. She was saying that she was insistent at her carrier's store that photos were still evident on the device. They're not necessarily always that way.

  • 12:48:24

    TERRYAnd, I guess, for users of Android devices, I would say experiment with the File Manager 'cause all of the newer ones come equipped with a File Manager. Older devices, you can go in and download a free one. ASTRO File Manager's probably one that I would recommend. And then for iOS devices, you know, the Cloud's great, but I recommend a wired backup all the time.

  • 12:48:48

    NNAMDIAnd you get a yes in all corners here in this broadcast studio. Thank you very much for your call, Terry. Melanie, you teach your photography students, no matter what kind of camera they use, to think about what story they're trying to tell with each photo they take. How does that apply to a cellphone photo?

  • 12:49:09

    OTTOIt's more a question of using that tool, as I've been saying. And, you know, one of the things that is the mantra -- there's probably a couple -- for Washington Photo Safari in general is getting low and getting close. It's a really important concept because you can remove things. It doesn't matter if you're dealing with a "real camera" or a cellphone.

  • 12:49:31

    OTTOIf you get down lower and there's a bunch of cars in the foreground, and they're looking garbagy, but there's, you know, flowers or bushes or something like that, you get down a little bit lower, and all of a sudden, they're gone because they're blocked by whatever you've got in the foreground. You can create a really interesting story by figuring out -- and this incredibly important -- what you want in the photo and what you don't want in the photo.

  • 12:49:53

    OTTOAnd this still applies with the phone. So, you know, trying out different angles, like what I was saying with the video with the cat, trying -- putting it up high. Sometimes, you know, your horizons will not be straight. And then utilize that wide angle. Remember that it's a wide angle. Remember that you're going to get distortion, and you can do great things for creating what they call lead lines. I tend to refer to them as your eye path where the attention will move through the frame and up, preferably on your subject, the key element.

  • 12:50:24

    NNAMDIWe got an email from Woody who would like to take it up a notch, if you will. Woody says, "I have a cellphone with dual cameras and can take 3-D pictures to output on the phone or a 3-D TV." Any tips for Woody, Pam?

  • 12:50:38

    CHENOh, gosh.

  • 12:50:39

    NNAMDIAs I said, he's taking it up a notch.

  • 12:50:42

    CHENWell, I've played with one of these once. And so I can't say that I know very much about them. But, you know, actually, coming off of what Melanie was just saying, it's just another tool. I mean, if you think about 3-D, you think about what that allows you to do. It allows you to give you depth in a picture, allows you to experiment with storytelling. Like, what, you know, a lot of people say, I don't like to go to a 3-D movie because the 3-D doesn't add anything. Well, what will 3-D add to your pictures? And I challenge you to experiment.

  • 12:51:21


  • 12:51:22

    OTTOI would just say be aware of the fact that you are dealing in 3-D. I mean, I know that sounds like a duh thing to say, but at the same time, you -- if you're trying to create a story with that image, you want to take into account where the shadows fall as well as, you know, the highlights or whatever it is that you're looking to photograph. Think about, you know, include shadows because it will add to the 3-D effect. And this is certainly applicable to a 2-D shot. But the 3-D, that's a really interesting...

  • 12:51:48

    CHENWell, depth is, yeah, right, like, layering, composition.

  • 12:51:50

    OTTOMm hmm. Mm hmm.

  • 12:51:52

    NNAMDIHere's Eric in Salisbury, Md. Eric, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:57

    ERICHi, everybody. I was wondering what you guys think of the -- I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, and I like to play around with the Burst Shot and the Panorama Shots. I was wondering what you guys think of those.

  • 12:52:09

    OTTOOh, they're great.

  • 12:52:10


  • 12:52:10

    CHENThey're great.

  • 12:52:11

    OTTOThey're great. You know, Burst is life is happening. You know, if you don't want to do videos, if you want to do stills, or you find yourself in a situation where something is suddenly running off and you want to capture that because it's exciting, that's great. You know, you're thinking about your image, and that is important. As far as the pano shots, there's an aid to line things up properly and try to keep your exposure right.

  • 12:52:36

    OTTOSo, you know, do you want the person who's looking at this image to experience an emotion? Are you looking to put them in the physical location? What are you after? That will help guide which tool -- we keep saying that, but it's true -- which app, which setting you want to use.

  • 12:52:54

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got a tweet from someone who says, "Windows Nokia 1020 does all of the stuff you're saying other camera phones don't." So I should ask you about the Nokia Lumia 1020, Pam.

  • 12:53:10

    CHENWell, you can see we've also been experimenting with the photographer Steven Alvarez for the National Geographic, in our special photo issue this month on newsstands right now, there's a gatefold where Steven went out and photographed with the Nokia -- a Nokia camera. And you can see it. It's printed gatefold, three spread's large. It's a -- you know, again, I think one of the callers mentioned all the technology is there. It's about the storytelling.

  • 12:53:46

    CHENAnd in the hands of the right person, which is you, you can make anything you want to make. And one of the stories, I think, in the issue that really gets to that is, for the first time, we really feature iPhone photography, cellphone photography by our own photographers, by other photo journalists in the story called "The Visual Village," which...

  • 12:54:09

    NNAMDIWhich we all now live in.

  • 12:54:11

    CHENThat's right, which we all now live in.

  • 12:54:11


  • 12:54:12

    NNAMDIBut, Pam, we could do a whole separate show on what you do or what you do with your photos after you shoot them. You have 30,000 -- let me repeat that, 30,000 followers on Instagram. How do you use it?

  • 12:54:27

    CHENWell, it started out as a creative outlet for me. When I got on Instagram, I had maybe 10 followers, and five of them were family members and close friends. And it just it was a way for me to express myself and figure out what was going on around me. I started documenting my life in Washington, D.C.

  • 12:54:51


  • 12:54:52

    CHENAnd then, you know, the beauty of Instagram and what we talk about in the story, "The Visual Village," is how it's become a way to communicate your personal journey, your life and why that matters and why that storytelling is important. And the whole issue that I'm talking about here for National Geographic this month is about the power of photography.

  • 12:55:21

    CHENAnd what I love about -- the fact that we have a feature about cellphone photography in that story is that it's a powerful -- it is the power of photography for all of us now every day. You have it in your pocket. You're carrying it around with you, and it'll change the way you see the world.

  • 12:55:39

    NNAMDIYou can document your life. Melanie, on the other hand, is not a fan of social media as a place to post your photos. Why do you steer clear of Instagram and Facebook, Melanie?

  • 12:55:49

    OTTOI wish I didn't have to. I have big issues with potential theft, copyright infringement. If I photograph it, it's intellectual property. It's mine. If you all are listening to me right now, I would highly recommend you double-check the contract that you have effectively signed when you agree to use any of the social media because they have just changed.

  • 12:56:14

    OTTOAnd they basically lined out a number of key words. And my biggest worry is now I could have photographed something, I could have put it up there, somebody maybe is in the photo, they want to go ahead and -- the company who I am using, who shall go momentarily nameless, can take my image, can sell it.

  • 12:56:36

    OTTOThe person who buys it can use it as they wish. And then if there's a problem, that one person that was in my photo, they want to sue somebody, I end up paying the bill. Even though I didn't sell it, it was used without my knowledge. Things like that -- that concerns me a lot as somebody who makes her income from her photography, whether it's via cell or otherwise.

  • 12:56:57

    NNAMDIWe're running out of time, but I wanted to get Chris in Bethesda. Chris, you're on the air. You only have about 30 seconds, but go ahead, please.

  • 12:57:06

    CHRISThanks a lot. My iPhone died, and I cannot recover the photos. The phone is definitely dead. Is there anything I can do?

  • 12:57:18

    CHENHow did it die?

  • 12:57:18


  • 12:57:19

    CHRISJust suddenly quit on me.

  • 12:57:21

    OTTOOkay. So it wasn't water. That's good. I would say find somebody who likes to hack and talk to them, you know, somebody who does maybe computer work. I would ask around bunch of different repair facilities and see if anybody's into the phones and maybe can figure out a way to retrieve.

  • 12:57:40

    NNAMDITen seconds, Pam.

  • 12:57:41

    CHENChris, that sounds like a very mysterious death for your iPhone, and it may be some -- there may be some other bigger problems. And I hope that you can recover the pictures when you figure out what that bigger problem is.

  • 12:57:52

    NNAMDIYou might want to take it to a store. Pamela Chen is senior photo editor with National Geographic magazine. Pam, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:58

    CHENThank you very much.

  • 12:58:00

    NNAMDIMelanie Otto is a professional photographer and instructor with Washington Photo Safari. Melanie, always a pleasure.

  • 12:58:05

    OTTOAbsolutely, Kojo. Thank you.

  • 12:58:07

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Related Links

Topics + Tags


comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows