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Mobile phone minifig photography tips

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FreeTheGeekMan
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Because my phone is the only camera I have. Sometimes I can take a surprisingly great pic with little effort but often I find that I need to get perfect 'real' light and various other factors all have to fall into place for a good pic. Thought this would be a good place for those of us without SLR's or the skills to use them to share tips and tricks.

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FreeTheGeekMan
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Has anyone used any Photoshop style apps on their phone for touching up or editing your minifig photos. This is something I have not really done before but would like to dabble with it a bit. I tried Photoshop express but it seems a bit flaky.

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Four Bricks Tall
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Snapseed is one of the best apps out there. I use it almost exclusively when I am editing photos that I've taken with my phone.

I would stay away from the filters and jump right into the tools tab, if this is your first time with it. The filters are basically just presets of what you can do, but it doesn't teach you anything.

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Maëlick
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I don't take a lot of toy photos with my phone camera because I like the shallow depth of field and manual focus of my DSLR. But when I need to edit photos on my phone I also use snapseed.
That said, I still prefer to photos on a big screen once. It's easier to do it right away on a phone and then post it, but having to move it to a computer forces you to look at it on a larger screen.

But before even considering editing, lighting is the best way to progress. One of my most valuable lessons as a photographer has been to learn how to look at the light. In the long run, you start to understand why it doesn't look the same on a photo than with your eyes.

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FreeTheGeekMan
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Thanks both. I will try snapseed and report back on how I find it!

Maelick thanks for the extra info. I'm a beginner and fast realising I have a lot to learn. Not investing in a DSLR yet though

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Shelly
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I started in toy photography with my phone and I did use several apps to help mimic the dslr. One of those is BigLens. I also swear by Snapseed to give mobile photos the punch they need for social sharing. One of the best items you can purchase to upgrade your mobile photography skills is a good portable light. One inexpensive portable light and a bounce card and you can make most any crappy lighting situation work. This is especially valuable on those grey days when there is no direct sunlight. I hope this helps! 

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FreeTheGeekMan
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Hi @Shelley, thanks for the tips. My wife bought me a light box that came with two lights. I have dabbled with using them but I need to read up on the correct way to do so. Are you talking about a light that can be used outside too or without a light box? Any suggestions of a particular type? Thanks in advance

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Shelly
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Im more of an out door photographer so I was thinking along the lines of a small rechargeable LED light. Like a small light panel. Anna showed one style in her post on cinematic lighting. Cube is another alternative. You simply need a light with adjustable output and either color filters (warming gel) or the ability to tape some colored gels on the light. Gaffers tape works well. I would look for a light that is about 3 x 4 / opaque filter to defuse the bulbs and cheap. Also an inexpensive tripod works wonders with these lights. Make sure you make yourself a bounce card or two so you can bend the light to your will. I hope this helps! 

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FreeTheGeekMan
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@Shelly i am usually taking pics outside too because with my phone I really need natural light. Though some days it's a battle to not be in direct sunlight or too much shade ????. The light box was an attempt to get more indoor shots but I've not mastered it and I get a lot of grainy pics. Anyway, thanks for the info, I will check Anna's post too.

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GuineapigPaul
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I exclusively use my phone and having upgraded to an iPhone XR last year I’m finding it easier to get some better pictures.

I can’t recommend Halide enough as it’s a camera app that gives you a lot more control over the settings. You learn a little bit more about these too since it’s one thing to read tips about what the settings do and another to actually see for yourself how they affect the picture.

The biggest problem I had previously was getting things in focus properly. The autofocus is not ideal for little things like Lego on many phones. Putting the camera a bit further away and zooming in slightly seemed to give best results but you lose a bit of resolution. With Halide you can control that much better. If you take pictures outside a lot, it doesn’t help with the fact that you’ll have to lay in the dirt quite a bit to both get the angle and see the screen properly to adjust the focus!

For editing, yes Snapseed is good for general tweaking. Photoshop Fix is good for removing stands, wires etc. I find Pixlr best for layering pictures and adding effects like sparks, snow, rain or dirt. All three do require some patience to learn how to use them semi-proficiently.

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FreeTheGeekMan
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@guineapigpaul thanks so much for your thoughts. I'll give that camera app a try. Autofocus is a bit of a pain I agree. My S9 on board app is pretty good but a few things do annoy me

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NeonSpectres
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My S8 has a 'manual' mode which also kicks out RAW files so I might have to give this a go. In the meantime I'll have a look at Snapseed too.

Also been tempted with one of those Mobile Phone clamps that attach to tripods:

Manfrotto Mini Tripod with Universal Smartphone Clamp - Black

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FreeTheGeekMan
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I use a tripod like that for my phone. It's very handy. I have an S9, so I guess I need to check if it does raw too

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Four Bricks Tall
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@neonspectres I bought a phone before just for the RAW shooting capabilities but yeech, it was really garbage. The sensor size is way too small on a phone to output anything usable, IMO. 

Phone shots really need the firmware processing to output something nice.

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NeonSpectres
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@fourbrickstall yep, hardware is certainly the limiting factor here. One of my projects this year is to try and use my mobile for more LEGO photography so I'll have a lot of avenues to explore 🙂

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FreeTheGeekMan
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My phone does have the option to produce RAW files alongside JPG.  reviews suggest it doesn't give you much more but it does take up a hell of a lot more space. I'll have a play around with it though. Also realised I can change aspect ratio size which I also something I have not tried before. 

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