Photographing Your Finds with a Smart Phone

Photographing Your Finds with a Smart Phone

On the forums, you see a lot of photos of member detecting finds.   The quality of the images varies wildly from un-viewable to magazine quality.

Forum members will post finds photos for two primary reasons: two show their finds to other detectorists, and to ask for assistance in identifying a find.  Some of the best posts are great stories detailing a great hunt, accompanied by really nice photos of the things that were found.   Conversely, some of the worst posts are when a forum members will post poor, unfocused, and poorly lit image asking for help identifying the object.  Or even worse, a story of a find is posted with no photos because the poster couldn’t take any, or figure out how to get them off the camera.

When I see exceptional pictures of finds, I like to ask the forum member how they take them.   Sometimes they are just good photographers and may use professional equipment.  Many sell a lot of stuff on eBay, so they have a lot of experience taking photos of stuff for sale.   Some even put the object on their desktop scanner and scan the objects, which I understand takes very good photos.

My wife is a professional photographer, but I can’t bother her every time I need pictures of my finds.  What I want to do is take reasonably decent pictures and post them on Facebook and the forums very quickly.  To do this, I take all of my finds photos with my smart phone – my iPhone.

If you are one of those detectorists that take great photos then by all means keep doing what you are doing.   However, if you are struggling with photographing your finds in  a way that makes them attractive to show online or to submit for identification help, then perhaps the smart phone is your answer.

For one thing, if you carry a smart phone like an iPhone or Android phone you always have it with you.   So you can take photos and share them from right out in the field, or wherever you happen to be.

Resolution:   The resolution of most smartphones is greater than a lot of digital camera.  The iPhone 4, for example, has an 8 megapixel camera – more than sufficient for taking quality detailed photos of objects.

Connectivity:   One of the things I can’t stand is having to transfer my photos from a camera to a computer.   That is just a hassle.  Time I don’t have.   I find myself taking photos of finds with my smart phone I normally would not have bothered with, because I can just point and shoot, click a button, and the pic is on its way to Facebook or Twitter to show all my friends.  I can also post directly to the forums from my smartphone.

Software:  A smart phone is, in effect, just a small but extremely powerful computer.   It can intelligently assist me in taking my photos, and I can adjust, crop and edit them using apps design for such.  These powerful apps are cheap, and much easier to use than Adobe Photoshop or even the default photo editor on a desktop computer or laptop.

You can use the stock camera application on your phone with good results.   However, developers have released many different camera options that help you with things like Image Stabilization, autofocus, and the ability to crop, adjust, edit and share to email, instant message, Facebook or Twitter from right inside the camera application.  Camera+ is the best camera software for iPhone in my opinion.    Camera Zoom FX is by far the most popular one for Android phones.

Camera Zoom FX for Android is Here

Creating a presentable view of your finds is just as important as which camera you use.

Background:  A solid background is a necessity to help the detail in your finds stand out.  My favorite colors are solid black, red and green.   A 2 foot x 1 foot piece of felt from the local crafts store or a green gun-cleaning mat both work really well for backgrounds.

Orientation:  If you are photographing a coin, for example, the orientation you need to use may be obvious.  However, if you are photographing a single find that doesn’t have an “up” or “down”, experiment with different angles to get the best shot possible.  If you are photographing multiple finds in the same photo, space them apart evenly and place them all at different angles.


Props:   You might also need to use props in your photo.  Maybe you need to prop a find up to photograph a difficult angle.   The most common example of a prop is a coin to use as comparison so that everyone can see the size your find is relative to the coin.

I experimented with all types of lighting setups until my wife, the pro photographer said “I hate to tell you this, but you should box all that stuff up and just take your photos outdoors.”   That made all the difference in the world.  The ambient light outside always seems to light the shot up perfectly.   The best times to shoot your photos are early morning and late afternoon – you get the benefit of the light without any glare from the sun overhead.

Crystal clear focus is where a lot of people really struggle with their finds.  This is where having some help from the camera app, like Top Photo, is helpful.   You just touch on your object and it handles it from there.  It even has image stabilization to help you with shaky hands.  Another great way to get perfect focus is to use a phone camera tripod, like this one:

I make sure my phone’s camera is set on the highest quality possible, so that details like markings show up really well in the pictures.

My phone camera struggles with focus if I try  to zoom in on the object , or get the camera to close to the object.   Experiment with yours, but my best results come from placing the camera closer to the object/s instead of using the zoom.

I like to crop the photo with a good inch or so between the edge of the photo and the objects, and resize to a 4:3 perspective (4 units across, 3 units tall, like 400 x 300) not larger than I need.  This reduces the file size so the picture uploads faster.

The good camera application will have icons you can click on to quickly send a photo to Facebook or Twitter.  You can also send it to a friend’s phone number by instant message, or via email.   All of this is accessible from the “share” button on the camera application.

My smart phone is definitely the ultimate solution for photographing my finds.  I can quickly setup and snap a photo, and share it to the social networks or the forums in under 5 minutes, and most of that time is just setting up the shots.

Best of luck on your next hunt!  Bring back something good to photograph with your phone!!!

What do you think?   Ideas?  Disagree?  Your comments are welcome below.

Iphone 4 Camera:  Flickr, Some rights reserved by jesus-leon

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