Friday, February 22, 2013

10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier

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10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier

by Guy McDowell

"Does your phone have a camera on it?" said no one since 2005. Nobody even asks how many megapixels your phone's camera has anymore. With the ubiquity of smartphones today, and the resolution of the cameras they have in them, why does anyone even sell a point-and-shoot digital camera anymore? All you need is a decent smartphone to take your vacation pictures and click a button to upload them to Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, wherever.

"But surely," you ask haughtily,"there must be more use to this omnipresent function?" Yes, there is, and quit calling me Shirley.

Take a Picture Of Your Kids

Yes, those of us blessed with the fun-sized versions of ourselves take pictures of our kids constantly. We do this so we can see them grow, and remember those moments that we seem to only cherish after the fact. Those pictures are almost priceless. However, it is your children that are priceless. If you are going to a big outing, perhaps an amusement park or even the mall, take a picture of them.

Don't say you did this in case they get lost or abducted - that would just create unnecessary fear. Take the photo as if you were just capturing the moment they arrived at your recreation destination. Now you have a photo of exactly how they look and what they are wearing on that day. Even if they should just happen to wander to the toy section in the store, you can share that photo with store workers or security guards to help find them. This tip alone will make your life easier and less stressful.

Where Did These Come From?

If you need to take something apart to try to repair it, use your phone camera to take a picture of the item BEFORE you get after it with a butter knife. Take pictures at every stage of the disassembly. Now you have something to guide your reassembly efforts and jog your memory as to where each part belongs.

Plus, should you feel the desire to share your handiness on the Internet, you have documentation of what you did. You never know, you might be the first person to find an easy way to fix something and help someone else.

Why I Was Late For Work

Recently, where I live was hit by a winter storm named Nemo. Which was a good name for it, because after all the snow fell and the winds drifted over anything that stood still, you would have a hard time finding anything.

Our one car sat through the storm, dutifully waiting to be driven until today. When I went out to the car, I knew I would have to shovel around it and maybe put some traction sand down.  That went all fine and dandy, but backing out over the rest of the driveway proved difficult. The car slid on the ice and ended up in a bit of a snow bank. So, I took pictures. Yes, that's my car in picture.

I got to work on time, but had someone questioned me, I could show them what I was up against.

Can You Tell Me What Your Computer is Doing?

Many of us are familiar with the Print Screen button and using screen capture software, and may have even used them to document a computer issue. Those tools are fine for systems that are functioning properly. Then there are those systems that just won't let you do anything. Take a picture of the screen and e-mail it from your smartphone to whomever is trying to help you with your computer. Instantly, they will see what you see. (Yes, that's my computer screen.)

With that information, the rate at which they can fix the problem has just increased rapidly. This tip applies to just about any malfunctioning device really.

Nice Layout. Too Bad About The Lighting.

If you're a budding photographer, use your phone to take pictures of potential subjects at different times during the day, or even the year. Take pictures of your subject from different angles and different distances or viewpoints.  This will help you to understand how the natural lighting and environment affects your subject.

Perhaps the winter sun and the snow makes that field stone church seem bigger and more piously austere. Maybe a shot near the end of spring will show the rows of freshly leaved linden trees softening the edges of the edifice, thus showing it as a heavenly respite for the weary. By doing this, you can leave your good camera gear safely at home until the right time. (I'll post shot of this church again when I get out the big camera.)

But Marks & Spencer Has This for 50p Less!

People are finally getting a little smarter about their shopping habits and not willing to just pay whatever the shop wants. Your smartphone camera can go a long way in helping you to haggle with the shopkeeper. Of course, there are the fancy apps that allow you to use the camera to scan barcodes or QR codes and compare prices at different retailers.

Unfortunately, those only work on items with codes that actually have information in the application's database. But if you can take a picture of the item showing its price, you now have proof you can use with that store's competitor to get the price that you want.

In a similar way, you could do this with boot sale items. Perhaps just for the larger ticket items though. I wrote this as though I were British. Did I fool anyone?

What Was The Phone Number For That Car For Sale?

Most people buy used cars, and many buy them from someone who just wants to sell their car. So when you're out and about looking at cars, take pictures of it with the cellphone. Take pictures of the 'for sale' sign so you have the name and number to call and any other information written on it. Take pictures of as much of the car as you can including dents and dings. That will help you in negotiations.

You might come to a tentative deal on the phone, then show up later and the car has a new ding. Now you can prove that it does and push lower.

It Wasn't Like That When I Sent It

Recently we shipped a friend's car out west. The shippers broke the spoiler on the car. Had we thought to take a pictures of the car before they loaded it, we could have made our friend's life easier. They could have easily shown that the car was fine before it went on the truck. This little trick can apply to ANYTHING that you ship.

As another example, some manufacturers now take pictures of each shipment before it goes out the door. You can see the waybill, bill of goods and the items in the shipment. This protects them, and you, from things going missing.


Are you a college or university student? Are you doing lots of research in the reserved or special collections? Whip out the cell phone, take pictures of the relevant pages as well as the ISBN, Cover and the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication page. Now you can use that information to properly annotate and document your research, at your leisure.

The photo above is from a book called, "Wireless Networking in the Developing World". It's a good read, look it up. Man, I wish I had that when I was in school. Back then photocopies were sometimes as much as 50 cents a piece and you can't photocopy a lot of the ancient texts that I used.

How Did That Get In There?

Kids put weird things in weird places. Two of those places are the nose and ears. With the cellphone's flash on, you can use the camera function almost like a scope to see what they've done now.

Of course this works for adults too, if there's maybe an ear infection or an abscessed tooth. Or maybe you just want to really see if your bum is as sexy as you think it is. It's your camera. Where you put it is up to you!

But wait, there's more...

We could go on all day about different ways to use your smartphone camera to make your life easier or simpler.

  • Don't have a mirror handy while trying on fab hats? Take a picture!
  • See something you'd like to get your spouse, but you're not sure if they'd like it? Take a picture!
  • See someone driving a car and reading a book at the same time? Take a picture!
  • Trying to lose weight and need to keep a food log? What do you think you should do? Yes, take a picture!

Do you have any fun, unusual or creative ways to use your smartphone's camera? Do you use it to simplify or make your life easier? Give us an image of what you do in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Young Child Holding An Instant Camera via Shutterstock, Boys at The Fair via Flickr, Coffee Machine Parts via Flickr, Products with Price Tags via Flickr, Used Car for Sale via Flickr, Damaged Package via Flickr, Success Kid Crayon Up Nose via QuickMeme

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