Taking Great Pictures With Your BlackBerry

Curve 8900
By vx1 on 2 Sep 2009 10:47 am EDT

Brought to you by James Sanders of SLRJAM.COM - SLRJAM - is Photography in Action!

So you have this great idea to take some pictures and decided today is the day to get it right!

Ok what do I want to take a picture of and will it work? Hmmm - you have to decide on the topic and if its a moving object, person, animal, landscape etc. Why? Because the light is different with all of these topics and its important to qualify your subject.

And you have to decide on your weapon of choice. So lets see Blackberry 8300x series, 8900, 9000, Storm, Tour all have camera's and your hand dandy Pearl. For the most part you are going to be operating on a 2 mega-pixel base line here which will take a pretty great shot despite what all the camera manufacturers will tell you.

Now, lets make sure you have an SD Card inserted or enough room on your phone to get the job done (4GB card should do the trick, but there are bigger ones out now, like 8GB and 16GB) 

Ok Great! Now get out your BlackBerry and let's take some pictures!

Turn on the camera and then go to the options section.

You can get there by pressing first the right convenience key to activate the camera and then the Blackberry Key, located next to the Trackball on the left while in Camera mode, and select options

This is how the screen will look on your BlackBerry Curve 8900.
On other models it should look similar


So you can see a few options here, depending on the model of Blackberry you are using, options will vary

  • Default Flash Auto, On or Off
  • White Balance Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Night, Incandescent, Florescent
  • Picture Size 480 x 360 - 2048 x 1536
  • Quality Normal, Fine, Super fine
  • Color Effect Normal, Black and White, Sepia

Some of these setting will or will not appear on your phone. These were based on the Blackberry Curve 8900 Running OS This Camera has a 3.2 Megapixel camer.

Here Are some Quick Camera HOW TO Take A Picture Switches

  • Take a picture - Press the Right Convenience Key
  • Zoom in to a subject - Press the Volume Up key
  • Zoom out from a subject - Press the Volume Down key
  • Change the flash mode for a picture - Press the Space key
  • Change the size of the viewfinder for a picture - Press the Symbol key
  • Pan up in a picture - Press 2
  • Pan down in a picture - Press 8
  • Pan right in a picture - Press 6
  • Pan left in a picture - Press 4
  • Return to the center of a picture - Press 5
  • Zoom in to a picture - Press 3
  • Zoom out from a picture - Press 9
  • Zoom in as much as possible to a picture - Press 1
  • Zoom out from a picture as much as possible - Press 7

Base URL for switches:

Lets take some shot's
Now let me introduce you to the Rule of 3rds **

This is a method of keep things in an order that makes every picture appear proper. The Rule is to have equal amounts of scenery or space across the image

For Example:


This is Jessie the Dog, you will notice he is there by himself, but there is an even amount of green from Left to Right as well as some on top, giving him the attention he deserves in the photo Front and Center! It was a sunny day and well it was reasonably well lit so light was not an object. (This is a untouched image, only cropped) straight from the phone.

Example #2


Here is a Shot in doors at a local mall and you can see how the lighting is mor stable, and well it delivers a better shot over all. But in some cases it requires a bit of an extra lighting to boost the clarity of the shot. If you are ever working on taking a shot of anyone or anything and you are not happy with the picture for any reason - try and get better lighting.

Or if you are getting shots, but not happy with it and you are thinking ok - well I can always fix it up in some image editing program - just Forget it! Put that program away and just go back and shoot the shot again - trust me on this - you will be happier in the end that you got the shot you were looking for, and its less work for you in the end everybody wins!

Water Shots and Landscapes (moving and not moving)

These can be tricky - you need a steady hand and some patience for both areas.

Here is a Water Fall Shot in Napanee, Ontario - Home Town of Avril Lavigne.

Example #3


Even though we did not zoom in on the seagull in the center, the Rule of 3rd's was still applied here, with even amounts of scenery all around the bird, giving the waterfall a complete look along with the bird there for decoration.

Thank you very much for taking the time to check out this brief tutorial on Taking Great Pictures with Your BlackBerry - Keep on snapping those pix!


If you want to have any of your photos reviewed feel free to come by the site at http://www.SLRJAM.COM and post your pictures up in the forum and someone will be sure to review them!

All the Best and remember to go to http://shop.crackberry.com to grab your SD Card and an extra battery! You never know when you are going to need it. Makes life a lot easier knowing you don't have to stop shooting all your great pictures!

Be sure to head over to SLRJam.com and check out the ongoing photo contest for a chance to win great prizes!

Reader comments

Taking Great Pictures With Your BlackBerry


Good guide, but is there any way to make the actual taking of pictures faster? It seems that anytime I go to take a picture on my Tour, the camera has to autofocus before it will snap the picture. This makes taking pictures of rapidly moving things very difficult.

I've found that if you hold in the right convenience button slightly (don't push it all the way) it will focus the picture so you can take it quickly, but that only helps if you KNOW you're going to take a picture - if there's something you see all of a sudden that you're not prepared for, you can still miss it thanks to that annoying autofocus.

I applaud any attempt to get people to take better cell phone pictures. However, I think this guide should be renamed to "Blackberry 101: Taking Pictures with your Blackberry". To take /great/ pictures will need more work.

The explanation of how to launch the camera and the encouragement to play with the settings is great. The emphasis on lighting is also fantastic, given the small sensor size and LED flash.

I take issue with the explanation of the "Rule of thirds". What the author proposes is antithesis to the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is that the frame should be divided into 3x3 equal cells, using two horizontal and two vertical lines (think tic-tac-toe). Important parts of the image should be placed along these lines. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds] This gets the eye to move around the image a bit, rather than be drawn straight to the center. The portraits of the dog and the girl are clear and crisp, but do not follow the rule of thirds. I'm not saying that the rule-of-thirds must always be followed or else the photo is not "great", but it is a nice rule-of-thumb that encourages photographers to think differently about how they frame a shot.

On the technical side, it would also have been nice if the author discussed how to take better low-light photos, the best way to hold the camera to reduce camera shake, etc.

I've discovered that using the Enter key produces better and sharper pictures. The convenience key on the right causes the camera to shift slightly and blur the shot. Using the track ball to take the photo also causes camera shake due to the pressure required to click.

I didn't know you could cycle Flash options w/ the spacebar.
That's gonna come in hand when I'm sneaking up on my cats.

Hey all hope you like this quick and dirty 101, I was not able to put every thing in this . because it would be too long. But I will do a 30 pager at some point
, just wanted to give some quick tips :)

all the best

First of all, thanks very much for the tips. While I will stick to my 'real' camera for pics that matter, tips such as cycling flash with the spacebar, the sym function, and using the enter key instead of trackball are very welcome.

Just one thing: please everyone, stop trying to use apostrophes to make words plural: they don't do that!


This is a nice write up for BlackBerry camera 101 - but for "great shots" I suspect the author is reffering to great shots taken with your BlackBerry vs shots taken with other BlackBerrys, only -

Example #2 is an excellent representation of why I almost never use a camera phone for taking portraits that I'd care about - without proper metering, or an exposure lock, the result is a picture of a woman that is badly underexposed... The lighting behind her is all the camera registered, and is how the flash reacted accordingly.

If there is any point contained within this article, that I will echo, it's this: if you're going to be shooting something with a camera-phone, make sure the subject is WELL-LIT. Do not depend on the tiny LED flash to overcome darkened rooms or background lighting.

Compared against even the cheapest digital point-and-shoot compact cameras, technology-wise, you might as well be shooting with a pin-hole camera made out of an old shoebox, if your depending on your BlackBerry/iPhone/whatever's built-in camera to snap a picture.

If you learn and abide by the limitations of the camera on your mobile device, chances are you'll be capturing better shots more frequently and having more fun with it.
Everything being relative of course - if you really want nice photos for the scrapbook, buy a decent camera.

That being said - here's a few suggestions for the budding camera-phone photographers:

*don't be afraid to ask people to re-compose closer to an available brighter light source. That, or turn your subject to face a light source so they will appear better lit with a darker background behind them.

*having a pocket flashlight sometimes comes in handy, if the subject is some inanimate object, in a darkened setting.

*shutter speeds on these things are poor, to match the flash-sync of that LED (assuming you have one), among other things. Translation: still moving subjects make for sharper pictures - well lit still subjects makes for even better pictures. If you have a choice of shooting something in daylight vs twilight or in a shadowy room - take it in daylight.

*experiment. You're not blowing money on film are you? No! So don't be afraid to break every rule outlined. Maybe some of you like a darker moodier look to your pictures - or it's possible that motion blur you took was exactly what you wanted.
If you strike upon something really cool, you might use the BlackBerry's "voicenotes" application to make a log about what you did, and the circumstances of the shot that came out so well - how you set it up, or any notes about it.

*If you have a BlackBerry, you probably are no stranger to technology which means you likely have a computer at home.
Do yourself a favor, and load up an application like Gimp or Photoshop on there. Then play with it. There's an endless amount of things you can do with a graphics program beyond fixing photographs that otherwise might be "Meh".
Chances are, it might even spur you on towards becoming a better photographer being more creative, and not as structured in your photographic habits.

Everyone has to start somewhere. One of these days a future successful photographer might be asked "what was your first camera"? Wouldn't it be funny if they replied "My Mom's old BlackBerry". :)

You forgot the most important thing for taking good pictures, at least on the Storm: clean the lens. It gets easily blurred with fingerprints, and that gives you hazy pictures.

I'm actually in a 30 day challenge to take one photo a day for 30 days with a point and shoot camera. Since all I have is my Canon SLR and my Blackberry Storm I chose the Storm as my PS.

I can usually get pretty sharp pictures out of the Storm if I prop it on something and slowly release the shutter. It absolutely struggles in low light situations and to compensate it appears to vamp up the sensitivity (iso).

Here is an example of a low light shot taken yesterday. Even with some CS4 blurring the noise is still very present.


As arkolbus said above, the representation of the Rule of Thirds is basically the opposite of it's actual meaning. While center portraits can be effective in some instances, they usually come off pretty boring (i.e., corporate photos, year book pictures, etc...) You will be surprised how your photo changes simply by moving your subject to one of the 4 intersection of the grid. Some of you may actually have cameras that have the Ro3 grid right on the LCD screen.

Needs info on the rule of thirds, specifically for the picture of the dog and of the lady, both of which would be much more visually appealing if you follow the rule of thirds. Those are just boring 'ol "snapshots".

White balance... white balance... white...balance! White balance should be described IN DETAIL. This is the age old problem with taking pictures. Everyone asks, why does my picture look yellow, or blue... WHITE BALANCE.

Seriously?? This was a "guide to taking great pictures"?? The Rule of 3rds was mentioned, but it doesn't describe what that is or how to use it. I think this tutorial could almost be used for any point and shoot camera except for the shortcuts part. You guys can do better. Or, get one of us to do better!

you have to remember - this is meant as a basic starter for a blackberry
not a detailed SLR experts professional tutorial on your camera. using some 18-200 lens or 10-24, 70-400 or what ever you have hand at the time. what ever camp you come from Canon or Nikon. This is not for you, this is for someone who want to take some recreational shot - that has a phone and want to simply enjoy their photos.

If you want to talk shop on details of photography and discuss serious methods of it or talks lenses tripods Long Exposures,white balance, ISO, Shutter speeds, Rule of thirds, SB 800, 900 Lighting or other other wise check out the site. and post some stuff in the forums there. That site is a DSLR site that deals with all that type of information.

I don't think this was a very good tutorial at all. Other than pointing out that there are camera option, no actual photography information was given.

The first image was a simple example of centered (target or bullzeye) composition. It's just a basic image.

The second image was backlit with no lighting on the main subject. Your eye drifts to where the light is, and that isn't the girl (sad). IF the camera flash was used, it wasn't in a proper composition to compensate for the brighter background. It's better to make sure you have light where you want it (on the main subject). The second image should have been an example of how NOT to use the camera - move her to where she can stand out in the image!

Mentioning the rule of thirds shows at least the OP knowns photography terms, but none of these images take advantage of it. Divide your screen into three sections (horizontal and vertical) - you should visualize two lines going up and two lines going across. Your subject should be positioned on those lines (not centered) to be considered using the rule of thirds.

Did the articale explain how to use any of the camera settings? No. Which settings would give the best quality image? No. Explain the rule of thirds after mentioning it? No (even used it wrong). Best techniques to overcome camera shake? No. What to do when you have too dark a subject (image #2)? No.

The only caveat to the article is the keyboard shortcuts.

This wasn't a basic starter for using the camera. It was an article with very little actual information, and taught little to no techniques to help "Take Great Pictures with your BlackBerry" (as the title suggested).

Thank you so much for your comments , but this article is perfectly fine for what it was intended to be.

So your a camera expert right ?

post your best pic on the site slrjam.com, explain the gear used, and the settings weather or not you used tripod / mono pod, and or free hand what lens used, time of day. shutter speed, manual or what setting you have working, make and model are you using lighting like SB800 or later.. Do you use a full frame body or not, are you in raw mode or jpg fine, are you using the view finder grid align or horizon. How many points of focus are you intending to use. This photo posted must be unedited with photoshop and straight from the camera no filters applied.

We would be more than happy to discuss all the details on photography to its fullest extent with out lack of detail be it lenses , cameras, pictures, aperture, techniques, that have benefitted you in past and more.

let me be clear you and all are more than welcome

thank you so much for your time.

I'm a professional photographer who has been around this business for more than 20 years, winning several awards including "Photographer of the Year". I'm very comfortable with my photography and know what makes a good photograph.

This article shouldn't be about composition, or even photography. It's supposed to be about getting better photographs from the camera in your BB.

Does the article go over the camera features in the BB? Barely.
Does it explain how to get a better flash picture? No.
How about what is the best size image for SMS?
Getting the best shot for posting to Facebook or Flickr?
Reducing camera shake?

People only mention composition and rule of thirds since it was brought up (incorrectly) in the article. The last thing we want it bad information going out to those who want to know how to use the camera better.

Take a look at the blog entry listed by another user down lower in the comments. It is a perfect example of what this article should have been.

I respect your input. I take fairly good pictures on my BB Curve 8900 and I agree on zooming in the right areas and having a good amount of light...simply put, this will be useful for the average picture taking BB user and having that 3.2 MP cam makes it all easier.

Decent enough article vx1, but you seem to be growing upset that some folks are critiquing it. Your "details" comment especially. I don't think anyone is trying to hurt your feelings, just giving suggestions on what you could do better for your next article.

I am not upset hehe, at all

I know people have a lot of imaging experience
but sometimes they get over excited. And misplace
the excitement .. People don't have to like what
I have written .. its all good really :)

just offered some help, not attempting to
be alpha and the omega in any sense ..

as far as writing a bigger more serious reference for
photography maybe, If I ever do something like that
its not going to be a 3 paragraph deal hehe. More like
50 page - 100 pager. I am too busy taking photos and
working in the industry to do something like that
right now.

as far as the article goes, like everyone else I am always
looking for the best information to get the best outcome
and if other people want to write articles or contribute
links and or have cool Ideas - thats just great I am not
un happy with anything .. I think we should all work together
to actually maybe get a archive going since there is more
than enough interest in the subject. I am getting the impression
that this can be an entire section on crackberry. We have
fantastic users here and a wealth of information, I think it
would work really well.

I'm not upset, either. The last thing I want anyone to think is that I am attacking anyone.

The more useful information out there, the better. It just needs to be accurate information. All people were doing was posting about the innacuracies.

this article has some interesting information. The rule of thirds in interesting for photo composition but, in practice, blackberries are NOT the cam you'll use when you need to take serious photographs.

What we need is an article that helps you take the best possible photos with your bb. I posted an article on my tech blog in July - Taking Better Photographs with Your Blackberry. take a look at it here: http://foxyurl.com/ott

Now, MNL's blog entry is a perfect example of what this article should have been!

Take composition, and other factors out - leave it as an article about making better use of the camera features within the BB.