Too quick to snap, too hasty to learn. This describes the majority of us in the culture of the moment. With arms outstretched and fingers on the screen, we point and shoot our camera phones at all the intimate details of our daily life. While taking mobile pictures is super practical, doing it well is a rarity and requirement for business success, and too many of us miss the boat!
Despite access to precise photo technology at our fingertips, many of us lack the fundamental tips and tricks we need to snap top-notch images! In this 2-part post, we’ll talk about (1) the “tips” or basics of photography and (2) the “tricks” such as apps and tools that will take our photos to the next level!
PART ONE: Tips (Photography 101)
1. The Camera
For starters, make sure you can get around in the camera app! In addition to the touchscreen capture, there’s usually a designated button on the exterior of your iPhone or Andriod. (With the iPhone 7 for example, it’s the top volume button.) This helps eliminate general shakiness!
Get savvy with the focus feature by tapping the area where the subject is. If you tap and hold the spot, the focus will lock on that subject!
Also, we recommend going into “settings” to make sure the grid feature is on. This helps when framing the photo! (More on that later.)
Play around with HDR (high dynamic range) mode, which takes a series of images ranging from dark to light exposure. HDR combines the best parts of the three shots to create “a dramatic image with beautiful shadowing and highlights,” says Google.
The latest iPhones and Androids also have a “portrait” mode for shooting subjects! So it’ll do some extra legwork for headshots.
We’re 100% fans of natural light. Turn off that light switch and open those blinds! Overhead lighting creates undesirable shadows, so we suggest indirect light such as windows, lamps, or even increasing the exposure instead.
To boost exposure, tap and hold your subject on the screen, then scroll up! You’ll see a little sun icon, and the light on your screen will brighten. Mission accomplished: higher exposure.
What about the absence of lighting? The use of shadow in photos creates intrigue. Shadows show contrast, highlighting the subject and generating a sense of mystery.
If you’re shooting outside, get up before sunrise or wait until sunset for optimum light. There’s a reason it’s called GOLD-en hour! It gives a golden effect. Again, indirect, non-overhead lighting is always king.
Quite possibly the most vital component of photography, composition is the strategic arranging of elements in a frame to achieve a specific goal or expression. We only have about 8 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, so we need photos that stand out!
When you’re live-capturing, good composition requires tactful anticipation as you’re waiting for the subjects or objects to move into an ideal spot in the frame. But don’t forget you can also control your own positioning for supreme composition.
If there are elements that achieve depth in a photo, consider including them! This helps establish a field of vision and a frame (ha!) of reference.
Composition also uses features like focus, aperture, symmetry, asymmetry, and angles to guide the viewer’s eye to the desired subject. And speaking of angles…
Try new ones! Don’t be shy about getting close to the ground or standing on your tip-toes to capture interesting viewpoints.
Shooting from below offers a visually appealing perspective to the viewer. It emphasizes the subject by making it appear larger.
Also, don’t be afraid to get closer to your subject! And no, we don’t mean using zoom (it actually lowers the resolution on most phones). Physically stepping closer to subjects to capture intimate details is an intriguing and unique perspective people don’t get every day.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment! Stick to your principles of framing, but allow yourself to think outside the box! Literally. Shooting diagonally, for example, can deliver a compelling image.
Another technique to bring attention to the subject of the image, framing goes beyond using clean, harmonious lines. It uses existing elements to put the subject in a frame! Like many of these basics, it also applies to the graphic design work we do.
Utilizing architectural elements – like windows, doorways, or buildings – forms a frame around your subject within the photo. Even natural elements like trees or flowers can create a frame, and placing them in the foreground or background can add depth as you frame your photo.
Practice the Rule of Thirds by placing the horizon line above or below the center of the photo. This intentionally positions your subject away from the center of the frame, drawing the viewer deeper into the photo. In the photo above, the boy’s head is in the top-left portion of the photo, rather than the center.
Leading lines, such as the lines of a road, also guide the eye to the subject and are another great way to frame your main idea!
5. Less Is More
This life mantra is especially applicable to photography! Whether shooting in black and white or full color, remember: less really is more. Photos feel cluttered with too many textures in the frame; it confuses the subject matter and clouds the viewer’s mind. The use of negative space, while often neglected, is one of the most expressive elements in photography!
The fewer distractions in the photo, the louder it speaks!
7. Shoot with a film mindset, rather than digital.
Finally, challenge yourself to click less! Act as if you’re shooting with film – every photo counts. This practice will train you to become more thoughtful, more present, more artistic, and more intentional in your craft!
Stay tuned for Part Two: Tricks – all the apps and tools that can make phone pics look professional!