(Download this post (text only) Mobile Photography tips)
If you’re reading this, chances are you have a smartphone and you might actually be reading this from one. So in the collective wisdom of the hive mind called the internet, why would this post be worth your time? Well, these tips have worked for me during the last seven years that I’ve taken photos using a mobile phone – they can elevate the level of your cellphone photos from being just regular photos to something you’d give a second look to and others will, too.
- Steady hands – most important for using the mobile as a camera. If your phone has an external shutter (very rare to find now) – great. Else, try programming the volume key to reduce shake.
- Remember, it’s still a point and shoot camera – so all the rules about the light being at appropriate angles, white balance (try cloudy in the day and tungsten in the evening), ISO still apply. It’s easy to confuse yourself since as a travellographer your primary camera would likely be a DSLR / equivalent so this takes some getting used to.
- Use your feet, not the zoom – I cannot emphasize this enough. It is true that there are mobiles now with an optical zoom (digital zoom is not a zoom), but in general you’d have to move. Cropping the image later will get you a much better frame with limited deterioration in quality.
- Vary the perspective – taking the same image while standing up is OK but very boring if everyone else has to see similarly shot images from you for the twelfth time. Crouch, lie flat, hold the phone parallel to body near the waist, high above your head top down for different angles. You’d be pleasantly surprised with the results. Here’s something shot at ground level – called ‘party all night’
- However, try to avoid tilting the phone at 30 or 60 angles while on a vertical plane – your images will look no different from every other hipster website you’ve come across. Keeping the phone perpendicular to ground and varying the height or parallel to ground will give better results. Here’s an example of ‘shooting at waist level’.
- A quick note on post processing – There are now a number of tools available in most mobile phones that allow for easy processing. However, quite a few are gimmicky and nothing that a regular photoshop / Lightroom or niksoft user cannot do otherwise. Hence, if you use any of these post processing softwares, or even picasa, that I use when I’m in a hurry, then stick with them. The results will be far superior to what you got out of the mobile’s own editing options [I’ve had good results with Lumia’s inbuilt editor – but nothing close to dedicated processing s/ware].
Also, mobile phone photos are more in line with photo documentation or memory making as I like to call it. If you’re looking for a fancy bokeh, or depth of field, you’d have to stick to your primary gear only. But sometimes, any photo is better than none at all.
Sample image below. Shot by adjusting only the ISO and white balance. No post processing was done for this photo.
“Little Red Truck”
Interesting compositions – where and how to find them. A number of places provide easy fodder for your new hobby of mobile photography. These include –
- Shop fronts – as natural frame fillers, shops (with people or material in them) are usually easy enough to photograph. Please ask them before photographing though – just a nice thing to do.
- Markets – symmetrical or chaotic – there’s usually so much going on, that it’s usually not possible to make a bad frame.
- Look for objects that help you make a frame within a frame. Mobiles allow you to get very close to objects without straining your neck or arm – you might be shooting blind but anything you don’t like can be deleted after all!
- Products or objects – experimenting with placing them in different parts of the frame can yield very dramatic result.
- Backlit subjects – it’s much easier to get a nice shot by cutting out the sun just about. To get correct exposure, focus on the darkest part of the frame (i.e. not on the light beam). The camera will auto compensate and provide a shot that has rays of light streaming from from the background (example below) – this was processed in picasa .
What your mobile camera will have serious problems with – Certain subjects – wildlife, sports, fast action, near darkness low-light- are beyond the capability of a P&S and therefore your mobile camera will struggle (not impossible, will write another post for those subjects). Also, you cannot bounce flash! – so selecting subjects that wont be scared by a flash or suffer from a ‘white-wash’ is important. Further, this implies no fill flash for those glam portraits.
So, don’t curse the phone, just enjoy what it can do.
(Note: I photographed all the above using my Lumia 830, but I believe any phone with a good camera and manual adjustment settings should be able to do the trick. I processed them all with picasa, nothing fancy).