These days it’s relatively easy to point a camera phone at something memorable or interesting, push the button and then upload the results to a social media website. People of all ages are doing it, to the point where more photos are being taken with smart phones than with any other kind of camera. It was bound to happen since the majority of folks are literally joined at the hip to their cell phones, and most of these phones come with a built-in camera. The old expression “use what you’ve got” still applies.
But, why don’t most of these photos look so good? The reason is simple. We’re in the middle of doing something else when we whip our phone out and take a shot. Concentrating on making it a good shot, and thinking about how to make it a good shot, usually isn’t a consideration. Most of us don’t know how, which isn’t a failing, it’s just the way things are. But if you’ve gotten this far, and you want to learn some of the easy tricks for making better photos, keep reading.
More than 40 years ago, after graduating with a degree in photography/photojournalism, and having worked as a freelancer and as an industrial photographer, I found myself as the newest and lowest-ranked member of a U.S. Navy specialized photographic unit (Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group). One of the things I quickly learned was that very few photographers had a good “eye” for composition, fewer still understood lighting, and most had limited technical skills. With today’s camera phones, technical competence with the equipment isn’t much of an issue, but understanding the basics of lighting and composition can help you “make” better photos. Yep, it’s learning a little about how to “make” better photos. Here are some basics:
1. Composition – Some purists (i.e. landscape photographers) don’t want to change anything other than where to point their camera, the crop, and the moment they choose to take the photo. Others, like me, don’t often get to pick the exact, magic moment. We just change everything else to make it a better shot. For example, a group of friends want their photo taken and you line them up where they are and go click. Or you could think about the foreground, background, how they’re arranged and from what angle this new composition works best. It’s a “practice makes perfect” thing. So the more you think about and do this the better you’ll get at it. Another trick to try, as long as you and your subject(s) have the time, is to shoot a number of variations. The pros don’t shoot just one shot, they shoot several to make sure they got it.
2. Lighting – If it isn’t pitch dark and you can see, there’s light. Today’s cell phone cameras are doing better with each new generation in low light. Light that is usually better coming from one direction, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, i.e. overhead or lamps in a room, or the sun. If your subject is facing more towards where the stronger light is coming from, your camera will be able to see more detail. If the light is coming from behind your subject, what you’re trying to capture will be darker, or even in silhouette, and your camera probably won’t compensate because your camera sees the overall light, not the part you want to see best. This can be compensated for, but it may be beyond your or your camera’s abilities.
3. Presentation – No we’re not talking about hanging your photos in a museum or selling them. We are talking about where you want people to see your pictures. Some of us still have prints made. Most will upload their photos to a social photo-sharing website like Facebook. There are literally hundreds of places and ways to share your photos. At the end of this article will be some Web links about some of these sites.
Cell phones, especially most smart phones have a video capability. This also includes editing apps (application software). Some folks shoot video with their phone and then edit on their desktop, laptop or tablet computer before uploading the specialized video sharing websites like YouTube.
If your phone can shoot video and you want to give it a try, my best advice is to start simple. Shoot a short video clip, join YouTube, upload your clip and see how it looks.
Here’s what you need to consider:
Story Telling – Composition, lighting and presentation are just as important with video, plus now you’re telling a story with sound and moving pictures. For example, instead of a photo of a person trying to lift up their motorcycle that has fallen over, you now get to tell a story about it with the “uh oh!” and grunts, groans and voices of accomplishment. You could even do a close-up shot showing the beads of sweat on the forehead and a distance shot showing the crowd gathering around. You’re telling a story.
The BMW MOA website has had a video section for the past few years for members’ YouTube videos. If you’re shooting short videos or clips and they’re on YouTube, and you want to share them with other BMW MOA members, e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Websites to Browse: