I’m in love with my camera, but more often than not, I don’t feel like carrying it around with me. Sometimes a Kodak moment happens, and I don’t have my camera at hand. I’m left to capture memories with my iPhone.
With the amount of mobile uploads I see on Facebook these days, I can only assume that I’m not the only one relying on my digital device every now and then for my photography. Many of the cameras on today’s iPhones, iPods, Androids and other similar gadgets can capture photos of high quality, so don’t let the fact that your device isn’t a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera stop you from being the best iPhonographer you can be.
Here are some tips in visual thinking I recently learned in a lecture given by Joe Blum, a multimedia instructor at the Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
You’ll always want to consider three things: light, color and composition.
To understand how light will affect the details in your photo, know where it is coming from.
Front light is light behind the photographer and in front of the subjects. Backlight is just the opposite — in front of the photographer and behind the subjects. Stronger backlight will remove more detail from your photo — that’s how silhouettes are created. Sidelight is, as the name suggests, light that comes from the side. It works particularly well for portraits because it’s a softer, less direct light.
Light also plays a role in understanding color, which helps set the mood of the photo. Various types of light will produce different color casts — sunlight often creates a blue cast, fluorescent lights a green one.
To correct for these color casts, you typically need to adjust your white balance. iPhones and many similar devices do this automatically, which is both a blessing and a curse. The device saves us time and effort, but “what you see is what you get,” Blum said.
You can use great composition to your advantage, whether or not you have access to good light.
Try this: Divide your screen into thirds, vertically and horizontally. On this grid, the points of intersection are the best places for your photo’s key information — this is the Rule of Thirds. More often than not, you shouldn’t put your subject front and center, as the photo will be more visually engaging if the key information is offset.
With its iOS 5, Apple added an “options” button on the camera app screen. If you click this, you’ll be able to turn on a grid that actually shows you those Rule of Thirds intersection points.
It’s also helpful to consider your foreground, middle ground and background. Just because your subject may be the most important element in your photo does not mean you should ignore its context. The background will help determine where the action is happening.
Lines are also a crucial aspect of composition. Ask yourself, “How do they lead the viewer in and out of the photograph?” Thinking about this question will help you determine the best placement for your subject and the best angle to shoot from.
A high angle is achieved when the camera is above the subject — think bird’s-eye view. A low angle is shot from below, which is great for photographing children, for example, because it puts the viewer on the same level as the subjects.
Along with angle comes zoom. You may be tempted to use the zoom on your digital device, but you’ll be sacrificing photo quality. “The best zoom on your digital device is your legs,” Blum said.
Apps like Instagram and Bokehful are great, I love them and use them all the time. But while they might enhance your photo in one way or another, they won’t help you to become the best iPhonographer you can be. If you know the limitations of your digital device and also understand how to think visually, you’ll be capturing memories while shooting like a pro.
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