February 22, 2012

How to take a snapshot with your mobile phone – the problems (and solutions).

SLR quality? Nope -- but who cares. It's a snapshot.

You’re treating your mobile phone like you used to treat your point-and-shoot, aren’t you?

Something happens, You grab your phone. You fire up the camera. And you shoot. No time to think about this setting or that function. You just shoot. Later, you might touch up the photo and post it somewhere.

But if you could just have that one second back – so that your subject was just a little more sharp, or you didn’t obliterate the shot with your flash.

The thing is, you don’t have to pray yourself to a good snapshot – even when it comes to your mobile phone. Just do a little prep work. You could pick a program and use a few good point-and-shoot settings (the right white balance, “TV” or “S” mode, flash off) if you’re out for the day or arrive somewhere interesting.

Shot look boring? Try some perspective (stuff closer to the camera looks bigger).

You can also do this – think about the problems that show up in most mobile phone photos and compensate for ‘em. Here’s a few of the biggies:

You autofocussed on the wrong thing
·      Most mobiles let you tap the screen to choose an autofocus location
·      Do this in thre steps. Pick the point of focus, turn yourself into a human tripod, then take the photo (try it in two and everything turns out blurry)
Mega shutter lag (you missed the shot!)
·      Mobile phone cams are slllllooooowwwww in taking a shot
·      Set up and anticipate your shot
·      If your software supports it, use the burst mode to get a bunch of shots in a row (some apps let you choose how many)
Things are blurry
·      Your camera is probably compensating for not enough light
·      Get more light into the camera with shutter speed, aperture or ISO
·      Use a table or sturdy object to hold that camera steady
·      Go with it! Figure out how to turn the blurry photo into something cool
The lighting is beyond awful
·      Not enough light? Use a tripod (or become one) and a long shutter speed
·      Ugly light? Move your subjects somewhere else
·      No choice? Use your on board flash (if you really, really have to)
Everything is a weird colour
·      Adjust your white balance
·      Edit your pic in black and white – you are now a clever artiste
Shot looks boring
·      Look for something cool to add to it (see light and perspective up above)
·      Turn the camera for a diagonal look
·      Turn your subject to get a little more “dimension”
·      Make your subjects laugh or wait for a natural shot

February 17, 2012

How to take a snapshot with your mobile phone.

shooting with a mobile phone. Zoom in and check your focus after the shot.

Take a look around at the massive (and growing) world of mobile phone photography, and you’ll see some astonishing work. There’s the stuff Chase Jarvis is shooting. There’s the moody work of David Koslowski.
And then there’s, uh, this.

Great photographers already know how to make great photos, whether it’s the latest D3, a plastic Lomo camera or a Galaxy S. The last one in that list is particularly important because when it comes to the average snapshooter (likely you and me), mobile phone cameras are changing the way we take pictures.

Shoot ‘em faster, share ‘em faster. That’s the beauty of taking your iPhone out on an adventure. Of course, if you spend any time with your phone as a camera, you quickly realize that most flashes are suspect, low light performance is grainy and it’s easy to go nutty with a few too many filters (anybody else remember typeface-happy “designers” from the early ‘90s?). These aren’t really problems, they’re aspects of the medium, things to accept and tweak.

That said, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to take better photos. Here’s five things worth considering:

Rules of photography still apply
Good composition is good composition – no matter what kind of photos you’re shooting. Start by understanding “Rules of Thirds” and get in close to your subjects for more effective portraits.

Find enough light or get comfortable with grain.
Shooting your friends without a flash at the birthday party is a dodgy prospect – the photo isn’t going to look great. But maybe that’s ok. Maybe that’s part of the look you’re going for. Want something a little more like the results you get form a point-and-shoot camera? Be somewhere where there’s light (near a window works for people) or get a tripod (for landscapes).
Don’t get nutty with filters.
So many choices, why not use them all? Because they don’t look good, that’s why! Remember when desktop publishing and web design became all the rage and everyone was using the garish and the blinking? Don’t be that guy. Pick a filter or two at a time and see if you can get them to work in some interesting ways.

Get better at holding your camera, er, phone.
Most people hold their cameraphone the wrong way when it comes to taking photos. An extended arm two feet in front of you means your hand is probably shaking. If you’re shooting in low light, the camera compensates by giving you a longer shutter speed, which means – ta da – that your shot is blurry (see above). Become a human tripod and your photos will be sharper.

February 7, 2012

How to shoot a baby – the problems (and the solutions).

Want to earn your gold star in photography?

Learn to take a great snapshot of a baby.

Babies are tricky. They move. They cry. They don’t care that you’re trying to take the photo. Overcome these common problems and your baby photos will look a whole lot better. Gold star – for you.

Baby moves – making the photo blurry
·      This will happen all the time
·      Make sure you have enough light
·      Increase your shutter speed
·      Too dark? Increase your ISO
·      Still too dark? Try a bigger aperture (smaller number)
·      Cheat: Take the picture when the baby is sleeping and she doesn’t move so much (awwww)

Baby moves – can’t autofocus
·      Focus on an “area” and wait for the baby to enter that area
·      Use your camera’s advanced autofocus features for moving objects (some cameras only)
·      Cheat: Take a deliberately out of focus picture for an artistic look

Baby has drool/tomato sauce/something on its face
·      Look at the baby before you lift the camera
·      Keep handy wipes around for quick touch ups
·      Learn to use the right tools in Photoshop or Lightroom
·      Cheat: Tell everyone you meant to do that – it’s cute!

Baby is sad/mad/Hulk-like
·      Put the camera down and play with the baby
·      Get your shot ready and distract the baby with sound, light, etc.
·      Cheat: angry baby shots look cool and can be used to blackmail the baby when he’s a teenager

Light is too harsh
·      Using flash? Turn off flash
·      Outside? Turn baby out of the sun or get into the shade away from the sun

Baby looks green
·      Check your “white balance
·      Match white balance for the kind of light you’re using

Baby looks small
·      Get closer (before you zoom in)
·      Zoom in – but turn off the “digital zoom,” you can do the same thing in software

February 1, 2012

How to shoot a baby – the settings.

Held cell phone out arm's length.
Pressed elbows into my body to become a human tripod.

Babies are evil.

You’re about to take their photo annnnnd they turn their head. They hear the autofocus beep and they crawl away. They see your Android phone and try to eat the thing.

And yet, every once in while they give you that smile that makes it all better, and you dutifully forget everything else and start snapping away. Question is – what’s the best way to use your camera to capture a little one? To help, I’ve created this handy chart of things to consider when you’re using a point-and-shoot or cell phone:

With a Point-and-Shoot
Point-and-shoot cameras give you more creative control.

Tv or S. Set your shutter speed at 1/125 to catch a moving baby.

Match it to the room you’re in, or shoot in RAW and fix it later.

1/125th. You can go down to 1/60th if the baby is sleeping.

Sets automatically if you’re in Tv or S.

Lower if it’s bright, higher if it’s dark (ISO 400 if it’s an older camera. 800+ for newer).

Use the “macro” setting and anticipate where the baby is going to be.

Near a window if you can, flash only if you must.

Don’t Forget!
Look for messy faces, drooling or other distractions.

With a Cell Phone
Using a cell phone with the stock software is often like using a point-and-shoot on “Auto.” If you can, use a program that lets you adjust settings like the point-and-shoot. If you’re going total auto, “light” is going to become a big part of what you do. Here’s how to give photos enough light to shoot properly.

Get near the brightest amount of light if you can. Flash only if you really have to.

Focus on an “area” and wait for the baby to show up.

Trigger with your headphones (iPhone) or timer (Android). Try not to tap the screen, it creates shake.

Don’t Forget!
Be a human tripod. How you hold your phone will help you make shots in dark room a bit crisper.