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Camera Phone Primer and Composing Better Pictures

by John Poimiroo

Not taking pictures on an assignment because you don’t have a camera with you is no longer an excuse. Just about everyone carries a camera phone these days. The images taken by today’s camera phones are of higher quality than the film cameras most of us carried 20 years ago. Apple’s latest iPhone, the 11, has three lenses, optical zoom and delivers 12 megapixels in resolution. Even most older cell phones take pictures good enough for digital media.

All Images by John Poimiroo, taken on his iPhone 5 while on assignment in Iceland

Camera Phone Primer

by John Poimiroo

Not taking pictures on an assignment because you don’t have a camera with you is no longer an excuse. Just about everyone carries a camera phone these days. The images taken by today’s camera phones are of higher quality than the film cameras most of us carried 20 years ago. Apple’s latest iPhone, the 11, has three lenses, optical zoom and delivers 12 megapixels in resolution. Even most older cell phones take pictures good enough for digital media.

It’s rightly said that the best camera is the one you have with you. So, here are some tips to taking better photos with camera phones … the ones you have with you.

  • Get Shooting Quickly – Click the “Home” button, then swipe the screen to the left. This opens the camera, without having to open the phone and search for the camera icon.
  • Shoot Using Volume Controls – Turn the camera to the side so that the volume controls are atop the phone. Instead of touching the shutter on the screen to take a picture, press down on one of the volume buttons and the camera phone will take a picture. Plus, media prefer horizontal pictures to vertical ones.
  • Learn How to Use The Camera’s Modes:
    • Time Lapse – takes frames over time
    • Slo-Mo – creates slow motion video
    • Video – takes live video
    • Photo – the normal setting for taking pictures
    • Portrait – focuses attention on your subject
    • Square – an artistic and retro format
    • Pano – a way to take wide-angle and panoramic photos
  • Put A Grid On Your Screen – Go to Phone Settings, Camera, Grid. By turning on the grid, cross hatching will appear on your screen which helps you frame images and visualizes the Rule of Thirds.
  • Turn on HDR – Settings/Camera/Auto HDR – this function sets the camera to focus as your eye sees things, with depth of field.
  • Exposure Meter – You can easily change the exposure. Tap the screen and a box with a yellow sun will appear. Scroll up and down your finger on the screen and the exposure will change.
  • Burst Mode – Every camera phone has an internal motor drive. Press and hold the shutter and multiple pictures will be taken. This is particularly useful when shooting action, sports, animals or children. Be sure to delete frames you don’t need or aren’t best, as they take up memory.

This article was written for iPhones, though similar controls are found on Android phones.

Composing Better Pictures

by John Poimiroo

Taking better pictures begins with understanding composition. Here are suggestions for composing better pictures:

  • Rule of Thirds – the most basic composing tool used by photographers is the Rule of Thirds. Imagine dividing the camera frame (what you see) into thirds vertically and horizontally. Placing the subject at one of the four places those imaginary lines intersect will often provide the most dynamic and interesting image. Not every photograph should be taken this way, but the rule of thirds often creates the most exciting images.
  • Depth – an image whose attention leads from foreground to background is compelling. The smaller the aperture (f 22) the longer the exposure and the greater the depth of field. Attaining hyper focal distance requires setting the camera for the greatest depth of field while using a tripod for sharpness.
  • Closeups – macro and closeup photography add information that’s missing in longer shots. Include closeups to add visual interest and detail.
  • Diagonal Alignment – diagonal lines create graphic excitement and lead the eye to subjects.
  • Negative Space - empty space is a good thing. It can provide tension and information not seen.
  • Balance – sometimes having everything in balance and centered is the most powerful way to present something.
  • Change Your Perspective – don’t always shoot photos the same way … standing up. Shoot low; shoot from above; shoot from an angle; shoot close; shoot far away; shoot tilted.
  • Shoot Candidly – encourage subjects to act naturally. It makes a more interesting photograph when subjects seem to be unaware you’re taking a picture.
  • Frame the Subject – trees, fishing poles, rocks, shrubs, windows and doors … these all can provide natural framing which accentuates and contains an image while strengthening expression.
  • Frame for Action – anticipate action that will be entering the frame and set shutter speed to stop or blur it.
  • Silhouettes, Reflections and Shadows – each can help generate a more powerful visual story than the subject alone. Consider including these in photo essays.
  • Golden Hour – Light is warmest the hour following sunrise and preceding sunset. These early morning and twilight hours are the golden hour; pictures taken then often provide the most drama.

Illustrating this article are photos taken on assignment in Iceland using an iPhone 5 with add-on lenses. As can be seen in them, several of these composition techniques were used.

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All Images by John Poimiroo, taken on his iPhone 5 while on assignment in Iceland

 

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