I see a lot of great products every day. The one recurring theme among many is a superior camera. From our smartphones to drones to the latest accessories, we have cameras on just about everything. While some are there purely for utilitarian reasons, the art of photography is always within our reach.
When I’m not knee-deep in gadgets, I’m a dog photographer. And, I love that everyone has access to a fairly decent camera right in their pocket. But, the camera is only as good as the photographer behind the lens. Check out these tips on how to get better photos on any camera.
Composition is (mostly) everything
Even with one of the world’s most expensive cameras, a photo can still fall flat. Before even taking the shot, you must compose the image in the best possible way. One popular application is the rule of thirds. Dividing an image into nine equal sized boxes, you can align critical subjects and lines in your photo with the intersection points to guide the viewer’s attention. You can actually turn on the grid overlay on your smartphone camera to help you compose in a flash. Check out this example with Ava the Russian Samoyed as well as the aligned horizon:
Another is the Golden Ratio, or the Fibonacci ratio, which occurs throughout nature. It’s found in everything from flowers to our anatomy. Here’s James and his three Labradors coming together rather beautifully:
Opt for manual mode
Of course, knowing your camera is paramount for getting the best images. It may seem like there’s little to know about your smartphone camera, but don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Whether it’s a DSLR, smartphone, or even an action camera, you can adjust your settings for each image.
The iPhone, for example, has multiple new functionalities for photography. The dual lens design on the iPhone 7 and newer work together for Portrait Mode. On a DSLR, this is akin to shooting wider (i.e. a lower f-stop). In short, it decreases the depth of field drawing focus to your subject.
iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode by Adam Patrick Murray of Macworld
Likewise, smartphones also allow you to set focus and the exposure. With this level of control, you can fine-tune adjustments to nail it every time. On an iPhone, simply double tap your display to set and lock your focus point. To adjust the exposure, or brightness, you can then slide your finger up and down. On the other hand, Android smartphones let you have even more control with full manual mode including exposure, contrast, and more.
The etymology for ‘photograph’ is actually “light” and “instrument for recording” (source: etymonline.com). Suffice to say, figuring out your light sources is necessary to capture the best photos. Technically, you can use light as creatively as you’d like in order to capture your subject. However, there are a few hard and fast rules to consider for on the go photography:
– Avoid direct sunlight as it can make your subjects (dogs included!) squint. Likewise, backlighting may not give you the sharpness you need.
– Go for shaded areas for soft and even light.
– Opt for natural light.
Take a look at Odin the Leonberger. The image on the left has the light from a setting sun in front of him. On the right, the sun is behind him. As you can see, there is more detail captured when there is adequate light resulting in a sharper image.
Upgrade your kit
Ultimately, you can always enhance the gear you already own. This doesn’t mean trading in your point-and-shoot for a Hasselblad, but there are plenty of affordable gadgets for smartphones to give you an extra edge. Here are a few of my favorites: