How to make your smart phone photos stellar
By Brock Kryton, faculty member, Photography, in the School of Continuing Education (Originally appeared in M Alumni News—Winter 2015/16)
Smartphone photography has really taken off, and the technology in those built-in cameras is improving all the time. Here are five quick and easy tips that will significantly improve your smartphone pics.
Go into the light
A few years ago, I read The Digital Photography Book three-part series by Scott Kelby. I was struck by how Kelby encouraged his readers to think about light the way his friend and landscape photographer Bill Fortney does. Fortney says the single most important thing in a photo isn’t the subject, but the quality of light. Always find great light first—sunrises, sunsets, overcast days or through windows—and then start looking for your subject.
Combat photographer and photojournalist Robert Capa once said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” He died stepping on a landmine while documenting the Vietnam War, making the statement painfully ironic, but not untrue. Get closer. Don’t be shy. Follow your instincts.
I did. This photo might look like a shot from an old western movie, but it’s actually two men in deep conversation at a McDonald’s restaurant. I wanted the image and I knew it would be perfect, but I couldn’t get the shot from where I was sitting—even using my zoom. So I got out of my chair and approached the table. They didn’t even notice until I approached them afterwards, and I was glad I made the extra effort.
Don’t tell yourself you’ll get the shot later. You won’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve regretted not taking a shot in the moment. Spectacular or not, large or miniscule—if it sparks something in you, take the photo now. Remember that capturing a great photo sometimes involves sacrifice. Don’t let anything stop you.
I was travelling down the highway late one autumn evening as the sun was setting, and a fog was rising in the field I drove by. I saw a lone, naked tree in the middle of the field being consumed by the looming darkness. I quickly pulled over and took the shot. I’m thankful I did.
Don’t settle. Edit.
There are so many ways to enhance your photos to give them more character, emphasize details and evoke emotion. There are countless third-party apps you can use to bring out more detail in the shadows, add contrast and clarity, or play with filters. Two of my favourites are Snapseed and Phoster.
I was teaching a class one day and one of my students was wearing rubber boots. They had an innate hipster-ish appeal and I knew that with a little tweaking—increasing the brightness, adding a grunge
filter and lens blur—it would be a photo worth sharing.
Never print your pics? Bad idea. Make a book and share your work. Most smartphones have eight-megapixel cameras, high enough resolution to print your photos as big as 20 by 30 inches. Instagram
fan? Try using the Chatbooks app that automatically compiles and sends you a book in the mail for every 60 images you post.
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