While New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my thing, I always have several goals for the year roaming around in the back of my head. If I’m lucky, several of them leak out and become actual activities.
I’ve already proclaimed (to myself) that this is the Year of the Camera. I’m inspired by my two BoomerTECH Adventures colleagues, Jill and Chris, who are savvy photographers and I need to up my photography game! I want to learn to use my iPhone 11 camera not just to snap simple photos but to take advantage of advanced features.
I’m just getting started but here are several tips from my research and experience that I will develop and refine in my quest to become a better photographer. Perhaps these tips will help you as well.
1. Get to know your camera. Spend 20 minutes playing with its features, checking its settings, and trying out some of these other tips below. I’ve used my camera for several years, but several months ago photo quality plummeted. Then I looked more carefully and noticed that I had inadvertently turned on a filter that made every picture look washed out. Not exactly the effect I was looking for.
2. Develop an automatic, mental checklist that you run through every time you prepare to snap a few shots (or video). Am I in photo, portrait, or pano?; if in video mode, what about slo-mo and time-lapse? Are any filters on? Do I want to be in HDR (high dynamic range)?. If you don’t know what some of these things mean, like HDR, this is the time to do a little reading or a little video tutorial viewing here or here. Do I want to take this photo or video in landscape view (for most things, yes!)? Running through this list requires you to think ahead about various aspects of your photo or video.
3. Don’t zoom, never zoom. Using zoom on your smartphone camera reduces photo quality very quickly. Instead, move closer to your subject or take a longer range photo and crop it in editing mode and voila…you will have the zoomed image you wanted. See the two images in this blog, the photo above taken on NY City’s High Line above and the smaller AND cropped photo to the left. By cropping the photo at the top, I focused on one part of the artwork and brought it closer to the foreground. Crop, not zoom.
4. Hold your camera steady, very steady. Especially in HDR where you are taking multiple bursts of shots. Don’t move until the photos are all taken. And remember to take most photos and videos in landscape mode (horizontal mode) unless you are taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State building. Leaving your phone in the upright (vertical) position works best for photos like the one to the left. For everything else, you want photos in landscape.
5. Get creative and try out some filters. On my phone I can choose from various black and white options—mono, tonal, and noir and have other effects like fade, transfer, and instant. While I recommend that photo novices use and master the simpler tools on the editing app that comes with their own phone, there are a number of other editing apps like VSCO that work well with Android and iPhone.
6. Make sure you have plenty of light. While natural light is best, most likely you won’t have ideal conditions when you are inside. Too bright holiday lights, candles, shadows and more will really challenge getting the photo you want. Your flash won’t do you much good particularly the further away from your subject, but for close-ups it can be useful. If in doubt, take one with the flash and one without to see which does a better job. For everything else, try a practice photo using the lighting you have and see what it gives you before shooting the photo for real.
7. Don’t forget to edit. Your camera has editing tools appropriate for some impressive improvements to your photos that are easy and fast to use. (Too many people ignore these tools completely.) Typically you’ll have a cropping tool that allows you to focus on a particular part of a photo or to eliminate someone in the background. Also, remember that cropping is the best way to zoom on your camera. You will probably have access to filters (see #5 above) and a setting or two for adjusting light, color. Too dark or too light photos can be significantly improved. What is the best way to develop your editing skills? No surprise here. Practice. And more practice.
But, you aren’t done yet. You’ve taken all these great (and some not so great) photos. Now what?
For heaven’s sake do something with them. Delete doubles or any photos you don’t want to keep. Do the necessary editing (see #7 above). Put them in some order. Prepare a slideshow, book, album, or collage to send to the people with whom you shared those moments. Use your photos, don’t just save them. Most of all, share them with others.
My mantra as I start this new year in regard to getting better photos is simple…CROP and DELETE. That may be a little simplistic but along with the other hints here, cropping photos to get better close-ups and deleting all those extra photos you’ve taken are a pretty solid foundation to up your photos and camera game.
BoomerTECH Adventures is happy to help you fulfill your goal of taking better photos. We have several mini-courses available here…