Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quick Tips to Better Pictures

This is the first in a series of articles about using the camera in your mobile phone for memory-keeping. These tips were written with a camera-phone in mind; but most of the principals apply to all photography. 

  • Composition -- framing your photograph. The easiest way to improve your composition is to understand the rule of thirds. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board or a hashtag (#). The lines and the intersections are the main focal points. Try to place important objects on those lines & intersections. 

I laid a grid over this picture of Navy Pier to indicate the lines and intersections of the rule of thirds. The top left intersection lies directly over the ferris wheel, and the rest of the photo tapers off throughout the middle third. 

  • Lines -- lines are your friends. The eye will naturally look at the lines in a photo, so make sure to play them up. Vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, they will all draw you in. 

The ferris wheel has these spoke-like lines radiating outward. The varying sizes and the crisscrossing of the lines results in lots of cool shapes. 

  • Focus -- Crisp, clear pictures. Make sure your subject is in focus. Too many potentially great photos are ruined because the subject is blurry and not in focus. Play around with both the auto-focus as well as physically moving the camera lens around. Learning to focus on your subject is a key to improving your photography. 
  • Zoom -- Just Don't Do It. EVER. Never use the digital zoom function. If your camera does not have a lens that moves, do not use the zoom function. Digital zoom is actually the camera cropping your photograph before you take the picture. You will get the exact same quality photo if you crop it afterwards & this way you still have the whole photo to work with. 
  • Lighting -- Be aware of your surroundings. I'm not going to say always do this, or never do that -- because you can't always get the perfect lighting conditions But here are a couple general tips: 
    • Don't use your flash. The light doesn't make anyone or anything look better. It gives off a very harsh glare and you're better off just steering clear of the flash totally. 
    • Its okay to take pictures in the dark. Play around with the dark photos in an editing app -- increase the fill light, or throw on a cool filter.
    • If the light is behind your subject you will get a shadow on your subject. This isn't always a bad thing, you can get great silhouette portraits this way. But if you want your subject to be well-lit, then the lighting source should be behind you. 

This two photos of Jeff & Jill illustrate the difference between the location of your light source (in this case the sun). In the photo on the left, the sun is up in the air and behind them; in the photo on the right, I rotated around and started taking pictures with the sun to my back. 

Quick tips to better pictures is the first in a series of articles about better using the camera in your mobile phone for memory-keeping. Future topics include: using your phone as your primary camera, printing/scrapbooking mobile phone pictures, and more.