The best camera, as they say, is the one you have with you.
And if that happens to be your smartphone, and chances are it is, at least these pocket-sized devices are getting better at photography all the time.
Not only has the quality of the photos (and videos) improved over the years, smartphones are also ideal for editing your work, adding fun filters, and wirelessly sharing those memories on the spot.
To help you get the most out of your summer “phoneography,” Surf Report caught up with Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY technology columnist, Talking Tech podcast host, and Manhattan Beach-based portrait photographer.
“While it may be more comfortable to hold the phone vertically, hold it horizontally, as photos will look better when on a computer or television screen,” says Graham. “You probably don’t want those black bars on each side of the photo, plus you’ll lose about 40 percent of the image.”
Horizontal (“landscape”) orientation is better for group photos and nature shots, too, to get more in. Speaking of scenery, also play around with the phone’s panoramic mode for ultra-wide photos, if this feature is offered.
Graham says there are exceptions: “Unless you’re taking a picture of the Empire State Building, or the odd portrait of someone, hold the phone sideways.”
Get up close and personal
A good rule of smartphone photography? Don’t be shy.
“Get in people’s faces. The only way to get up close and personal is to get up close and personal,” says Graham. Unless you want a lot of the background, fill the whole frame up with your subjects.
This is because your smartphone lacks optical zoom – where the lens physically moves closer to the subject, like a point-and-shoot or dSLR camera – and so you need to physically move yourself towards the subject. “In fact, a phone’s optics work best when you get in close,” says Graham,” and you don’t want to use your phone’s digital zoom, as it dramatically lowers the resolution, and won’t look good if you blow it up later.”
Going in closer also means you can capture more facial detail, such as light freckling, a charming dimple or soft pale blues of the iris.
But play around with how close is too close, as that “macro” shot of, say, a flower might look blurry when you look at it later on.
Use the light around you
Because you want to avoid using the flash wherever possible, use the light you’ve got accessible as a tool, whether it’s overhead lighting while indoors, or preferably, the sun outside.
“Better yet, if you’re outside, try to shoot in the shade,” suggests Graham. Cloudy days are also ideal for photos as they diffuse the sun. If the sun is out, be sure your back is to the sun – and not your subject’s — or else they’ll look like a silhouette.
“Same goes for a window while indoors,” adds Graham. “Never shoot your subject by a window or the camera will expose for the window and you’ll have a silhouette of your friend – so make sure your back, as a photographer, is to the window.”
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