The iPhone- or any mobile phone with a camera, for that matter- is the handiest form of equipment that any average person has when it comes to taking photographs. Usually, when people think of the word photography, it entails a heavy DSLR camera with big studio lights and a perfect, almost artificial, subject of the photograph. I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case. Photography is an art, probably the easiest form of art, and anyone can do it if they put their minds to it.
The reason I am calling photography the easiest form of art is because it doesn’t require much effort, only an eye for beauty and a sense of perspective. There’s no messy photography development in red rooms and certainly no wet brushes and paint splashes everywhere. All you need to do is find a subject to take a picture of, as opposed to painstakingly sketching it or painting it or describing it. Photography is purely a snapshot of reality that can be manipulated in a variety of subtle ways to turn a seemingly ordinary object into an extraordinary subject.
We’ll be covering a couple of basic key concepts that you should know when it comes to taking photographs! You might already know some of them, you might learn something new, but either way, you should remember that photography is also an art and there’s always room for improvement.
There are a lot of various definitions of exposure. Some take it up in a mathematical point of view since photography involves lenses, but I’m writing for myself and for all the other young budding photographers out there who don’t want to drown into the intricacies of an art that we just want to enjoy. The easiest definition to work with is probably this: exposure is the amount of light entering the camera and resulting brightness of the image.
If the image is too bright, it’s considered as overexposed. If the image is too dark, it’s considered underexposed. You need a good balance of light and dark in order to make the subject of your photograph visible along with the background and any other objects in the field of vision.
When it comes to the iPhone, I like to play around with the exposure using the tap-and-focus function of the on-screen camera. If the view on the camera is too dark, I focus on the darkest part of the image and it results in the rest of the image brightening up a bit. Try experimenting with the tap-and-focus function yourself! You’d be surprised at what it’s capable of.
Now that you know what exposure is, it’ll be easy to understand what High Dynamic Range is. I didn’t know what HDR was, even though I had been using it for quite a while. I just assumed it was High Definition Resolution but it’s far from that.
High Dynamic Range is a built-in ability of the camera to take two different snapshots at different exposures and then combine the two to form one photograph. This explains why an HDR snapshot takes longer than a normal snapshot: your camera is doing twice the work, as well as on the top editing and merging to bring the best out of two different exposure shootings.
HDR is good for some types of photographs and bad for other types. HDR is good for taking pictures of landscapes and sunlight stills since these sort of photographs have a broad range of exposure. Since we’re working with two exposures, HDR will function very poorly in situations where it is too dark or too bright and there’s no exposure range for the HDR to work with. Similarly, it’s taking multiple snapshots so HDR won’t give a good end result for subjects that are moving, as the two different stages of movements would be combined along with the exposure and result in a blurry image.
3. Types of Light
Next, it’s important to know about the types of light. The two major types of light are natural and artificial. The best kind of light for photography is natural light, or more accurately, sunlight. Within sunlight, there are various types of lights, from the sunlight at dawn, to the sunlight at midday, to the sunlight in the afternoon, to the sunlight at sunset. All these different types of sunlight do give subtle qualities to photographs!
With artificial lights, there are the regular bulbs inside the house, fancy studio lights, even fairy lights and the flash of your camera. Most of these lights tend to make your photograph also look artificial, so it’s important to figure out if the lighting of the area is good and doesn’t compromise on the quality of the photograph.
A fun tip: reflective surfaces are a fantastic way to manipulate light to your advantage. Even a plain sheet of white paper would do. Or you could even take it up a notch and experiment with colored papers to give the subjects a tint.
4. Depth of Field
No, we’re not talking about taking everything out of focus and making it blurry just to get the city lights in the distance to become bokeh. The depth of field is taking that scenery and creating layers in the form of a foreground and a background and then playing with the focus. You could focus on the background and make the foreground blurry and vice versa. However, the content of your photograph should make it all come together. For example, the point of interest is what should be in focus. Nobody wants to see a photograph of the Statue of Liberty if the Statue itself is out of focus and the star of the snap is a vague point in the sky. It would, however, be acceptable to have the Statue of Liberty out of focus if it’s in the background and you are taking a picture of a bird or some other subject up close in the foreground.
Again, it’s all a game of experimenting and trying new things out. As long as you’ve got the basics of what makes the depth of field (ie, the foreground and background) and you keep it in mind during your photography, then everything should work out!
There are also snapshots that require little to no depth of field. I think this is something most bloggers are used to- we’re talking about flat lays. While these types of shots don’t have depth, they still require an incredible amount of lighting to keep the photograph looking flat, as opposed to casting shadows and creating depth, but in an amateur fashion.
Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty when it comes to taking photographs! Photography is all about presenting reality in a new point of view and how can you do that if you keep taking pictures of things that people can already see for themselves? Try changing your angles and your approach to a subject. Consider taking a bugs-eye view of things or rearranging the position of your subject. Consider cropping some parts out or adding other things in. Consider turning a photograph symmetric or asymmetric.
The point is, don’t make your photographs reflect reality as it is! The whole art of photography is turning things as you see it and twisting a new view of it. It’s not that hard and once you get the hang of asking yourself “how can I make this picture special?” before snapping every picture, you’ll definitely find a couple of new techniques for future photographs!
I don’t know how I can manage to take photographs without the inbuilt grid feature of the iPhone camera. If you don’t have this feature on, TURN IT ON. You won’t regret it. Not only does the grid help you keep pictures properly aligned (like when trying to take a picture of a sunset or a painting on the wall) but it also involves the rule of thirds.
I won’t be going into too much detail about all the various rules of photography, but the rule of thirds basically says that in a 9 box grid with four intersecting points, the object of your photograph should lie on one of these intersecting points. Additionally, you can also try to capture the bulk of the subject (or the foreground) into one-third of the photograph, or three of the boxes.
These aren’t hard and fast rules and to be honest, rules are made to be broken. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that the grid feature is absolutely fantastic and should be used in every photograph. I also heavily appreciate the grid feature when it comes to taking flat lay pictures.
We already discussed a bit about balance when we mentioned the rule of thirds, but that’s not the only way to balance the photograph. When we talk about balance, it usually refers to the photograph appearing harmonious or in sync. It’s something that you can only understand after seeing multiple pictures and getting an idea of what kind of photograph looks just right, so you’re either going to need to study a lot of photographs or you could go out there and experiment on your own!
The rule of thirds for balance is usually good for when your subject takes up a lot of space, for example in landscapes or in portraits (if you’re really trying to get a stylish one). Otherwise, it’s usually a better idea to place things diagonally, as it appears more balanced than placing things top and bottom (too cramped!) or left and right (too far apart!).
Everybody loves getting a portrait shot done and if you call yourself a photographer, you should be able to get these shots down! The most important thing, when it comes to portraits, is to focus on the eyes. If the eyes aren’t in focus, then the whole picture is pretty much trashed, regardless of the fantastic background.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to follow the gaze. This is especially relevant for when you are taking candid pictures. When looking at portraits, we can’t help but look in the direction that the subject is looking, so if there’s space in the opposite direction of the gaze but the direction of the gaze itself is cut short, then you should probably re-evaluate the photograph.
Lighting is also incredibly important when it comes to portraits. It’s probably best to take pictures in sunlight for best natural results as indoor lighting changes tones quite a bit and leads to most people being unhappy with their portrait.
9. Burst Mode
Most of the photography we talked about earlier implied a still subject, for example, the landscapes and the portraits. However, a lot of photography can also be taken of movements and action. But how can you capture these actions at just the right moments?
Presenting the burst mode feature in the iPhone. Just keep pressing the camera/snap button and watch your iPhone take several rapid shots. Once the movement is over, you can just go back and find the picture that captured the “right” moment and delete the rest!
I personally don’t take a lot of movement photos but after discovering this, I’ve decided to try my hand at this type of photography too!
10. Post Processing
Some people would consider this cheating when it comes to hardcore photography but let’s be real, everyone post processes. Official portraits and even movies and most landscape stills all go through some form of editing to bring out the best of the pictures. You don’t need photoshop to get your editing done though. There are plenty of online photo editors, like PicMonkey and BeFunky and even more iPhone app-editors, like VSCO, LightRoom and even everyone’s darling Instagram itself.
This post is getting way too long, so I guess we’ll discuss more photography rules some other day! Thank for reading all the way to the bottom! If you liked this post, consider sharing it on social media.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there with your phone and show the world that you can be a photographer too!