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Words & Images by Collective
The best camera is the one you have with you. We sat down with 10 incredible Instagrammers to find out how they create art with their smartphones.
Today, more than ever, mobile photography is redefining the way we see and share our worlds, whether online or in print. Back by popular demand, we put together 10 more tips on how to perfect your mobile photography craft.
We gathered a group of extraordinary artists that are pushing the limits of this new art. Explore the way they see the world, understand their approach and learn what's in their toolkit.
Identify Your Subject
When you are out there taking a photo, take a step back and think about why you are about to capture this image - what is your real subject ? Once you have determined what is making you press the shutter, it instantly becomes easier to show the end viewer what kind of message or emotions you are trying to convey.
To me, it is very satisfying to see the viewer's eye instantly drawn to my intended subject. This can only happen if you have identified your subject.
Don't be afraid to leave the room to get your shot. Doorways and windows can make lovely framing devices. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved dollhouses and miniatures - there is something magical and inviting about peering into a scene from the outside. The more of the room you show, the more context you give the picture - the more pieces of a story you get to tell. Oftentimes people's surroundings are as interesting as the person themselves. Giving your subject a little breathing room also allows them to forget the camera a bit, which can help them relax and be themselves...for me, that is always a good thing.
Take Advantage of Natural and Manmade Textures
Just like light, shadow and color play important roles within a given composition, textures add detail and interact with those other elements. Recognizing when the natural (or manmade) textures are a worthy point of focus will allow you to compose and expose for them, as well as retain or highlight them during your edit.
Whether a brick wall or a cliff face, a forest or a glassy lake, pay attention to how the light hits a given surface, and try to capture as much of the detail as possible, even from a distance. Running your image through Snapseed's "Structure" adjustment (found under the "Details" tool) will help bring out those details a bit more if needed: I typically add no more than 25 otherwise the effect starts to look too obvious. Adding a subtle amount of sharpening also helps (I typically do this in VSCO Cam during my final edits), along with careful tweaks to the overall exposure, contrast, shadows, and the preset or filter you choose. When texture is a key element in an image, I choose my VSCO Cam preset based on what focuses the most attention on the texture.
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Keep It Fun
If anyone has met my daughter Jane, they know she is always, always on the move....and I love that about her. However, when trying to take photos, it can prove to be a challenge. I've learned to make taking photos just a part of her life. If I see a shot that I want to try, I generally will set a little toy - my keys or a stuffed animal - in the spot where ideally I'd have her stand. She has fun "discovering" what I've placed for her and I get my shot. It works because it's natural for her, part of her daily life.
Use The Elements Nature Provides to Create a Scene
Observing your surroundings is key. Seeing where the light is coming from and what elements you have. A backlit tree line can produce interesting photos with falling shadows that create good lines and draws the viewer in. Looking for water or even puddles can produce great reflections and tell a wonderful story or even leave the viewers imagination running.
Use What's In Your Hands
You are able to create those pin-worthy beautiful photos straight from your mobile device. No need for the three thousand dollar camera with the thousand-dollar lens when you learn the tricks of the handy phone that sits in your palm. Personally I prefer the iPhone 5s to other smartphones, but any of the latest smartphone models have great cameras built in – almost more than enough to capture what you need. How to take the standard phone camera to the next level you ask?
There are many fantastic apps out there to make your photos look amazing and professional. I use the native camera app to capture and edit most of my shots and then edit them accordingly. Touchretouch is a really useful app for removing unwanted content from your photos, such as spots, wires, unwanted people, etc.
Unlike many editing apps where the filters can be a little garish, VSCO Cam's filters are subtle and easy on the eye. They tend to give your images an authentic analogue film effect. The subtle tones and fades create calming and elegant images with a timeless feel to them.
SKRWT is truly the "missing link" that can really make any smartphone photo look professional. Cleaning up those crooked lines that make a phone photograph obvious, SKRWT provides lens corrections straightening up the image to produce a SLR-quality photo.
It's The Little Things
Travel photography isn't just about those beautiful wide sweeping vistas - the small details and intricacies of different places and cultures are what make each place so unique, and are worthy of training your lens on! For me, a lot of the time, it's the emotion in the photograph that really gets me. And that can often be achieved by zeroing in on a detail which means something to you. For me, growing up right near the ocean (and now living far away from it) means that any time I am near the sea, I am at peace. And that's what I was feeling when I took this photo.
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Focus on Proper Exposure
Exposure is a critical key to a great photo. For me it's what makes or breaks it. When taking landscape photos pay close attention to your exposure. Make sure the clouds and sky aren't blown-out (overexposed), and that your foreground is still bright enough to where you can make out details. The key here is to strike an equal balance between detail in both. You know you got it wrong when the sky is glowing so bright that it starts to soften edges on the horizon.
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Choose a Winning Wardrobe
Choosing the right wardrobe for mobile photography can be challenging. With time and experience, I have been able to select my favorite wardrobe pieces to photograph with my phone - especially for Instagram. I love to have fabrics with texture or a pattern, but not too busy. Having something with stripes, aztec print, polka dots, or plaid is a great way to show off and add another point of interest for the photo. I also love having a pop of color that contrasts with the background. My favorite colors to have in the wardrobe is red, mustard yellow, and a bright royal blue.
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Create Impactful Scale
When you're out shooting try to find vantage points and angles that put your subject into perspective and showcase the beauty, atmosphere, and size of the landscapes and spaces you're capturing. Use the landscape or space to your advantage, place your subject in a way that will reflect the essence of the place you're capturing. Whether its getting up high on a hillside to capture a hiker trekking the ridge below, or getting down low on a mountain road to capture a silhouette of a friend taking in the view, use your surroundings to your advantage!
Moment Wide Lens,
Look For the Dark(er) Side of Light
We follow the light for a fabulously lit photograph, but there is as much beauty in the darkness as there is in the light. Instead of looking directly at the subject you're trying to photograph, be aware of your surroundings, how the light not only hits your subject, but the spaces around them, around you. Are there shadows? Ask yourself "Where does the light fall?", but also sometimes more importantly "Where does the light not fall?" Are your subjects more interesting when they're back lit? By tapping directly on your screen, oftentimes we're able to change the exposure from the background to the foreground, or vice versa. We must be present to the moment, the mood, our intuition, the tiniest details... I've learned the hard way. I've come home to edit photos and seen an amazing shadow that I never took advantage of! We learn we must be fully awake to that moment, not focused on the next shot or others staring at us trying to get the shot or the ding from a message on our phones.
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