Nature’s Smartphone Photographer: Some tips Part 2


Hello and welcome back to our because-we-love-you series of tips on photography with your smartphone!  Last time we talked about some ways to improve your smartphone photos through an understanding of perspective, cropping and focus, and we’ve already heard great results from our campers that have tried them out!  For this round we will be focusing (no pun intended) more on image quality, photography basics and a few other tempting but terrible things to avoid when roaming the wilds.  Together with our other list of smartphone photography tips, we hope to see a lot more budding shutterbugs in the campgrounds this year!

Fear the Flash
Unless you’re trying to capture Bigfoot shuffling near your tent at night, using a smartphone’s built-in flash is a great way to ruin a perfectly-good picture.  Don’t misunderstand: flash-photography is real and can be incredibly useful, but the problem with smartphones is that the built-in phone feature is NOT designed to function as a true camera flash.  Essentially the tiny LED under your camera lens is a mini-flashlight that is designed to conserve batter life, not brighten a room.  Rather than the strobe-like burst of light that visually alters exposure and balance for the better, smartphone flashes are dull flickers of light that wash out and blur their targets.  Take a self-portrait in a dark room with your phone and you’ll most likely get a yellow-skinned red-eyed demon that is emerging from nothingness instead of that classic selfie.

Raw is better than Cooked
Just like when taking photos with a traditional camera, you will most likely be much more satisfied with how much you can play with your images if you take them unaltered or unfiltered.  Unless you have a good grasp of photography or are hunting for specific image styles, using app-based filters often removes much of the original luster and energy you were trying to capture in the first place.  Once again, remember that photography is all about capturing the moments so be sure to preserve the freedom to craft your photos as creatively as possible.  Oh, and never replace your original with an edited photo!  Save it as a new picture instead.

Never be afraid to steal…frames
We’ve all had this moment: you find yourself with the perfect opportunity for a photo but no matter how hard you try, it just won’t come out like you want.  Instead of filling up your phone memory with a frustratingly large amount of garbage, it can sometimes be better to switch your phone to video and start filming a scene instead.  Smartphone cameras are impressively sophisticated for their size, but the software that governs the cameras is fairly rigid in its operation.  Autofocus, balancing, and exposure sensors all operate dynamically in video-mode, whereas camera-mode tries to find the best combination of settings for that single shot.  So long as you make your phone as steady as possible and there’s not a lot of movement in the subject, it’s completely acceptable to take a few seconds of HD video and then steal a few frames from it for a final photo.

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