Thanks for all your sweet comments about Pete’s 2nd year scrapbook. I’m planning to write a whole lot more about memory keeping, as I’m slowing realising that it’s something I’m truly passionate about.
Today I’m very excited (and nervous) to bring you my first Snap Me Happy post! I actually wrote this during my bloggy break last week but I couldn’t quite muster enough courage earlier on to post this. Maybe it’s because I have this unrealistic expectation of how great this series should be. Or maybe it’s because I feel a bit like a fraud, writing a series on photography? So I guess I should preface all this by saying that everything I say here is solely my own opinion, and I’m sure that there are many (ie. the professionals) who approach their photos and their technique differently.
I wanted to kick off by talking about focus, exposure and light:
On a SLR/DSLR camera, the point of focus can make a huge difference to the resulting image, especially when your aperture is wide open, allowing for a shallow depth of field. Or in plain language – when your aperture is set somewhere between 1.4 or 3.5, you get lots of arty blur, hence your focal point can mean the difference between seeing your child’s face (good) or the crack in the back wall (bad).
On the iPhone, however, I don’t really think that the point of focus is too crucial to the overall picture. (The exception to this would be when you’re trying to take an up close photo of something.)
So, Ronnie, does that mean I can ignore that focus square thingy on the iPhone screen?
Well, no, not exactly.
Actually, no, not at all.
Firstly, you need to make sure it actually locks its focus on something, otherwise your entire photo will be blurry. Sometimes this can take a few seconds so be patient!
You also need to use it to control the exposure of your image. Or in other words – how much light you capture in your photo.
Put simply, here’s the deal:
- If you move the square to a bright point on your screen, your image will appear darker.
- If you move the square to a dark point on your screen, your image will appear brighter.
Try it out now! Hold your iPhone up and move the square around to different points on the screen. Can you see the brightness of the image changing as you do? This is the inbuilt iPhone camera app doing its ‘thing’ – it’s automatically controlling the exposure of the shot for you based on your point of focus.
If you can get the hang of this, this alone will significantly affect the ‘quality’ of your images.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
The maximum amount of light you can capture in a photo depends on how much natural or artificial light there is around. In other words, in low light conditions, even when you move the square to the darkest spot on you iPhone screen, the photo will still be very dark.
A handy thing to do before taking a photo is to move the square to the brightest spot and then the darkest spot on screen to help you gauge the range of light that’s available for you to work with. Often, you’ll find the spot you want to leave the square on is somewhere that’s midrange.
If there’s a lot of light around and you choose to take your photo with the spot on the darkest point, chances are you’ll overexpose some parts of the photo. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s all about what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re attempting to take a group photo at a family event, then overexposing people’s faces probably doesn’t work in your favour. However, if you’re taking a still shot of something in a room and you’re after an artistic effect, then this could be exactly what you should do. Remember that apps on your phone can turn harsh sunlight into a softer halo effect. I’ll cover this in a future post.
I used to think that a good photo was a bright photo. Funny, right? It wasn’t all that long ago either. Now, mostly through admiring photography blogs, I’ve come to appreciate that shadow is as much part of a photo as the light is. I’ll talk more about light versus shadow down the track, but for now, I just want to encourage you to embrace the dark side.
And lastly, there are apps which allow you to have a separate focal point to the point of exposure. The Camera Awesome app is one such example. I must confess that even though I have this app on my phone, I don’t actually use it much. The reason for this is twofold: a) I like the simple and clean interface of the inbuilt camera app, and, b) like I said above, I feel that controlling the amount of light is more important than choosing a particular focal point. But if you feel differently, then this would be a fantastic app for you.
* * *
If you’re up to some Snap Me Happy ‘homework’ this week, try photographing the same subject matter with your iPhone, using:
1) an abundance of light in your image
2) a mid level of light in your image
3) an abundance of shadow in your image.
I would love to see the different effects you achieve, so if you happen to post the images on your blog, please leave a link below!
Till next time, fellow happy snappers.