It’s autumn and as much as the sultry temperatures of summer’s months—and the greenery associated with it—will be missed, it’s an absolutely perfect time to grab our favorite image-making device and head out into the world for fall photography. The colors are changing every day so it’s important to make the most of nature’s fireworks of foliage.
Whatever camera you have with you, or enjoy using, is going to be spectacular. This post though, it’s centered on using cell phone cameras. Mine happens to be an iPhone, of the old 7th generation varietal, but still works flawlessly so no need to upgrade…yet. Feel free to adapt some of these tips to your photographic devices and practices. I’ve been enjoying the portability, convenience and quality that iPhone cameras provide, so that’s what I’ve been enjoying as of late. Which brings me to my first tip:
What tends to happen prior to photo excursions, is that we may overthink our plans; the goal isn’t to work with unnecessary difficulty, but to work smart. There are all kinds of places offering a calendar’s worth of magnificent imagery in a single day; however, some of the best spots are miles away and rain was in the forecast, so I chose to travel two miles toward downtown. As an exercise, my focus was to travel as short of a distance as possible, with as little gear as possible, in the interest of de-cluttering and simplifying the photographic process.
Once you strip down your gear to the minimum essentials, you’ll fine yourself freed up to making wonderful images, which is what it’s all about.
Now, let’s move on to my second tip for fall photos using a cell phone:
2) Use the Exposure Slider
There are some RAW photo apps for the iPhone which I initially thought would be a savior. When it comes to file sizes, I want them huge. “Go big or go home!” they say. The larger the file size, the more information there is to work with. What I’ve found though: The fastest response time with focus and shutter speed is with the built-in iPhone camera. It only records in JPEG but thus far, the iPhone camera has been more of a blessing than a hindrance.
I’d rather have a small-resolution JPEG than completely miss the image trying to capture something—slowly—in RAW. Now, although the iPhone can be blazing fast with auto focus and shutter time, where I’ve found it does lack (or did lack) is with exposure control. Not any more—tap on your screen a sun and slider bar will appear; hold a finger on the slider bar and move it, you’ll see the exposure change before your eyes. Voila! The control of exposure is literally at the tip of your finger.
3) Work a Scene
This is valuable information no matter what camera you’re using, but, since we’re talking about using a cell phone camera, there is no excuse to not work a scene. William Eggleston was famous for taking one picture, one, and moving on. This would be a fun exercise too; but, for those of you that have mastered the one-and-gone photography technique, I’m suggesting you don’t settle with your results so quickly and leave the scene.
It’s easier with a cell phone than anything else because the screen is big and forces you to have a great visual grasp of what you’re photographing. What usually is successful for me is this: Once I’ve made an image with my iPhone, I’ll look at it and give it a fast once over. My first question is, “How can I make this better?” It’s basically a quick field edit. Once I’ve established what improvements can be made to the image, I’ll take some more, using the adjustments. If I say,” That’s much better!”, then I know I’m on to something and it was worth my time.
4) Zoom with Your Feet
The iPhone camera is the equivalent to about a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, so that’s wide; not extremely so, but it’s a wide angle. If you need to zoom and are able to, don’t spread your fingers on cell phone screen to zoom in, use your feet and walk closer. The reason for this is that zooming in produces a reduction in image quality. You can always capture the image in its entirety and zoom in later, by cropping, anyway. A wide angle lens does require you to get closer to subject matter than other lens focal lengths. That’s okay though, a 28mm field of view can be spectacular when you hit it right. If it’s frustrating at first, remember that once you use it for a while and practice with it, you’ll learn it and love it.
If you venture out with a comfortable pair of shoes and a cell phone, it’s amazing how successful your photo excursions can be. Keep practicing and keep photographing and you’ll see an improvement in your pictures.