Phoneography, by KPCC's Grant Slater


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Phoneography, by KPCC's Grant Slater (@grantslater)

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Phoneography, by KPCC's Grant Slater

  1. 1. PhoneographyPhotography with mobile phones presents the same challenges as photographywith any camera. The mentality and workflow should be the same no matterwhat camera you’re wielding. There is a saying that has become somewhat of acliché, but it still rings true.The best camera is the one you have with you.That being said, phoneography presents special challenges, because the factremains that the black square in your hand is a phone first and a camerasecond. As technology improves, this distinction will continue to blur. But fornow, there are specific challenges you will face with every picture you take.Let’s take a look at what those challenges are and how to confront them.Phoneography FoiblesBad attitude. The biggest challenge is taking photos seriously while wielding asmartphone. The default approach is a bad attitude. This results in picturestaken quickly and without thought. Those pictures are more likely to be blurryand poorly composed.Dark days. Even though those guys at Apple are geniuses, the camera they putin your phone still costs about $25. Compare that to a $3,000 dSLR. Thismatters less than you might think. Under good conditions, an iPhone will take asharp and beautiful picture just like a dSLR. The two cameras diverge when thelights go dim. An iPhone will never perform as well in low light.Slow load. Have you ever been walking down the street and seen somethingcrazy? Have you ever wanted to take a picture? Have you fumbled around inyour pocket, finally found your phone, cursed at the lock screen, then waitedwhat seemed like an hour for the photo app to load? Yeah, so have I.Phoneography FeatsBe ready. If you’re going into a situation where you know you’ll be takingphotos with your phone, take a moment to unlock your phone and load up thephoto app. Leave the app open and lock your phone. Or, better yet, leave thephone unlocked and wait for the magic to happen in front of you.
  2. 2. Be steady. Though this is a serious limitation, many more photos could beusable if the photographer had just consumed a bit less caffeine that day andavoided the shakes. In low light, prop your elbows against your rib cage, exhalethen take the photo. Even better, find yourself a table and set the phone downbefore snapping.Snap. Snap. Snap. Here’s a general rule of thumb: For every photo you expectto publish, you should snap 10. There are apps, like Camera+, that make itmuch easier to take a lot of photos quickly. Use them liberally.Use your fingers. Both the native photo app and apps like Camera+, allow youto tap on the screen to set the focus and exposure for a photo. Use your fingersto find the right setting, then snap.Focus less. Mobile phones usually only have a few aperture sizes. That’s reasonbehind the low-light limitations of the phone, but it’s also a blessing in disguise.In pretty much all phone photos, everything is in focus. There are no depth-of-field issues to trip you up.Expose for the light. That being the case, you should focus your finger ninjaskills on setting the exposure. Pictures often come out to blurry becausephotographers poked the darkest part of the screen. The cameraovercompensates by slowing down the shutter speed, and you get a blurryphoto. Instead, poke the brightest part of the screen. This will speed yourshutter up. No more blurry, and we can use an editing app to turn up theexposure later.Camera rules apply. Everything you’ve learned about composition and effortstill applies on the phone. Get low. Go up high. Take a step to the left. Rule ofthirds. Don’t decapitate your subject. Don’t maim them. Zoom with your feet.With a phone, usually that means zooming out by taking a step back.Edit on your phone. Practice your photo editing skills by going through the tonsof photos you took. Pick your favorites. Pinch in to make sure they’re in focusand not blurry. Send us the best!
  3. 3. Essential apps.ProCameraSeparate focus and exposure controls. Shoot with this all the time. Downside:no volume shutter button.Filmic ProThe same thing, but for video.Camera+Volume shutter! Separate focus and exposure controls. And seperate Turn offthe lightbox to save photos directly to camera roll. Downside: Cumbersomeexposure lock.AfterlightThe best and most subtle of the editing apps. Nice sliders and tasteful filters. Itcan also add white borders to your images to make a non-square image into asquare for posting on Instagram.Other appsPicFrame – Make photo collages on your phone.Blender – Combine two images into one for a double exposure effect. Usemasks to choose what carries over.FilterStorm – Photoshop for your iPhone. Just as complex, but also amazingPS Express - Photoshop dumbed down for your phone. This app is gettingbetter.KitCam – Nice exposure adjustment tools and some interesting filters.Decim8 – Randomly tweaks your photo like when your Nintendo cartridge haddust in it.Glitche – Like Decim8 with a more 3D tilt and a little bit rougher around theedges.