Prior to a recent trip backpacking through Europe, I decided to avoid the bulky inconvenience of carrying my Nikon camera. I decided instead to use my cell phone camera even though I expected the photos to turn out less than perfect. After enrolling in a local community center class and receiving some expert advice, I was able to produce unique and memorable photos worthy of framing.
Phone cameras often experience a delay from when you press the capture button to the time your picture is actually taken. We have all seen the blurry photographs unsteady hands produce. Be sure to remain as still as possible; use a table, ledge or other sturdy structure to support your arm and hand. This will allow for a much clearer shot.
Experiment with Multiple Shots
You are not paying for any film here so take as many shots of one subject as you prefer. Multiple shots taken from different angles with different lighting will give you a wider choice when editing the photos.
Get Up Close and Personal with Your Subject
Cell phone images are already small due to the low resolution. Make sure you do not stand too far away from the object you wish to photograph. Cell phone cameras often end up taking teeny snapshots because we fail to use the entire view finder to capture our subject.
Go to the Light
Make sure your subject is well lighted. As most of my photos were taken in the bright outdoors, lighting was not an issue. However, for those indoor shots we captured at dinner time we turned on an extra light. Make sure you do not shoot directly into bright lights or your camera subject will be silhouetted.
On my trip I found many people were glad to allow for a fun photo opportunity. I photographed kids at schoolyard play in Berlin, market vendors in France, cab drivers in London and even a priest enjoying an afternoon ice cream in Italy. Occasionally I came across a person who did not want to become part of my photo album. They respectfully declined and I politely agreed to their request. Entertainment venues, concert halls and other places of entertainment often forbid use of a camera phone so please ask before you begin to shoot.
Push the Boundaries of Composition
Don't think you have to put your subject matter squarely in the middle of the picture frame. Photos that are slightly off center are often more visually appealing. Stand on a chair, lie on the ground, sneak behind a gauze curtain or on a tabletop to find unique ways of capturing a person, place or thing.
Protect Your Phone and Camera Lens
During my travels my phone spent a lot of time in my backpack and often became smudged. Remember to frequently wipe your lens clean of fingerprints and grease. A soft cotton cloth works fine; a glass cleaning cloth works better. My sister used a plush cell phone cover in the shape of a pink monkey that actually protected her phone from nicks and scratches. While shooting over our hotel balcony, she happened to drop the phone and it survived the fall without mishap. Tourists and citizens alike commented several times on the monkey she had key-clipped to her backpack.
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