Memorial Day weekend has left us eagerly awaiting one thing, summer! And not just the season, but also our guest contributor this month, Summer Saunders! Both a friend and fellow alum, Summer graduated from UNCW majoring in Communication Studies and International Studies. Well known for her skills behind the camera in college, now post graduate, Summer works as a full time portrait and wedding photographer. This month she gives us some of her tips on how to improve your own photography skills.
Picture Perfect Phone Photos
Photographs are everywhere you look and a part of everything you do! When you wake up in the morning the first thing you do is look at pictures as you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or catch up on the news. You see photographs on every eye-catching advertisement. You even have pictures hanging in your house, framed at your desk, and have at least one or two favorites as your computer background! Everyone loves a good photograph, and chances are you are quick to notice when someone posts or displays a bad one.
When I was asked to contribute to the blog, I began thinking of helpful tips that anyone and everyone could learn from. Photos are such an important part of our lives and if you utilize these three tips, I promise you will be more satisfied with your overall outcome—whether it’s for advertisement, blogging, social media, or just for yourself!
To keep it simple, I’m going to give tips based solely on smart phone photography. Smart phone graphics are continuously improving and camera pixels and features often let you edit your photos before and after the shot. While I personally use an iPhone, for Android users, this article by CNET applauded the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
Not to mention, whether it’s Apple or Android, nearly everyone has a smart phone. What if you work at an agency and your boss asks you to find and snap the best advertisements you’ve seen in town? What if you’re a reporter and quickly need to capture footage? Or simply, what if the professional equipment you are using fails? More than likely you’re going to pull out your trusty smart phone, so why not make those pictures as sharp as possible?
1. Lighting is everything! When using a smart phone camera, be careful to not have your subject directly backlit. This means you do not want the main source of light where you are to be behind your subject. Most of the time this will make your subject extremely dark and silhouetted if you focus on the background, or if focused on the subject the entire background will be blown out and very bright! Try and have the light hitting the focal point of your picture.
I said it before, but I will say it over and over, lighting is everything. And this picture is a great example. See how the sunlight is creating contrast between the brown limbs of the tree and the green foliage in the background without over-shadowing or over-illuminating either one.
2. Speaking of focal points, look at your background space too! Say you want to post a really cool photo of your pina colada on the beach while you’re on vacation. You know what will ruin that photo? The big hairy man on vacation walking by in the background! Maybe you are using social media to advertise an event or product—make sure you don’t leave objects such as trashcans or a dirty room visible behind your subject. It is always okay to reposition items or politely ask people to move for a photo.
Take this picture for example, what you do see is a cute tucked away chapel; what you don’t see is the dirt and trash lying in front of the picket fence.
Here is another great example of how being aware of focal points can make for a great shot, and in this case, one made by using the symmetry naturally presented in the background.
3. Lastly, smile! Don’t always get used to being behind the camera, sometimes you have to get in front of it too! This might sound incredibly cheesy but it is probably the best piece of advice I can give. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you’re holding up a peace sign in every photo you’re in from a conference, or have to explain to your children someday why your tongue was out in every photo of you from college!
Remember, the first picture is rarely the best, take multiple! Don’t be afraid of trying different angles or positioning. If you’re shooting items or products, more often than not the best picture isn’t going to be the one where you are hovering above the table shooting down, it’s going to the one where you’ve squatted down and are eye level with the product.
Have fun while you photograph, but just be conscious as well! Knowing how to photograph well is a great skill set any employer would be happy to have in an employee and a skill you never know when you might need. If you are interested in learning more about photography either via your smart phone or a DSLR camera, or if you have any specific questions, leave a comment or contact Summer via the social media links below!
Summer currently operates her own photography business, S3 Photography, and wedding photographer at The Story Creative.