Today’s teenagers can take a clean perfect picture without having to ‘wash’ it
Not long ago, digital pictures were considered inferior to the old film images, which admittedly required a bit of guesswork during a shoot. But the potential errors were many. First, it took special skill to load the film, and you literally shot ‘blind’ because you didn’t know what you had captured until you exhausted the film and took it for ‘washing’. A perfect picture was hardly on the cards; back then, it was ok to just get a decent picture at all!
But what it also meant was that photographers were true professionals who took great pains and a lot of time to master their craft. But with the advancement in technology, digital is clearly here to stay, and the old SLR (single lense reflex) cameras have all been replaced by all manner of digital gadgets.
First there is the direct replacement predictably called the DSLR – digital single lens reflex camera. Then there is the bridge camera – another digital camera, but not quite as sophisticated as the DSLR, but sharing many similar attributes. Bridge cameras are lighter and more user friendly. They are sometimes referred to as ‘prosumer’ (part professional, part consumer). And then there is the dying and soon to be buried PAS – point and shoot, which were made popular by Fujifilm, and Nikon coolpix a few years ago.
The all conquering mobile phone
Enter the unlikely star of digital photography – the smart phone. Today’s smart phones take far superior pictures to even the most expensive professional DSLRs of only a few years ago. That is how fast the technology is moving. And the pixel count is now way up, with many mobile phones boasting of 16 and higher megapixels on their shooters.
Is it then the case that professional photographers will only need to carry high end mobile phones around in the near future? No. There are still many many things a full-on DSLR can perform that even the smartest smart phone camera cannot.
But, there are a few tricks of use with a mobile phone which will deliver pictures nearly as good as any professional set up in the world. As long as you know what you’re doing.
Perfect Picture Up Close & Personal
When you take a picture from afar and then hope to crop it later, you immediately reduce the quality of your picture. It is in fact exactly the same thing if you stand away and use the mobile phone’s ‘zoom’ lense. The zoom on a phone is a digital zoom. It is really clever technology cropping a scene by using the camera’s mega pixels to predict what a zoomed image should look like. An optical zoom on the other hand is what you see when a cameraman shows up with a huge lense on his camera, as if he needs to compensate for his shortcomings in other areas of his life.
Let us not get too technical. When taking a picture with your mobile phone or even your DSLR, go up to the subject. Use the zoom only when you do not have a choice, and if its a mobile phone, don’t use it at all. Better to take the best picture you can, and then use a crop tool on your computer later.
Lagos, put your lighters up
All photography and even videography MUST depend ultimately on the quantity and quality of light entering into the camera via the lens. In fact, light is the single most important factor that determines if your picture will stand out on instagram or live forever on your phone as a failure in life. And so, look for the best light possible to shoot in. If outdoors, turn your subject round to face the light (sun) so that you can take full advantage of secondary light.
The flash on a mobile phone is small and harsh. And direct. It is unnatural, and therefore bad for quality picture taking. Why do you suppose cameramen almost always turn their flash guns upwards when taking pictures? It is so as to ‘bounce’ the light off the (white) ceiling so it comes back down on the subject like sunlight. In good bright sunlight, today’s camera phone can compare with the best professional cameras on sale. But how many pictures do you really take in the sun?
On your marks, settings, go
Even though mobile phones are the new point and shoot, it is still important to take the time to understand your phone camera. Play with the settings to see what suits best, and when to use the different modes available. Lately, camera phones have been offering ‘beauty’ settings especially for the selfie crowd. Avoid it. It makes pictures look fake and rather childish.
A setting which should be looked at a little closer is HDR (high dynamic range). When set, your camera actually takes about 3 pictures at once, at different shutter settings, and combines very bright, medium and dark pictures into one, to create a near perfect exposure in one shot. In other words, if you take a picture outdoors, your subject will look good, the clouds will not be blown to pure white, but will have details and the ground or foreground will not be too dark.
There are many many other settings and even proper concepts worth exploring on the way to perfect picture taking, but we will approach like all good photographers should, with stealth. Too much at once, and you lose focus.
Please look out for the continuation.
Ifeanyi Maduka, amateur photographer 🙂