In our last lesson in mobile photography(See Mobile Photography: Creative Exposure) we learned how to creatively use exposure to create some great looking photos. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did following along on Instagram. In this lesson, we are going to explore our way deeper into exposure and also play around with some different focusing techniques. First up is Focus.
As its name implies, focus refers to what elements of a scene that will be the sharpest. The dictionary defines focus as the position of a viewed object or the adjustment of an optical device necessary to produce a clear image. In most of the pictures taken with your phone, your phone does a great job of keeping the entire scene in focus. However, in scenes that have a great distance between the background (distant) and foreground (closer) elements you might experience a situation where one element is sharp and in focus and the other is not. You can see what I’m talking about in the images below.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can be used to take some pretty neat pictures. Just like the photos above, you can use your phone’s camera to focus on a specific area by tapping on the area you want in focus(either foreground or background) and have the other elements of the picture out of focus. Remember that this only works well when you have a distance between the subjects/areas. Using focus creatively can create images like the one below.
When using the camera on your mobile phone, you probably realized that when you focused on somethjng, the exposure was set to the same spot. While this works fine for certain spots, it can be a hindrance. Separating these two and using them creatively can lead to some great shots. Like setting the focus on something in the foreground, and set your exposure for the light in the background, or vice versa?
While the standard camera on your phone doesn’t do this, there are many different apps out there that will like Camera+, ProCamera or Camera Awesome. I personally use Camera+. They all give you complete creative control over both the exposure and focus by separating your camera’s focus from the exposure. Plus they almost identical in operation. Once you’ve opened up the Camera+ app, tap the screen to locate your default focus/exposure point. Separating them is as simple as using your fingers to unpinch them. You should now see both a focus indicator (square) and exposure indicator (circle) like the photo below.
Use the Camera+ app and your newly found focus/exposure separation to practice creating a silhouette. This will help you use underexposed and overexposed scenes to your benefit. The process is quite simple, simply set the focus on the subject and the exposure on the bright sunset in the background. It helps to have a tripod, as it will keep any movements to a minimum.
Exposure and Focus Lock
You might have noticed that if you touch an area of your camera screen long enough, the exposure/focus box will flash, and ‘AE/AF’ will appear at the bottom of the screen. If you haven’t used a DSLR or similar camera, this will probably be new to you. Even if you have, it’s great technique that I like to use to make the photo darker or lighter than the scene will allow. Locking the exposure/focus does just what the name implies, it locks the exposure and focus so that it won’t change, regardless of the position your phone is in after the lock. The exposure and focus will remain locked until you tap the screen again. This allows you to purposely overexpose or underexposed the image. You can see an example of AE/AF lock being used to create the image below.
My goal was to brighten up the photo and blow out the sky, making it look more uniform by getting rid of the clouds. Because the area I wanted to shoot was evenly lit, there wasn’t a dark enough are to lower the overall exposure. If you remember from the previous lesson, tap somewhere dark to brighten the photo and somewhere light to darken the photo.
Since the overall seen didn’t have many dark areas, I set the exposure for a dark area just to the side of the scene and then locked that exposure in so I could use it when I shifted back to what I wanted to photograph. The technical term for this is called recomposing.
Last time we went in to exposure basics. This time we went further into exposure and learned some neat focus techniques that should help you creat new and interesting photos. I hope these tips have been helpful. I’d like to see you go out and use the tips and tricks discussed here. Tag the photos on Instagram with #JoeographyFocus so we can all follow along. Feel free to follow me as well @Joeography. I’ll choose a few of the best ones tagged to feature on the next lesson! Until then, never stop exploring!