“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” This statement is more true today than ever before, especially when traveling. You can have the best camera ever made, but unless you take it with you, you’re going to miss out on a lot of amazing picture opportunities. Your cellphone, on the other hand, is with you almost 24/7.
Ever since the invention of the smart phone, photography has become easier and more accessible. People started to develop a taste for photography, people who normally wouldn’t carry a camera. Fast forward a few years, and we find that the iPhone is currently the most popular camera on Flickr. It’s the most popular camera because it’s the one that’s with you all of the time. This being said, there is much more to taking a picture than just clicking a button. There are certain concepts and rules, that, when applied, help create an even more beautiful picture. These rules beg to be broken, because photography is more about your creativity than your technique. Technique teaches you the basics of photography, while creativity unleashes the real potential of your photographs. Regardless of the platform you use, you’ll be able to walk away a better and more knowledgable photographer.
Taking a picture with a mobile phone is simple. All you have to do is click the little button/camera icon and you have a picture you can share instantly, with anyone you choose. While there is nothing wrong with a selfie or quick little snap, we are going to explore a technique that allows you to flex your creative muscle. But before we get started, I want to go over a few terms called “Exposure”, “Highlights”, and “Shadows”.
Exposure determines how bright or dark your image is. When you take a photograph with any camera, exposure is how much light actually gets in through the lens to be recorded on the sensor or film. If a lot of light gets in through the lens the image will be bright or overexposed, if less light gets in, the image will be dark or underexposed. Most of the time, if the light is evenly distributed, meaning there aren’t any really bright or dark areas, you will get a nice balanced exposure. An evenly lit scene produces an evenly exposed image like the example below.
However, when you have a wide range of bright light and dark shadows, you will have a difficult time getting a single image to be properly exposed for the bright and dark areas. Your mobile phone’s camera sensor has a limited range of light that it can manage. When placed in situations like this, you will have to be a little creative when it comes to exposure. This brings us to the other two terms.
Highlights and Shadows
Highlights are the brightest or lightest parts of a photograph. Shadows are the opposite, being the darkest parts of a photograph. If you set your exposure for the bright area, you will be able to see the details in it, but you will lose the ability to see details in the dark areas. The same thing happens when you set your exposure so that you can see details in the shadows, you will lose the ability to see details in the bright areas. Don’t think of this as a limitation, think of it as a creative advantage. Exposure can be your friend, helping you create some astounding images.
Exposure and Your Phone
The basics of exposure are simple and now that we know more about them, it’s time to show you how to control exposure on your phone. While it may sound intimidating, you probably know how to do it already. Adjusting the exposure is as simple as tapping on the different areas of the screen. If you touch a bright area, you will notice the image becomes darker. The same thing happens if you’re touching a darker area, the scene becomes brighter. By touching the different areas of your screen, your phone will meter the scene you’re photographing to determine what its exposure should be.
If you refer to the examples below, you can see that by tapping the darker parts of the screen, the exposure has been set for the shadow areas and we have lost the highlight detail in the brightest areas of scene. And when we tap the brighter areas of the screen, we expose the brighter area of the scene. While we are now able to see the details in the sky, we have lost most of our shadow details.
Exposure is a simple way to ensure that you have a quality image. But remember, we’ve only covered the basics. There are times when over exposing a photo or under exposing a photo will come into play and create a beautiful photograph. That being said, I want you to play around with these settings. Your assignment will be to go out and shoot pictures that require you to make some creative exposure decisions. You thought you were going to get away didn’t you 😉
What you will need to do is find scenes that are high in contrast, so you can practice setting your exposure for either the highlights or the shadows. Make sure to share your photos on Instagram and tag them with #JoeographyCE so everyone can see them. Follow me on Instagram @Joeography as well! In two weeks, our next photography adventure will have us exploring into depths of exposure and focus. We will even post up your best examples of creative exposure. So don’t forget to tag your photos with #JoeographyCE! Until next time, leave any comments or questions below.