Take your Mobile Photography to the Next Level by Kaitlin
Difficulty Level: Super Noob/Beginner
Especially when traveling, carting around a heavy SLR and pack of lenses can be daunting—so why not try exploring the lightweight and limited world of mobile photography?
1. Use Dramatic Lighting
Mobile sensors are pretty limited, so bright highlights and dark shadows are going to be extra-amplified. Instead of shying away from blown out brights or crushed shadows, seek them out. As the two photos above show, finding dramatic lighting (and even pushing it more in post) gives a cool, neo-noir effect.
2. Find Leading Lines
Given that you have less tools to work with on a mobile camera, positioning leading lines in interesting ways can amp up the composition of your photo. A diagonal line on a square crop (like the left photo) lends a sense of unseen grandeur, like your subject is really there; on the right, finding a focal point amidst your lines paired with a retro filter gives a 1960s polaroid feeling.
3. Play With Focus
A mobile camera’s lens is very wide, so getting separation between subject and background can be nearly impossible. However, when you can capture it (or simulate it) it makes the subject really stand out. In the left, the crown looked blah without any depth, so a blurred vignette in post helped them pop. On the right, focusing on the iPhone allowed the camera to separate the distant background, which was accentuated by a sharp contrast.
4. Pick Intense Textures
Try finding intense textures. Not only can they slightly mask the low-quality issues of most mobile cameras, they really stand out in square crops. Instead of feeling overwhelming like they can in larger photos with sharper sensors, the small frame is the perfect size to show them off. Both these flowers and the Berlin Wall are dramatic and eye-catching.
5. Look For Symmetry
Symmetry in a square crop just looks really, really cool. Whenever possible, use geometric architecture to your advantage. My two cats in the left photo look much cooler when surrounded by an even border, and positioning the Berlin u-bahn sign in the center third of the frame highlights the industrial textures around it. Even subtle symmetry can make your photo pop that much more.
6. Enhance the Mundane
It’s easy to get bored of our surroundings but having a very limited camera can allow us to explore it in new ways. I drive by this overpass every day—but on my DSLR, it looked shabby. With the crushed effects of the iPhone camera, it stood out. And I’ve never thought of the LA buses as cool, but the little motion blur and too-bright lights reminded me of being blinded by city lights.
7. Embrace Lo-Fi
No matter what you do, a mobile is still a mobile. Strapping little lenses to it won’t make it better. But the lo-fi qualities of the camera, when embraced, can result in something really cool. Over-edit! Over-expose and then add more grain! Try to make something look cool. On ‘actual’ cameras, over-editing often looks sad or trying-too-hard, but on mobile photos, it can push the low quality into something not only purposeful, but awesome.
• The constraints of mobile photography can work in your advantage
• Creative editing and overdramatic ideas work better in mobile photography
• Looking for creativity in the mundane is a great challenge
Tutorial by Kaitlin
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