USING A MOBILE PHONE CAMERA LIKE A PRO, #3Someone said to me recently that she doesn't have high-end photo gear, and doesn't spend all day chasing down great shots in amazing locations, but she can learn a lot from my everyday snapshots around town with my mobile phone. That comment inspired me to start this series of G+ posts, explaining how I approach mobile phone snapshots of less exotic subjects.
This is the third in the series.
The first is here:https://plus.google.com/116043947632177598920/posts/9gCZtAjoKug
The second is here:https://plus.google.com/116043947632177598920/posts/6HjgjD7xAE5
I told a friend I was headed to the library, and was asked to make a mobile phone shot of the library while I was there.
I got to the Los Altos library, and thought about what I wanted to show. I wanted to create a vision of an abundance of books and media everywhere – no walls, no floors, just the library's collection. When I started looking around at compositions with rows and rows of books to fit this, somehow I got the notion that I also wanted to create a kind of sensation of a flood of informative material streaming toward you, reminiscent of "jumping to hyperspace" or "warp drive":http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120113223348/starwars/images/a/a5/Hyperspace_HomeOne.jpg
I wandered around the library for a couple minutes, looking at my options. I found a narrower section of the library, with rows of shelves on each side, and a long CD rack in the middle, which fit what I was looking for.
Then I spent a minute or two crouching low, getting on my tip-toes, moving forward and back, side to side, until I had the position just right to show row upon row of books and media coming toward me, with no walls nor floor, but minimal overlap.
I framed what I wanted very carefully, stood still, leaning into the CD rack, holding my elbows tight against me, breathed out, and made my shot.
As previously, to make sure I held the entire dynamic range of the scene's light in my photo, both the lights on the ceiling and the shadows on the bookshelves, and both inside and outside the building, I used a high dynamic range imaging app on my phone called HDR Pro Camera. It takes three pictures – one exposed "properly", one "underexposed", and one "overexposed" – and combines the three into one picture, using the middle tones from each. The app is not great, but it's better than nothing. There are several apps like this available for Androids and iPhones.
I also knew that this HDR app tends to give pictures a slightly weird, hyper-realistic and yet not realistic look, which I thought would suit the composition I was after.
When I was done, I imported it into Adobe Lightroom, made a few tiny adjustments to the contrast, saturation, and color balance (increased the contrast and saturation about 5 percent, then slightly warmed the color balance). Then I imported it into photoshop, resized it smaller for web use, sharpened it slightly, and added the white and black border.
There's no real "secret" nor "trick" for a shot like this. It's simply a matter of exploring your possibilities, coming up with a concept of what you want, and looking for a composition that fits. The opportunity for a nice shot is always there, if you take the time to think about what you want to represent and how you want to represent it, and then look for it.
If you found hearing these kinds of methods worthwhile, and would like more posts about the decisions that go into making non-exotic mobile phone snaps look nice, then let me know you're interested.