The Brightwater Horticultural Society flower show provides a wonderful photographic opportunity. With some of the regions most beautiful spring flowers displayed on the 22nd and 23rd September, I want to take this opportunity to share some tips on how you can get some fantastic photos by only using the device you probably always have on you – your mobile phone.
1. Keep it clean - your lens that is!
If your mobile is like mine, it probably spends most of its time floating about in your handbag or pocket. That means the lens is going to get dirty, which does not make for beautiful crisp, clear photos. The good news is that you can clean it yourself.
Use a few drops of lens cleaning fluid or water on a microfibre cloth or lens cleaning tissue. Gently rub the dampened cloth or fabric over the glass. Then wipe using a dry part of the same material. Never spray any fluid directly onto your device, always apply to the cloth first.
2. Nice and steady now
The key to taking great photos is keeping your camera or in this case, mobile phone stable. We’ve all seen the results of shaky hand photography, and it’s not pretty. More pronounced in low light due to slower shutter speed, there are several things you can do to address this issue.
- Hold your phone with both hands and with your elbows in close to your sides
- Rest your phone on a solid surface
- Use a tripod
- Use the volume button to take your photo
- Use your headphones as a remote shutter release
- Remember the delay – wait several seconds after you press the shutter release to ensure your picture captured before moving.
With your shutter button located on the screen, its sometimes awkward to press the screen to take a photo and not shake the phone at the same time.
Try using the + volume button instead – Both iOS and Android support using the volume button to take your photo. By holding your phone horizontally, the camera shutter button is then top right like a traditional camera.
Don’t want to touch the phone at all? Attach your headphones to the camera and hey presto you’ve got yourself a remote shutter release. Set up your shot then using the + volume on your headphones take your photo.
3. Lighting and your flash
Camera phones will provide you with the best results when used in an environment with lots of light, think outdoors at midday. It’s always preferable to have the light source behind the cameras lens to shine onto the subject as light coming from behind your subject will throw it into shadow.
I recommend you avoid using your flash at all, even indoors and at night unless it’s necessary. Natural light is a far better option, and you won’t end up with bright (overexposed) spots created by the flash on your image. It’s also best to turn it off rather than leave it on ‘Auto’, so you don’t ruin any shots if the flash goes off unexpectedly.
Adjusting the exposure will allow you to change the brightness of your subject, see tip five below.
4. Focus – easy to do but often forgotten
It’s as simple as tapping the screen. Doing this also auto-sets the exposure level. When your subject is a flower tap the centre of the flower so that the image will be sharp and in clear focus in your photo.
5. Exposure explained
Exposure is basically how bright your image appears on your phone. As mentioned above, your mobile phone will automatically set the exposure level when you tap the screen to focus your vision.
It’s now common for mobile phones to also provide you with the ability to adjust the exposure manually. Usually taking the form of a slider, so now there’s no reason for your images being too bright or too dark – by sliding your finger up or down your screen you can add or subtract light.
6. Never use the digital zoom
Unless your mobile phone has an optical zoom function your best advised not to zoom at all. Using the digital zoom will reduce the resolution (sharpness) of your image. Instead of zooming, get closer to your subject or crop the image during editing.
7. Editing – Where the magic happens
The limitations of your smartphone may mean that your photos are not as vibrant or sharp as you were hoping for, but having captured all the details and data necessary to turn your images into things of beauty, all it takes now is to use the editing options on your phone to enhance your pictures. Cropping and adjusting colours are just starting points to the full range of editing options available.
Most newer versions of Android come with the Google Photos app – if not, you can download it from the Play Store. Along with a cropping tool, this app has a lot of editing options to adjust colour, brightness and contrast, apply filters and effects as well as an auto-fix feature. I recommend having a play to see what’s possible; you can always go back by tapping the three dots in the upper-right corner and choosing ‘Revert’!
If you’re on an iOS device (iPhone), use the photos app to edit your photo. Tapping the image will display tools that let you auto-enhance, crop, apply filters and adjust light and colour – tap the application you want to use to fix your photo.
8. It's hip to be square
Square format images are rapidly becoming the norm. More often than not, your beautiful photos will never become physical prints, instead, finding their way onto your Facebook or Instagram posts or into your Google Album where square images sit nicely together.
Flowers taken at close range look especially lovely with the flower filling the entire square frame. Apple’s iPhone has a square format 1:1 ratio if you’re using an Android phone you’re going to have to crop your images square at the editing stage.
The tips above only scratch the surface of what’s achievable regarding mobile phone photography. Almost anything you want to know is now available via a simple Google search.
Finally – flowers have such a brief, but spectacular life – digitally recording them at their optimum brilliance and sharing it with friends and family can be a rewarding, exciting and fun hobby – why not give it a go.
For all enquiries and to submit entries please email or phone the Brightwater Horticultural Society Secretary.