I don’t ever do this. But all the images in this post were taken on my iPhone4, which, by the way, has an absolutely miserable camera. Most of the images were processed using the app VSCOcam, which you should get.
I am used to shooting with large, professional cameras. My Nikon D700 is large and heavy. My Bronica ETR-Si is even larger and heavier. My Mamiya C330 is a brick. The best camera I have ever used is the Mamiya RZ67ii, a giant beast, and who among us doesn’t sigh with admiration when they see a monorail view camera?
When you heft one of these machines to your face and lose yourself in the viewfinder, or, better yet, tuck yourself in under the dark cloth, you are aware that you are a photographer and that you are consciously and deliberatly making an image. The viewfinder blocks out the rest of the world, allowing you to focus only on the framing of the image and capturing the right moment. Real cameras are like a costume; you put them on, and you become the photographic process.
If cellphone photography has done one bad thing to almost all of us, it is that we now tend to photograph things by holding the camera up, looking at a screen, waiting while the camera gets its electronics in order, and then getting a picture, which we immediately look at to see if we done good. Which, probably, we have not. But, the thing is, we probably like the picture because it is of something or someone we like. And we take a thousand pictures where we used to take ten, and because we take so many, we end up overwhelmed at the idea of going back and finding that one perfect shot. So we leave the images there on memory cards and hard drives until the computer fails or gets stolen or the phone falls in the toilet, and they don’t enjoy much of a life. The images are not intentional; they are taken simply because cameras are everywhere, and hey, why not. The ease of digital photography has made it so that we do not, necessarily, have to pay attention to what we are doing. Which is a big problem.
No matter how you prefer to take your images, it is important to approach images as a photographer. A photographer is not simply someone with a camera who takes pictures. A photographer is someone who works at creating images that are as good as possible, someone who focuses on creating an image of quality and interest.
One big thing to work on is what and when you photograph. Many people are content to take posed pictures with people smiling. These serve the purpose of documenting appearances, but are rarely interesting. More interesting than basic appearances is gesture, or how people act. Try to catch a candid laugh. Try to capture a quiet moment or reflection. Try to capture people slightly unaware.
And arrange things in your image. This does not mean that you should pose or construct scenes, but, rather, that you should pay attention to where things are. Triangles look nice. Diagonals look nice. Then again, straight lines look good, too. This is a skill called composition, and we’ll get into it more later on.
But good pictures capture something. A mood, an expression, a gesture, a moment. It is hard to pin down exactly what makes a good photograph a good photograph, but it is easy to spot a good photograph (we’ll talk about this later, too).
So it boils down to this: Think. Look. Wait. Imagine what you want the image to look like.
Even if you are just taking a quick shot on your phone, shoot as if you are holding a $3,000 camera. Shoot as if you are lost in that viewfinder. Shoot as if that photography will matter.