There are times when the latest, most advanced, feature-filled camera gets in the way of the very thing that it was designed for – making pictures. Surprisingly, it has little to do with the mechanics of the camera and more about the person holding it. In this case, it’s me.
I only started to be aware of this when I began shooting with my iPhone. As I increasingly used the phone to make images, I realized that I photographed in a very different way than when I shot with my HDSLR. In many ways, I was looser, more reactive. More importantly, I was having more fun.
The resulting images seemed to excite me more despite the fact that I didn’t have the benefit of interchangeable lenses, uber-resolution and a high burst rate. So, I began to think about the things that I was doing with my phone, which I could translate to my work with my “real” camera.
Keep It Simple
The simplicity of a camera phone takes photography to level of a point and shoot. Photography becomes more about seeing, reacting and composing. I’m not making the camera phone the focus of so much of my energy and attention. Instead, it’s what is in front of me and how I want to capture that becomes the priority.
So with my HDSLR, I work on pre-setting my camera for the lighting conditions and circumstances that I expect to shoot under. This means setting my ISO, white balance and starting off with a moderate aperture of f5.6 when shooting in aperture priority. In this way, I can immediately respond to a scene without fumbling with the camera to change a given setting or control. I’m ready to make photographs.
Slow Down and Shoot Less
When I photograph a subject with my phone, I normally take only one or two pictures. This is often more than enough, because I’m evaluating the light, my subject and the composition before making a photograph. It’s the fact that I’m more carefully analyzing the frame before committing.
It’s the slowing down that I apply to my HDSLR work. Rather than blindly exposing frame after frame and hoping for the best, I patiently look through the viewfinder and making conscious choices of what I want to include or exclude from the frame. I may make more shots that I do with my phone, but each involves a thoughtful change of exposure, perspective or composition, which I think will improve the image.
Make Unusual Choices
The small form factor of the camera phone makes it incredibly easy to shoot from a wealth of perspectives, not merely eye level. I can position the camera into positions and angles that I would never consider with an HDSLR and the results are often eye awakening. They frequently provide a perspective of the subject and the world that I’d never would have considered before.
With my HDSLR, I start to think about different positions and angles to shoot my subject from. Even if they are awkward, I often find a perspective that I might not have normally considered, but which reveals an exciting and unique photograph of even an oft-photographed subject.
Letting Go of Perfection
When I photograph with my phone, I am not preoccupied with edge-to-edge sharpness, the quality of bokeh or noise levels. Yes, the technical quality of the image may not be as stellar as with an HDSLR, but then I have to make up for that by controlling the quality of the light and the composition, which results in images, which I’m really pleased with.
When I’m shooting with my camera, I am still working on producing the best quality image possible, but I’m also allowing myself room to just be playful. I let go of the earnestness that each image be pristine, which results in the camera being more important than the practice of making photographs.
The use of the camera phone has opened my eyes to things that I consider worthy of a photo. I’ve been amazed to discover how much there is to photograph as I walk through the minutes and hours of my daily life. Just seeing the way the light falls through my window onto my breakfast table reveals something that I can photograph, which I can do becomes the camera is conveniently in my pant pocket.
Just making the point of having my HDSLR provides me the opportunity to make photographs that I would have otherwise missed or which I couldn’t do justice to with my camera phone. I’m prepared to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves, even with subjects that in the past I might not ever have considered deserving of a photograph.
It’s not always easy to shoot with my HDSLR with the relax and ease that I use when using my camera phone. However when I do, I find myself much more open to the photographic possibilities that are out there. More often that not, I am reminded of one of the reasons why I was lured into photography in the first place: the simple joy of seeing.
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