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How to take the perfect picture this summer

It’s summer time which means there are so many Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. Spicers very own in-house photographer and Graphic Designer, Michael Mann, has divulged his best photography tips for those of us using our phones to capture those special pictures this summer.

Tell a story

I love Instagram’s collage function. Using several shots to tell a story is fantastic. You don’t have to nail it all in one shot and you can give layers of meaning and context to your photography.

Use natural light

Photography is all about light. Try to grab a seat near a window to get that soft, diffused (not direct) natural light when taking photos of your food.

Golden hour

For stunning landscape photos, shoot during what photographers call ‘golden hour’, the hour just after sunrise and before sunset. These times of day are especially photo-friendly as the light is softer and warmer and sky colours are more dramatic.

Avoid zooming

For a better, sharper effect, don’t use the zoom function on your phone. Phones use digital zoom which doesn’t actually zoom like a normal camera lens, it merely ‘blows up’ the pixels. Get as close to your subject as you can, then crop the image after.

Take another look

Light can change a scene significantly at different times of the day, even from minute to minute. If there is cloud about, the difference between direct sunlight and the diffuse light when the sun is behind cloud is dramatic. 30 seconds can change everything. And the difference in light between 6:10pm and 6:15pm in the evening can be astounding. Try revisiting a scene a few minutes later. Shoot portrait instead of landscape or try it all!

Use long exposures

Try shooting long exposures where the paths of moving objects become visible. You’ll need a tripod or an object like a rock to keep your phone still. Longer exposures can give you beautiful results, especially when shooting water or skies. It may take a bit of trial and error but that’s half the fun of photography!

Find different perspectives.

Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable, it tends to create an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out, since most mobile photos are taken either straight on or from a bird’s eye view.

Look down

In the natural world there are endless interesting textures, shapes, colours, plants and animals right at our feet. Shooting from directly above can provide a unique perspective.

Focus first

Wait for the camera to focus before taking a shot. A simple tap on the screen will give you sharp looking pictures.

Cropping

‘Letter boxing’ your photos, cropping the top and bottom of the frame can give them a more widescreen look. It’s great for landscapes and nature shots.

HDR mode

HDR refers to High Dynamic Range. Our eyes can naturally balance the light in a space and cameras can’t. It’s why many photos can appear unbalanced. In HDR mode your phone will actually shoot several photos very quickly at several different exposures (varying the amount of light coming into the lens) and then blend those together into one more balanced image. It’s a great way to balance out bright skies and clouds. You just have to remember to keep your camera as still as possible.

Keep it simple

Keep your images free of clutter and go easy with filters. Most phones allow users a fairly wide array of editing options, keep your tweaks subtle and realistic.

Black and white

Not happy with the colours in your photo? Try converting to black and white. It won’t work all the time, but it can be a simple way to make average images look a lot better. It can also add that touch of timelessness to shots with people.

Use gridlines to balance your shot

One of the easiest and best ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s gridlines. That superimposes a series of lines on the screen of your smartphone’s camera that are based on the “rule of thirds. This is a photographic composition principle that says an image should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, so you have nine parts in total.

Try it all and have fun!

Making mistakes is part of the process. My phone is full of a lot of very ordinary photos and the odd great one. It takes a lot of practice, figuring out what works for you, and how to get the most out of your phone. Get out there, get snapping and have fun!