Mobile Photography Tips — Fundamentals 2


Yesterday we kicked off our blog series on photography tips and explored two key fundamentals that will help you level up your skills. Now that we’ve gone over how to focus on storytelling and how to frame and compose your image, we’ll share the last two fundamentals for killer mobile photography.

Fundamental 3 — Mastering light

The word photography itself stems from Greek “photos” (light) and “graphe” (drawing). Everything in photography is based on light. Understanding this is critical to creating powerful photographs. We typically think of light in a singular way—there’s either light, or there isn’t. It's either bright, or it's dark. When we begin to pay attention to light, however, we can see that it can actually have varied intensity, colors and even varying qualities of softness or hardness. 

In order to master light in your photography, begin by actively paying attention to the light all around you. Observe the difference between light from the sun and light indoors. Notice how objects, places and people look different in bright sunlight versus light on an overcast day. You’ll often find that bright sunlight can bring out vibrant colors, but also casts harsh shadows that can be tricky to work with. Overcast light is flattering for portraits because it doesn’t cast severe shadows on the face, but sometimes colors can appear dull and murky. When observing light, start to look across these following qualities, and get a feel for how they bring out different feelings in the subject of your photographs:

Intensity—bright light and low light can bring out different qualities in your subject. Try taking photos of an object (say, an apple, or any other common item you have laying around), in bright light and low light, and observe the different outcomes. An easy way to test this is by comparing bright, direct sunlight, against the light available after the sun has just set (often called the “Blue Hour”). The same object/subject will take on different moods in your photos.

Try comparing natural light sources (the sun, maybe the moon!) to artificial sources. There are countless types of artificial light to test. Fluorescent bulbs have different color and quality than tungsten bulbs. Try playing with a lamp you have lying around, or even a flashlight. Your laptop screen could even be a light source to experiment with. Get creative and try using whatever sources you have available to light your an image.

You’ll likely begin to notice quickly that light can be either “hard” or “soft”. Light that is shining directly from the source onto your subject is typical “hard”— and will cast shadows with well defined edges. Hard light can bring out a lot of texture and detail, but for some subjects (like portraits) it can be tricky to use gracefully. 

Palm smartphone photography tips

Soft light on the other hand is either diffused or reflected from the source onto the subject. Sunlight that passes through the clouds on an overcast day is diffused by the clouds, creating a soft effect. Sunlight that bounces off a big white wall of a building is also soft, creating a much more gentle effect than direct sunlight. Soft light in this way is typically less intense than hard light, and casts shadows that have “fuzzy” or soften edges. This light can be incredibly flattering for portraits and still-life photos, but sometimes it can leave an image feeling a little too flat if there’s not enough contrast in the composition. Both hard and soft lighting have pros and cons—by observing and experimenting with both you’ll be able to know when to employ one or the other.

Lastly, observe the color of light. Light can lean warm or cool—in photography, we actually refer to this quality as “Temperature”, and represent it as a spectrum between cool blue hues to warm orange hues. You might notice, for example, that portraits taken under fluorescent lights can often appear green and sickly— not the most flattering, but it could be the effect you’re going for. Try taking a portrait of someone illuminated by the colorful light of a neon sign, and observe the effect it has. By now, you’ve realized the key is to experiment, try new things, observe and experiment some more. The more you test and shoot, the more you’ll learn.

Fundamental 4 — Enjoy the process

More than anything, it’s important to remember to simply enjoy the process of taking photos. Your photos don’t need to grace the cover of Vogue to have value and bring joy to yourself and others. Get in the habit of slowing down, putting yourself in #LifeMode and observing the world around you outside your screens. Observe how light falls on everything and everyone, and enjoy the richness of color, texture, and beauty in everything. Without a doubt, this practice will help you feel more centered in your day to day, and bring you a greater appreciation for the fleeting moments of life. 

We hope you found these photography fundamentals insightful and helpful for your next adventure. Of course— don’t forget to share the photos you capture on Palm with us on social media.

Tag @Palm in your photos and use the #PalmPics hashtag so we can see what you create (and for a chance to be featured on the Palm account!). Happy shooting!