We asked a professional how to take beautiful photos with a smartphone

The era of smartphones has gone hand in hand with the era of photos and videos: the successes first of Instagram and then of TikTok are the mirror of an important change that concerned expression through images. Almost overnight, the great masses of people found a tool capable of making quality photos and videos on their handswith the right power to allow post production and the right connectivity to share your portraits of reality in a few seconds.

But the tool is not enough: as the great masters of photography teach us, the camera is a means that allows us to capture reality, but the idea, the story, the meaning must come from our sensitivity and creativity. And this is briefly the most important message he also gave us Lino Palenafilmmaker and director, co-founder of ARTIFICIAL FLOWERSto whom we asked to give us some tips to improve photography and video with the smartphone.

INDEX

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOOL



We start from a consideration that should always be made upstream, lat the choice of the instrument. Smartphones are powerful and versatile objects but they do not always match the communicative style we want to undertake. So let’s look at the past, at film cameras or at mini DV camcorders which can reserve us great surprises and always represent an excellent gym to train the eye and the mind.

If we feel ready or we believe that the smartphone is suitable for our purpose then we can leave, but we must keep in mind some very important aspects.

The Motorola Edge 30 Prowho accompanied us in our meeting with Lino, is a good representative of what a smartphone should have if we plan to use it to take photos and videos: quality hardware, Pro mode and the ability to save photos in RAWthe modern digital negative.



We cannot ignore a camera department capable of assisting us in the choices, but it is equally essential to learn how to use the Pro mode, controlling exposure times, white balance, ISO and possibly the focus point, only in this way we will be able to have full control of the vehicle. to exploit it according to our intentions, otherwise we will be at the mercy of an object designed primarily for “point and shoot”. Saving the photos in RAW is always a good idea and allows us to take the next step, perhaps not immediately but after some time taking up our work again.

2. HOW WE HOLD THE SMARTPHONE



Unlike cameras, smartphones do not have an abundant “body” and, more generally, ergonomics designed to ensure a solid grip when shooting or recording video clips. It is therefore very important adopt some precautions to improve the stability of the instrument during use.

If we hold the smartphone in hand we try to hold our breath and lower our center of gravitylet’s rely on optical stabilizationa fundamental feature that the smartphone should have, but aware of the movements it dampens, that is the small vibrations, not the slower and wider movements. Good posture and the right relaxation of the arms they constitute an excellent “gimbal” that nature has given us.

A good tip is to equip yourself with a holder or more technically a “cage” that allows us to improve the grip of the smartphone and at the same time to increase its expansion possibilities, perhaps with a spotlight and a microphone. What we propose below is valid in its simplicity.

As an alternative you could consider a jointed mini tripod, combined with a smartphone clamp, Joby offers ready-made kits that do their job very well.

3. CHANGE THE MACHINE POINT AND THE PERSPECTIVE



Smartphones have two fundamental characteristics, they are small and handy. We learn to exploit these qualities in a creative way, we will discover that we also have advantages over professional tools.

The advice that Lino gave us is from experimenting with the camera point, moving away from the natural line of sight and creating original points of view and perspectives. It is very easy to lift the smartphone by putting it on a very trivial selfie stick, or bring it closer to the ground, why not even take advantage of the self-timer after placing the phone in unthinkable contexts for a camera.


The small size allows us to get very close to the subject, insert ourselves at the height of the keys of a piano or between the hammers of a typewriter, position the point of view among the flowers of a vase or record a whole clip with the smartphone that peeps out of the trouser pocket, wide for creativity.

Always pay attention to the messages that the perspective communicates, shooting a subject from below gives it authority and importance, on the contrary, from top to bottom one tends to crush the figure, conveying a totally different story.

4. THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHT



The word “photograph” comes from ancient Greek and means (φῶς) Light and (γραφή) Scripture, literally write with light. It is the very definition of photography that suggests the importance of knowing how to read and exploit light.

A good photographer is an attentive observer of light, he studies it, researches it, manipulates it. Two steps in the study of FIORIARTIFICIALI and you immediately understand what Lino’s thoughts and preferences are about lighting: there is no better source than the Sun when it comes to recording a video or taking a photo.


Unless the goal is to restore a “studio” look, with the light you have to know how to play away as much as possible from a “flat” diffusion, where shadows disappear and details are emphasized. In this sense, it is necessary to move a little away from the “HDR” style that most smartphones offer by default, favoring the soft and warm light of the sunset, or the reflected light rather than the direct one.

In this regard it could be very useful to install on the smartphone one of the apps which suggests the position of the sun at various times of the day. They work with GPS and augmented reality, in a few seconds you can determine exactly where the light will come from at that exact point and at a certain time.

At night, however, keep your eyes sharp and read the light sources that derive from shop windows, street lighting or perhaps a portable spotlight that can always come in handy. You do not necessarily chase a full exposure, it is at night and the darkness can be an added value as much as the light.

5. THE CHOICE OF OPTICS



Unlike cameras with interchangeable lenses, on smartphones you have to know how to make do with what is there. We recall our Motorola Edge 30 Pro because it is a particular product, equipped with a standard lens and an ultra wide-angle lens with autofocus.

It is important to know your instrument, for example on the Motorola there is no telephoto lens and this forces us to physically move to get closer to the subject and attention, avoid digital zoom as much as possible, beyond the 2X the loss of quality is evident, better rather crop the photo in post production if we really have to exclude some elements from the scene.


Then take advantage of the ultra wide-angle camera to get a very wide field of view, ideal in some contexts of use, even better if the sensor has AF capability, a feature that allows us to take advantage of this lens also with a macro function to capture small details and textures. .

6. WORK ON THE IDEA AND THE SENSE



“It does not have to be the technology that we use to guide our choices, it is important to determine an idea and work on the meaning of what we are creating”. Lino Palena could not have been clearer and more direct arriving at the end of the morning we spent in his company.

With this statement we close the circle with the introduction to this piece, technology is important and helps but the human factor continues to play the main part and so it will always be if we want to talk about photography and film in a language other than the superficial one prevailing on social networks.

If we want to make a photo or video that is not the result of an impromptu opportunity given by the conditions of the moment, it is very important to work on the underlying idea, on the meaning of our work and then make consequently the technological choices that can be used. to support. You have to be patient.

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Motorola Edge 30 Pro available online from Euronics a 849 euros. To see the other 10 offers click here.

(updated February 27, 2022, 01:57 am)


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