Red Lodge, Montana

Cell Phone Photography

Rodman Banner Dec 2013In the last few years photography has really became more available to everyone with not only cheaper digital cameras but cell phones and iPhones.  There is a whole movement of folks with iPhones creating very interesting images.  There are tons of apps you can use to add a little flair to your photos before posting them on your favorite social media.  Was there even the mass of social media there is now when I wrote last?

One of the biggest struggles people have with photography is knowing how to get good images from the camera they have, even if that camera is their phone.  Photography is like any skill, knowledge and practice does pay off in time.  If you are not willing to take time to learn and practice, nothing I say will help you take better photographs.

When cameras were first being produced for the general public the manufacturers quickly learned that if the camera didn’t produce an acceptable image, people wouldn’t buy it.  So with that in mind, you must be aware that most devices that record images do so in general lighting situations.  This means that, although the recording device has built-in compensation for an ever varying range of lighting situations, if there is not enough light, there will come a point when getting a good image will not be possible.  You must always remember that photography is simply the recording of light.  No light, no photo.

The advantage of having a camera with a wide range of manual adjustments for exposure is that it is possible to extend the range of acceptable lighting situations to get a better image. These are usually images people see and say, “Why can’t my camera take those kinds of photos?”  Well, maybe it could if you knew how to set it for that lighting situation.  When using a device to record images that has a limited ability to record a decent image in low light, remember that the images you get will start to look dark and blurry because of the lack of light.  There are technical reasons for this but by remembering what I said about no light, no photo you don’t need to know the technical reason.  If your phone has a little flash, that will help but the light from a flash is harsh and will only light a subject up to about ten feet.  So for those photo bombs or selfies, iPhones will do pretty well if there’s enough light in the environment.

Slightly Out of Focus Dec 2013

Photo copyright 2013 Gene Rodman

But if you want to head to Rock Creek for a photo of the water with fresh snow on the rocks remember your iPhone will probably not have a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action of the rushing water.  Depending on how much light there is you may get a great image even if the action of the water isn’t totally stopped.  If you’d like to get the blurred water effect of this month’s photo you will have to head to the creek in the evening when it starts to get a little darker and hold your camera real steady so only the movement of the water is blurred.  The water blurs because it is the only thing moving and nothing else is moving.  I’ve seen little holders for iPhones you can buy that act as a mini tripod that will help with this.  With a little persistence and experimentation you will often produce an image that you will be proud to post on Facebook.  Always remember your camera phone or iPhone will produce good images only if there is enough light to do so no matter how much you curse it.

Finally, a little self promotion.  This month’s photo is one I took for the Red Lodge School of Dance’s Ballerina Calendar I did this summer with the amazing young women of Elizabeth Prather’s advanced ballet class.  This shows the classic blur of falling water from a one second exposure at the falls downstream from Beartooth Lake.  It didn’t make it into the calendar because it was very difficult for Rachel to hold still in that pose for the one second exposure needed to blur the falling water and she is a little blurry.  The young dancers were beautiful to watch and photograph and  I hope everyone can purchase a calendar and support them and the dance studio.  They’ll make great Christmas gifts for our out of town family members or Red Lodge lovers.

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