Why it's OK to look up from your phone before you take a pic

Phone photos are how almost everyone takes pictures these days. One Edmonton professional photographer offers a few insider tips into how to get the most out of yours.

Phone photo tips for people whose lens life could use a lift

Edmonton photographer Buffy Goodman says we're living in the 'selfie generation'. (Samuel Martin/CBC News)

Sometimes, the best advice a pro can give an amateur phone photographer is to slow down and make a human connection before you take a picture of someone.

That was one of the tips provided by Edmonton photographer Buffy Goodman Friday on Alberta at Noon, when she shared a few professional tips for listeners, many of whom filled up Alberta at Noon's Twitter timeline with a bevvy of beautiful shots.

Q: You're a professional photographer. Do you even use a phone to shoot photos?

A: When I'm walking around or hanging out with family, I usually don't lug out my big SLR [single lens reflex] camera.

If I'm taking snaps of my nephews playing, or on vacation, walking around, I'll totally take photos with my iPhone. I really like that it's small and portable and always in my pocket.

Q: Talk about the lens on a phone camera, and what sort of photos are best taken with them?

A: The approximate focal length of most phone cameras is about a 35 millimetre, which is really awesome, and versatile, because that's more or less how we see the world. It's not really zoomed in, or super wide —  it's very relatable, and so you can take photos of landscapes, [or] of people, because that is how we see the world.

Q: Would you advise people to shoot horizontally or vertically?

A: Because I come from the world of SLR Cameras, I do take a lot of photos horizontally because that's normally what I would do for work.

But vertical photos are fine too.

Q: What advice do you have for amateur phone photographers who want better pictures?

A: One tip that I have for people — just because I see a lot of people taking phone photos and having bad results — is, just slow down. If you're taking a photo of something, stop walking, stop moving, take a deep breath, and take a moment to look at the object or the scene you're photographing and just compose a little quicker.

We're [living] in an age of instant gratification, which is awesome, but I'm taking that extra five seconds to see a scene, and [if you] become immersed in it before you take the photo, [it] will just result in a better photo.

Q: Why?

A: It's just patience. Whenever you look at something and let it sink in, and approach it more patiently, you're getting better results. That applies to humans and it applies to art as well.

Q: What about close-ups using the zoom lens?

A: When you zoom in, it basically just reduces the information on the side of the digital image. It's not an actual zoom, where lenses are actually moving, so you're getting a poorer quality image.

If it's something very far away and you can't take a few steps toward it, a zoom might be handy, but if you want a really good photo of something, and you're able to, if you walk toward it, you're going to get much better results.

Q: What are your feelings about using the flash?

A: The flash on a phone is very direct and direct light is not necessarily the most flattering. It's better to have light when you're taking a portrait, for instance, that comes from the side. As opposed to just straight on. It's just more flattering.

If you really want to capture something and you have to use the flash, because that's what you have, go for it.

But if you have other options — if you're taking a photo of somebody, let's say you're taking a portrait of a friend, put them in front of a window and shut off all the lights in the room and just use that nice, soft window light and you'll get a really flattering photo.

Q: A caller, Jodi from Lethbridge, asked about having a nice phone that distorts faces. What can be done about that?

A: Front facing cameras on most phones aren't quite as good as the other side. Even the iPhone I've noticed has that a little bit. For some reason, even though we're [living] in the selfie generation, cameras are still vaguely unflattering in that regard.

I'm not sure what you could do about it when you take the photo, but there are editing programs if you want to take the time to edit the photos, if you want to edit perspective and stuff like that a bit to make it a little more flattering if it's a photo you really love.

There's ways to do that through the Adobe Lightroom CC.

There's a program called Snapseed which is a really good all around phone editing program.

It's just — unfortunately — a reality.

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca


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