Guest Contributor | Michelle Morris
In recent months, I have been on an iPhone camera escapade as I have completed and published my latest e-book, “A Camera’s A Camera” – which is all about rocking your iPhone. I have learned so much about filters, in-phone processing, touch focus, burst mode, camera phone megapixels, digital storage, iPhone (or mobile device) tricks and tips for shooting. My brain has been on phoneography overload. Since releasing the e-book, which is over 80 pages of information, I have received the most positive feedback on the chapters detailing composition and mistakes. I want to share some of the highlights from these sections with the Chic Critique Family!
Webster has a lovely (and certainly photography applicable) definition for the word composition. The definition reads, “composition is the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole.” As photographers, no matter what camera we are operating, we must always be mindful of composition. This means we are using elements around us (the parts) to form a whole (our final image).
Artful composition is something that improves with time. I think this is one of those elements in photography that cannot be taught as much as it can be felt. Artistic compositions make a photo more interesting for your viewer and can often make or break a final product. Just like with photo journaling (I discussed that here) and reminding yourself that life is happening around you at 360 degrees, composition is an element you need to focus on mentally as you frame your shot. The more you force yourself to do this (and consider everything around you), the more it will become like breathing. I promise. Do you shoot everyday with your iPhone? I encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to look through your library of iPhoneography (or phoneography) and assess if you’re composing your shots to the best of your ability. Are you using what’s around you to make your image amazing?
For example, in the image with two of my sons using the rope swing I was able to capture elements of the environment on both sides. The trees and the skeleton of the swing set framed my shot. By shooting it from this angle/vantage point, it made it easier for the viewer to relate the whole moment. You can easily tell that it’s two kiddos outside playing together and they are among a wooded area. Not only did I use trees on the side, but I used them on the top and bottom as well. All of that little detail (the parts) aided in creating an artful final (whole) image.
In the photo of my son (yes, he is wearing pink) walking on the concrete, I decided to use both his shadow and the sidewalk chalk as my detail elements to create the final image. I wanted it to be obvious that we were playing. The misspelled word finish indicates preschool writing and outdoor fun. The shadow shows bare feet and sunshine that must have been high noon. I love that I can understand what was really happening in this photo because I used the elements around to properly compose the shot.
In the photo of my sons running, I used the beaten path and perfect tree lines to frame the shot. It creates almost a three dimensional effect and the eye knows exactly where to look first. I also was laying in the dirt for this shot to give the image a more interesting perspective.
In addition to being intentional with artful compositions, I want to encourage you to embrace your “mistakes” when shooting with your camera phone. Webster defines a mistake as a misunderstanding or a misconception. Since art is so subjective and interpretations vary so widely, misconceptions with imagery are definitely acceptable.
There is just something about the iPhone camera that is so forgiving, in terms of the final product/image. I have learned to really embrace the flaws I notice with this camera. We (as photographers) can get so accustomed to the rules and the technical awesomeness of the DSLR we call our baby. The full frame (or even crop sensor) we love to shoot with is so sharp and reliable and just plain technologically amazing. While the iPhone is certainly incredible, it’s just not the same. It’s a fantastic camera, but we are (no doubt) spoiled.
Some of my favorite final products/images have been a result of an iPhone mistake. Something that is less than technically pleasing to the trained (or even untrained) eye. I’m talking about motion blur, poor framing (because you’re on the go), over exposed, under exposed… and the list goes on. Somehow these iPhone mistakes look like a creative wonder when they are processed and posted. I have coined it the ‘iPhone miraculous mistake phenomenon’ … and I seem to embrace it left and right these days. I often prefer these images to the more technically sound images. Now, this is not to say that there is not a place for a properly exposed iPhone image and a properly composed iPhone capture. Of course I believe in that as well. Photography “rules” are solid and reliable. My point with mistakes is that they are more than okay (even welcome) where iPhoneography is concerned. The ratio of “keepers” from an iPhone photo experience is always far greater than those ratios with my fancy camera. Because, like I said earlier, the iPhone is so darn forgiving. I will usually always toss a motion blur photo when culling images from a professional photo shoot. When culling from an iPhone shoot I find myself sincerely drawn to the more imperfect images (like blur or gain or unusual composition).
I want to encourage you to embrace the same mentality with your iPhone. We have to learn that the results of shooting with an iPhone are just not the same as the fancy camera we love and cherish. And we have to 100% own this exciting fact. The iPhone allows for such a large (spectacular) margin for error that there is really no excuse to not be fabulous… even with low light, even with insane movement, even with on the go snaps that don’t take proper composition into account. Sit back and exploit your iPhoneography mistakes. Own them like a boss. And remember, creativity takes courage.
For example, the image of my son with the garage window light is underexposed. I was shooting quickly and did not touch focus in the correct area. I ended up loving this shot, a silhouette of sorts, in light of the “mistake” of not exposing this properly.
The convenience of the iPhone (or any mobile phone) has been revolutionary for me (and hopefully you) in the memory preservation department. I am so thankful for such a sound piece of equipment that’s always on hand to capture life around me.
I look forward to sharing Part II of “Why are You on Instagram” (see Part I here) next time I’m here with my Chic Critique Family!
To connect on Instagram, find me @michellelmorris. And for more information about my iPhoneography e-book, please click HERE.
Michelle is a full time professional child and family photographer. Her work has been published in print over 30 times and her imagery has appeared in more than 10 magazines, including editorial pieces as well as covers. Michelle has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years and they have three small boys. Her newest business venture, the unPacked Catalogue, is a 130+ page e-book detailing the success of her non-traditional school photography – available to photographers online.