The ubiquitous mobile phone has turned everyone into a film producer or photographer. That’s a good thing, because it gives us a cornucopia of memories to share, re-live and savor. But some images and video are better than others, begging for a replay or social-media share. Let’s look at how to make yours more likely to make that category.
We’re not talkin’ art here, simply creating better snapshots or home movies. If you want to make a statement, go to film school. If you want decent shots to share with friends, read on.
- Fill the frame. After a few establishing shots to create a sense of scale (tiny guy at the foot of monolithic cliff), set up your shots so they are pretty much full of your subject: guy holding bird, dog with bird in mouth, two guys high fiving … leave out most of the background.
- Most shots are more attractive to the eye if they are a bit asymmetrical. Put the main subject just a bit to the left, right, or toward one corner up or down. Remember on point-and-shoot cameras that you’ll have to focus on your subject before you de-center it. With most, that’s done by pushing the shutter release down halfway while pointing at the subject. Often, the object being focused on is surrounded by a graphic frame in the viewfinder.
- Push up the hat brim. The eyes really are the window to the soul, and if they are invisible due to shadow, your photos have less personality. Ditto sunglasses.
- Eliminate extraneous stuff: cigarettes, soda cans, gear, people in the background, and anything that looks like it’s popping up from your subject’s head like a tree trunk or fishing rod behind him. Same for items in the foreground – I was just given a set of photos by a “pro” where a woman’s head is popping out of my belly! Hold dead birds with a bit of respect.
- Shoot at least one “insurance” frame – or more – just in case. Light changes, the flash works (or doesn’t), eyes blink, dogs sneeze. Back in the day in the newspaper business, we used to say film is cheap compared to re-setting the shot, but bytes are even cheaper.
Videos look more professional if you frame the action and hold the camera stock-still. A tripod, monopod, shooting stick or anchor of any kind (even against a tree trunk) is better than nothing.
Most times, avoid following your subject with the camera (or God forbid, by literally walking behind or alongside him). Let him walk into and out of the frame instead. Minimize zooms as well. If you want your subject to talk to the camera and be understandable, get close enough so the onboard microphone can actually record him. If you must “pan” or “tilt,” (move camera horizontally or vertically) make it slow.
Now, go make some magic!