Ben Johnson had some powerful words for all of you mobile street photographers out there in Issue 3 of Street Photography Magazine. We’d like to revisit them right here on the blog today. He said this,
…one photo can look quite average, while another photo of the same or similar scene or event can be quite different when taking a bit more notice and consideration of lighting, subject matter and composition.
Lighting, subject matter and composition. These are the three keys to taking powerful street photography images, regardless of the kind of gear you use. Still, if you prefer shooting in stealth mode with your mobile device, capturing these three components in a single shot can be more of a challenge. Let’s face it, a cell phone or tablet has limited capabilities when compared to even your basic DSLR camera. So what can you do about it?
Tip #1 Be Aware of Natural Lighting Opportunities
To start with, take advantage of natural light. This might seem like a no-brainer, but remember, the sky opposite the sun is always the deepest blue. This is also the position of the sun you want if you are looking to illuminate any potential subject whose path might cross yours. That said, sunsets, sunrises, and even cloudy skies can add beauty and drama to your photos, (even if they aren’t the focus of the photo). This is where you simply need to be aware of your surroundings, always ready if a moment of interest presents itself.
Tip #2 Remember the Rule of Thirds
Imagine dividing your image into thirds (both horizontal and vertical). In your mind, create a grid that separates each section, creating a grid with nine sections. Some mobile devices might even have a setting where you can see this grid as you shoot. To fulfill the rule of thirds, you should place your subject where the lines intersect for a balanced and interesting composition. If you’d like to look into this technique a little further, check out our post from last week about composition and the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is a mathematical ratio found in nature that is naturally of interest to our eyes. It is the foundation of the rule of thirds. Keep both principles in mind as you compose your shots, but don’t be afraid to break the rule once in a while either.
Tip #3 Edit and Filter
Finally, take advantage of your mobile device’s photo editing capabilities to further improve your initial image. If your composition is a little off, crop your photo. If you’d like to give the shot a boost in color, add a little saturation. If you want to give your shot a look that is a little more dramatic, try adding a subtle vignetting (that’ll darken the edges a bit). The editing possibilities are endless so don’t be afraid to get creative.
With these three tips in mind, get out there and shoot! The best way to improve your technique and composition is to hit the streets and snap away.
For more on mobile street photography, check out:
- “Taking Better Photos with Your iPhone or Smartphone” by Ben Johnson in Issue 3 of Street Photography Magazine