A Mobiographer’s Journey From Analog to iPhone
A couple of years ago, mobiographer Erica “Spin” Simas moved…
It may seem odd, but this is the single best piece of advice I can give you to improve the composition of your photographs: Get high. Very, very high. Or low. Super low. Or wayyyy off to the side. Basically, just move it!
Go to any popular tourist destination: the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Statue of Liberty. You’ll see throngs of tourists standing front and center, facing the site, lifting their phones and clicking a shot, and moving on. The results: throngs of identical photos that offer no unique, personal insight or voice. Even worse, the monument itself will be obscured by other tourists (who undoubtedly just took the very same photo!).
But, by moving your feet (“walking”) around and searching for a new, unusual, or unexpected angle, you can take a photo of a site that will convey your unique perspective. (As an added bonus, you can find to try an angle that excludes other onlookers and shutterbugs.)
Of course, this technique need not be employed just on your fantastic vacations. It should be a basic element of your toolset. See a cute dog you must photograph? Don’t just walk up to it and snap a shot. Get directly above it. Or right up next to it. Or stick the camera below its nose and aim up. Any of these shots with extreme angles will create a more interesting composition than simple “dog in the middle of the frame” photography.
“Getting low” is the first extreme angle I would recommend adopting. This is especially true when photographing things that are closer to the ground, like flowers, or children. Try seeing the world from their point of view, photographing them straight on as you crouch down. After you make “getting low” an instinct, you’ll realize how many more new perspectives you can discover.
In fact, one of the most compelling advantages of mobile photography is that the camera is so small, it can be positioned almost anywhere. And because the lens is so close to the edge of the device, you can really get it right up next to a wall, or off the ground.
Walking around to find a new angle is almost always a (cough) step in the right direction to produce better photographs, but not just because of the improved composition. By taking the moment to consider your scene, you train your “photographer’s eye.” Rather than seeing something photo-worthy and instinctively raising your camera or phone to eye level, this technique focuses you to pause, look, and think.
It allows you to take in the scene as a whole, and consider the result you are aiming for. Once you imagine the outcome, constructing the composition in your head, you have something to shoot for (sorry, that “shooting” pun was unintended). By all means, improvise and change your mind, but do so after having visualized a shot.
Remember, an extreme angle can be found anywhere, for any subject. In this way, it opens up the creative possibilities infinitely: a portrait of someone taken from their feet, a photo of graffiti on a wall from 90 degrees, a shot of a vintage car from directly above it.
Find the angle that tells your story.
Writing & images by Shai Davis.