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Lighting and Cell Phone Photography

LIGHTING AND CELL PHONE PHOTOGRAPHY I may be a professional photographer, but there are times when taking my big DSLR camera into the field just doesn’t make sense for various reasons. Creating good cell phone photography is not difficult if you know some basic photography knowledge. There are a lot of factors that go into creating a pleasing image, but in my opinion, lighting is the most important element, which is why I am taking some time to focus on that here. I like to concentrate on cell phones because they are very easy to use and almost everyone has one available at all times. Add these tips related to lighting, and you’ll be well on your way to frame-worthy images you’ll be proud to display. UTILIZE NATURAL LIGHT ONLY :: I am purely a natural light photographer. In my opinion, there is nothing that compares to the quality of light found outdoors! This is especially important for cell phone images as artificial lighting casts a yellow or bluish color tone that is difficult (and time consuming) to correct in post- production with a cell phone. Natural light is a clean light that offers a range of image styles based on additional factors; which leads me to the next point…

TIME OF DAY :: The best lighting happens the 60 minutes immediately after sunrise and the 60 minutes directly before sunset. This is referred to as “golden hour”. The light is typically a very flattering color for skin tone; creating a soft glow. Not to mention the backdrop to your photo is going to be beautiful with all the colors that happen in the sky at this time! Trust me when I tell you it is worth waking up early for; if you are a hunter then you already know how beautiful the world is as it wakes up and goes to sleep!

SITE SELECTION :: I love a good, overcast day. Cloudy days create the perfect light for outdoor photography. Not a cloud in the sky? Then head for some shade. Harsh and bright mid day light creates nasty shadows under eyes and overall a complicated contrast that tends to look cheap in photo. Be careful in the spring and summer, however, when there are green leaves and green grass as they can reflect a yellow-green tint on the skin that can be difficult to correct in post-production. No shade in sight? That brings us to my next tip…

ANGLE OF SUBJECT :: You can position your subject at various angles to capture different emotions with light. Facing your subject perpendicular to the light source adds more contrast and depth to the subject; often referred to as modeling light. This type of lighting effect is particularly interesting in black and white, but works well for color too. Facing your subject directly towards the light creates a very flat, and somewhat uninteresting, lighting effect. I like to utilize this lighting effect when the subject has their eyes closed to avoid squinting and I want the light to flood the face for effect. Facing your subject away from the light source will often create more of a silhouette with little detail on the subject. This lighting effect can create interesting art-style images.

Grasping these techniques may seem overwhelming at first. Practice these tips next time you are enjoying the outdoors! Mastering lighting will be a game changer for your Instagram feed. No amount of editing will make cell phone photos look professional if type of lighting is not accounted for.

Tammy is a professional outdoor lifestyle photographer, based in South Dakota, shooting in natural light only. All images shown in this blog were created using an iPhone 5s. Stay tuned for more tips on creating high quality cell phone images! While nothing beats a professional DSLR camera, there are so many things you can do to have more confidence in the field with your cell phone to capture memories!

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