You all know I’m always taking photos, and that I use instagram to share my shots (mostly taken on my phone but not always) with anyone who cares to view them (you can find me on instagram here if you’ve not already). Recently I was invited to try out the service offered by Instantgram, who turn your Instagram images into lovely little magnets.
These 5cm x 5cm square magnets cost $17 for nine (making a square of squares, of course) and are delivered free anywhere in the world. To get your magnets you simply allow Instantgram access to your instagram account and select which nine shots you want to turn into magnets (or you can have nine of the same image if you like).
The teeny little box arrived just a couple of days later, and the nine magnets inside are super cute. They are thinner than I was expecting – very flexible – but the print quality is great and the colours have come out as I would have anticipated.
They stick perfectly well to the usual suspects – fridge doors, radiators, metal cupboards, you know the sort of thing. I’ve used mine to hold paper in place, but I wouldn’t think they’ll hold anything much heavier than a single sheet. I’ve got mine sat in a square on the cupboard by my desk at work, I think they look fab and brighten the area up nicely.
I think these are a great idea and I’m really impressed with how easy they were to order and how quickly they arrived. They would make a great little gift for yourself (we never get photo prints anymore do we?), and would be a lovely way to share your photos with family and friends. Just remember they are only 5cm so they are small – but that means one would easily slip inside a birthday or Christmas card.
I do like a nice sea view.
When my grandad was alive (it’s still very raw saying that, I do miss him) he would take us for a drive to see the sea – to check it was still there. It’s something that’s stuck; I can’t go too many days without seeing the sea. I’ve mentioned my love of the sea on here before several times – there is just something about it – it’s peace, it’s power, it’s life.
Over the last week while on the Graham Homes Memorial Ride (I hoped you followed the ride blog while we were on our trip) I’ve seen loads of sea views all around the country. Every time we turned a corner and there was a bay or a view over a cliff or that smell of salt water I would smile. The nature of our challenge meant that I was guaranteed at least four sea views, one at each of the four compass points of mainland Great Britain, but there was no telling whether we’d have clear days or nice conditions. We were lucky with that for sure, even the brown murky waters and cloud filled skies of Lowestoft gave us a decent scene and made me smile.
Lowestoft Ness, most easterly point of mainland Great Britain (Saturday)
Lizard Point, most southerly point of mainland Great Britain (Sunday)
Ardnamurchan Point, most westerly point of mainland Great Britain (Wednesday)
Dunnet Head, most northerly point of mainland Great Britain (Thursday)
It wasn’t just the four compass points, we travelled along the Devon coast, and along the east coast of Scotland. The Northumberland coastline offered some lovely views on the way home too. We are so lucky here in the UK, we have some spectacular coastline scenes to look at, and even when right in the middle of the country we are not that far from a decent sea view.
East Coast of Scotland (Thursday)
From Holy Island, Northumberland (Friday)
I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to see so much of Great Britain over the last week, not least because I got to fulfil my everlasting craving for sea views and amazing scenery. It has been good for the soul, and has given me some images now stored in my memory to inspire me over the next months.
I hope it’s not too long before I get to see the sea again – just to make sure it is still there of course.
Taking photos on our phones is quick, simple and can be instantly shared with others. The fact that cameras on mobile phones are now of a pretty decent standard we have more opportunity to capture moments as they happen without needing to carry around a “proper” camera – and we can keep and even print those shots. I love taking photos on my phone, it’s so convenient; I can snap away to my heart’s content in all situations, be creative whenever the mood takes me, and have stills to help remind me of nice things.
There are a number of simple tips and tricks that can help us to make the most of our phone cameras. I use an iPhone and so these things may well be specific to that, but you’ll find the functionality is useful across any and probably all decent phones out at the moment. And of course the art of taking a nice photograph is the same regardless of which device you are using. I thought I’d share my best practice ideas with you (and some of my photos too) – I hope you find them useful.
Clean the Lens
First things first. Before you attempt to take any photograph on your phone, turn your phone over and give the lens a wipe. Phones get finger prints all over them, and one across your lens will turn the best photo into a blurry mess – it’s like looking through a car window with rain spots and handprints all over it. Use your t-shirt (or a nice lens cloth) to give it a quick clean and you’re ready to go.
Generally speaking phones have a centred focus point. On an iPhone you can choose exactly where to focus by tapping the screen where you want that focus point to be. This is great for landscapes with people in – you can have the people on the left of the shot in focus by simply tapping on them. It’s also good for shots of people and pets; the most pleasing shots will have the eye in focus, so tap on the eye when taking the picture to get the best focus point.
One thing I see a lot is people talking photos while walking along or moving about, or with one hand waving about all over the place. I don’t know about you but if I did that my photos would be totally blurry – and I suspect theirs are too! Stand still, hold your phone with both hands, lean against something if you need to, breath in, hold your breath for a second, take the shot.
Keep it Straight
Remember that the lens on your phone is in one corner – it’s not in the middle. So look at the screen and make sure you have it straight! You can turn on the grid to help with this and also your general composition.
Please (please please) don’t pinch to zoom. Phone cameras are only equipped with digital zoom. All this does is increase the pixel size so you end up with a shot that is blocky and very difficult to get in focus. If you want a close up shot the best thing is to move! Simply get closer to your subject. Alternatively, if moving closer is impossible, take it as you are and crop later.
All About Light
The most important element in any photograph is the light. Your flash won’t help you get a nice bright shot, it will only fill a very small area in the centre of your frame (and give any people in the shot red eyes and ghostly white faces). What you need is light all around – the more light, the easier it is to get things in focus. Natural light beats artificial light any day of the week – the bulb in your living room light fitting just won’t do the same job as the big yellow thing in the sky outside (even on a cloudy day), so get outside whenever you can. You can’t generally alter ISO settings on your camera phone, so make the most of the light around you; keep it behind or above you and on your subject, and watch out for your own shadow. Also be mindful of lens flare which I find more prevalent when using my phone to take shots. You can use light to your creative advantage too, of course – silhouettes can be pleasing to look at, but if you take a shot of your best friend and they’re all dark and shaded the shot is useless. Night time shots taken on iPhones can look fabulous, but the shutter will stay open for longer so make sure you keep still – experiment with focussing on light areas and dark areas of your shot to get different effects.
Taking the Shot
A useful thing to know is that an iPhone does not take your photo until you take your finger off the shutter button. So you can get yourself set up and sorted, stick your finger on the button, and gently release it to take your shot when you are ready. I’m sure you all know that the + button on the side of your iPhone also works as a shutter button for when you have the camera in the landscape orientation – but did you now that the + button on your headphones also works? This is absolutely brilliant if you are prone to camera shake, and a really great tip if you are trying to use your phone to take a shot over other people’s heads or at a funny angle. If you’re in a rush to open your camera app also remember that you can swipe up on the camera icon on the locked screen which overrides the need to put in your unlock code, getting you access to your camera (and only your camera) nice and quickly.
Oh, and if you want to edit your photographs – crop them, tune them, alter the colours, add filters – then I recommend Snapseed as the most useful app out at the moment. I always take my photographs using the phone’s own camera function (not from within other apps), as this gives you the largest file size possible, and it’s always good to keep the original. Then I open my shot in Snapseed and play about as I want to. I like to use a square format and so I will use Snapseed to crop, and dependent on the shot and what I’m going to use it for I’ll also change the brightness, contrast, saturation, focus point, add tilt shift, and whatever else I think is appropriate. Snapseed can help turn a mediocre shot into a really great one. But it can also turn a really great shot into an awful one, so don’t go too overboard!
Practice Makes Perfect
Of course the best thing about having a camera phone is that you can take loads (and loads) of photographs and decide which is the best later. Snap away to your heart’s content and learn as you practice. Photography on a smartphone is fun, you can get some fabulous shots worthy of the wall as well as some silly shots to share on facebook. It’s quick, easy and very convenient. So keep it in hand and document your life. You’ll be thankful in a few year’s time when you want to walk down memory lane.
I like to share my photographs on instagram – it’s a lovely way to share and view squared up phone snaps. I’m Splodz over there – give me a follow and let me know your instagram name below.
Oh… And to help us all improve, please add your own phone photography hints and tips in the comments box below. Cheers!
Donna Nook is a National Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife with the agreement of the MOD (it is also RAF Donna Nook, a weapons range). Each year in November and December it sees 100s of wild grey seals come to have their pups on the sand banks and dunes. It is quite a sight.
Every Christmas for the last few years I have realised my opportunity to visit the Grey Seal Colony at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire has passed. So much earlier this year I promised myself I’d go, and after my post about photography and wanting to use my camera more, along with the fact that I had a day off work today, that drive across Lincolnshire had to be made.
So far this year 1,369 seal pups have been born and the population continues to grow daily.
Anyway, here are a selection of my photos from today – all taken on my Nikon 3100. Cute aren’t they?!
Please remember to contact me if you want to use these anywhere for whatever reason, it’s nice to ask first.
Over the years my love of photography has grown and grown. A few times recently I’ve been asked “what’s your photographic style?” or “what do you take photographs of?”. Each time I’ve had to think hard before answering. I just take snaps. 100s of them. I enjoy taking photographs to help bring back memories. I don’t have a style. I just enjoy taking photographs.
I’ve always loved taking photos, even as a kid. I remember asking my mum and dad for a camera for Christmas that cost more than I knew they would normally spend, so I offered to go halves with the money I’d saved. I loved it. Before that I remember having a 110mm film camera. I knew exactly what I was doing with it and used it at every opportunity.
When I got married LincsGeek and I bought a Sigma SLR camera, and we both learnt how to use it properly. I continued to take 100s of shots but the cost of developing meant I had to start understanding what the shot would look like before I took it. At work I was responsible for the product photography for the company I worked for at the time. It wasn’t something I was employed to do but one of those things that ended up in my hands – I had a studio set up at my disposal, and spent days in there snapping paint brushes, paint pots and accessories. It was fun, I enjoyed seeing my photographs (however prescriptive) in print, and I learnt a lot.
We entered the DSLR world with a Sigma SD14 which was absolutely fantastic but really cumbersome to carry around, and a couple of years ago replaced our kit with a Nikon D3100 and a couple of lenses which isn’t quite as good in some ways to be honest but is much lighter and more up to date. But we still don’t carry it around everywhere. We have a couple of point and shoot cameras that are nearly always to hand, and of course I have my iPhone.
And that is the camera I use most of the time. It’s brilliant – easy to use, decent resolution (I have the iPhone 5), makes it a doddle to share my shots, and it’s always there in my hand. My ‘proper’ photography has probably suffered since I got my first iPhone because I use all the settings much less often and have to spend time remembering what I’m doing every time I pick the DSLR up. But I take many more photos, and have an ever growing Instagram album.
Instagram is a funny thing actually. I know people who actually hate it with a passion. But I love it. I don’t generally use the filters in it, I use it for the social aspect and I like the square format. It’s somewhere to post my photos for others to see, it links with other social media, and I can engage with people and their photos through it. It gives me the final part of my mobile camera set up – iPhone to take the shots, iPad for editing (I use Snapseed generally), and Instagram for sharing. It’s fun posting random and more calculated shots, it’s nice when people like and comment.
It all got a bit serious recently when I took part in the Instachimps Hip 2B Square Exhibition – a gallery of photographs taken on smart phones by people in Lincolnshire. It was so much fun to be involved and I started to analyse my iPhone photographs even more. I was so surprised how great my ten chosen shots looked printed out and framed, and how brilliant the whole exhibition looked. I also take part in the weekly Smart Phone Square competition, also thanks to the Instachimps group, where we’re given a topic to take a photo on a smart phone in square format.
It turns out, thanks to a comment from a friend on my entry for this week’s Smart Phone Square on the topic of light, that I do have a photographic style. Michelle simply said “Love what you do with shapes” (thank you!). And I think that’s it. I love exploring shape. I like taking images of things, generally of ordinary things, and picking out the lines or the colours or the lighting or the texture or the outline. I like showing elements of a thing rather than the whole thing, or featuring a pretty ordinary object and making it stand out in the composition. I think carefully where objects are placed in my shot, my images are structured. I can now see that in my shots on Instagram, photos I’ve taken for Splodz Blogz, and even many of my holiday snaps.
Have I found a photographic style? I think I have developed one over time. It’s not that great for holiday memories, I still enjoy taking portraits and landscapes for the photo albums, but there will always be this type of shot in there too. I know I’m no expert, I don’t think I take photographs people want to buy or display at home (my shots from the exhibition are still in a pile in the spare bedroom ready to go in the loft), but that’s okay because photography is something I do for me. I can look at my pictures and smile – either because I like the shape or because it reminds me of something.
I have vowed to get the Nikon out and charged up this evening, and make sure I use it more. I’ve started investigating macro lenses because that is one element of my kit I really miss from our Sigma days. The point and shoot is in my bag with a clean SD card. And my iPhone is ready for those random “this is my life” shots.
Here’s to many more years of loving photography. And many more years of developing my style and skills.