A Flash of the Obvious
Hope you took lots of pictures. Pick the ones you like best, and, about each one, ask yourself one important question: What is it about this picture that you like?
Notice that we aren’t asking “Why do you like this picture?” Because we’re interested in whats, not whys. We’re interested in specific things you can point to and say, “I like this picture because of….” In art school lingo, asking this question (and demanding a concrete answer) is called “critiquing.”
Taking lots of pictures without critiquing will get you lots of pictures, but it won’t get you any closer to taking better pictures. So, Items No. 1 and 2 in the iPhone Photographer’s Checklist are:
1. Take lots of photos.
2. Critique your photos.
When you can identify the things you like about your photos, you can then look at the ones you don’t like and ask yourself, “If this photo had the thing I like about this other photo, would I like it better?”
That’s the power of critiquing. You come to think of your camera in a different way: you think of what you can do with it, instead of what it does.
But we promised a checklist of things you can do with your iPhone to make your pictures better. So, here’s No. 3:
3. Turn off your flash.
No, really. You can always turn it back on again if you need it. But you’ll need it far less than you might expect. Except for comic effect, no picture has ever been improved by flashing a bright light at it from right next to the lens.
Well, okay, there may be a few exceptions to that statement. If there’s just plain not enough light, a blown-out picture with flat black shadows around everything might be better than nothing. Or if you’re taking a picture of a flat surface, your flash might wash out the detail, but at least it won’t leave harsh shadows.
If you must supply some light, consider supplying it in some other form: carry an LED flashlight for night shots, and, instead of shining the light directly on the subject, try bouncing the light off a nearby light-colored surface.
Most of the time, your iPhone’s computer is pretty good at compensating automatically. In low light, it will use more of the light that gets into the lens, and it will leave the shutter open longer. Which is why low-light pictures get blurry: you’re capturing the motion. Which can sometimes be a good thing. Or at least an interesting thing.
So, slide the flash button open at the top of your camera app and set it to Off, and give your iPhone a chance to make some magic. And come back here for Checklist Item No. 4.