I received an email question. You’ve been gone a while, what have you been up to?
Well, quite a bit actually. Not photographically but life wise.
Most recently snowboarding with my kids.
But we have been having other good times as well.
I’ve decided to move my blog and such back to the old WordPress.com blog (where you are reading this) I was using up until I purchased a hosting plan last year. So many reasons and so little time to explain.
That’s the biggest contributing factor to the move back. It’s no secret that our economy is in the toilet right now. It has been for the last couple of years. One of the first things to go is the luxury expenses. Things like getting family photos taken. So as a result, I’m not getting the business to afford the hosting for the full blown web site. It’s expensive.
The feature set I had with the paid hosting was not really any better for my needs than the free hosting. It’s not like I was running a web store or anything along those lines. I’m just keeping a basic blog going when the inspiration hits me. Which to be quite honest is less and less these days.
Ya, it’s still about the money.
In my mind, I thought having a full hosting plan would some how make the people start lining up and my phone and email would be constantly full with clients. Talk about arrogance. That is so far from the truth that it actually shames me to admit to it.
Are you sensing the theme here yet? Well it is kind of sad.
All this said I am keeping my domain (chrislemmen.com) it’s not costing me that much money and I really like having the domain. I can point it where ever I want. So the plan is to keep blogging as the inspiration hits me. I might venture away from photography every now and then but the main theme of my blog is still going to be photography.
Recently I upgraded my smartphone to the Samsung Galaxy S8 from the S5. I had the S5 for a couple years and although I was impressed with the camera, it never really did all that good. It was fine in the right light but in low light it was just terrible. The S8 camera on the other hand is fantastic in low light situations. But, is it as good as my 9 year old DSLR which is not the best at low light either. Let’s find out.
Ok, in the above photos the one on the left is from my smartphone, the one on the right is from my Canon 50D. I’ve done minor editing to bring up the shadows on the DSLR raw image and a bit of punch in the clairity but no major edits. As we can see the Samsung S8 is warmer and more saturated. It’s a bit brighter too. I would have to do some extra edits to the 50D image to get the same results.
In these two of my more or less willing daughter, the S8 on the left again and the 50D on the right, they both look pretty similar. I’m very happy with the S8 photo here and it would definitely do in a pinch. The light is low and the phone still captured a really nice image. But, if you click on the images and view them larger you will see a striking difference. There is way more detail in the 50D image. My daughter has these awesome freckles that I love in all the photos I take of her. The S8 just doesn’t show them as well or at all for some of them. The color looks very similar although the S8 is a bit warmer and a bit too saturated on this one.
In these two, again S8 on the left and 50D on the right, I’m seeing much the same thing as the ones previous. The 50D is just retaining more detail and better color. And it should the sensor is so much larger.
Ok, this wasn’t a very scientific test. The S8 does shoot raw and I could have gone that way. I could also have shot JPG with my 50D but that’s just not how I use these two cameras. I wanted a comparison done by the way I actually use them. If I pick up my smartphone to take a quick portrait of my kids or capture a scene in front of me, I don’t normally go into Pro mode and do a raw file. At the same time, my 50D is always shooting raw.
So what do I think? The Samsung Galaxy S8 has an amazing camera in it and I don’t hesitate to use it. The photos are sharp and well exposed. I always have the option to do some editing on them and correct for the color temperature and the over saturation. I don’t often even worry about that. That said though it will never replace my 50D if I’m going for some really good images and am willing to do the editing work to the raw file to bring out the best of the image. That will be the route I go when I have the option. But the best camera is the one you have with you.
Almost everyone has a smartphone now. Even my 74 year old mom has a smartphone. And smartphones all have cameras in them. It’s been said over and over that the best camera you have is the one you have with you. Deep. LOL. Now not everyone carries a DSLR with them 24/7. I tried. It got in the way. So, a point and shoot is the next best thing but again, you have to have it with you. Your smartphone is the best camera you have with you all the time. But, they are know to give inconsistent results. I’m going to try to help you get better photos more consistently.
Here are my best tips. I use these every time I use my smartphone for a photo.
I see people taking photos with their phones and they have their arms stretched out as far as they can get them. I’m not sure why. The farther you move your arms away, the more your hands will shake and wiggle causing camera shake in your photos.
Keep your hands as close to your body as you can and still see the screen. I usually have to take my glasses off or use my reading glasses. Keep your elbows tucked into your ribs. This will help to stabilize your arms and further reduce camera shake.
Arms too far out = Camera Shake Keep your arms and elbows tucked in.
A good idea is to support your phone on some solid object. A bench, a tree, a car even you knee will do in a pinch. Anything that will keep you phone steady will help to reduce camera shake in your photos.
I built a little adapter for my cell phone out of a large office binder clip. I can mount it on a small tripod or a large one for that matter. It works great.
Most of the factory camera apps I’ve come across are pretty good and the above tips will help you get more from them but I have found that having access to the camera’s ISO setting will allow me to get a faster shutter speed from the camera. It will introduce some noise in the image but it will be sharper. So in a pinch, that’s the route I go.
I’m currently using an android app called “A Better Camera” and it is just what the name says. A Better Camera. It is a paid app but worth every cent I paid for it.
Screen shots from A Better Camera.
Smartphones don’t have an optical zoom. No moving lens parts. All the zoom is digital. That’s going to cause a lot of noise and in my experience take all the sharpness out of the image. All the small fine details will be gone.
Cropped Digital Zoom
I didn’t crop as tight on the cropped photos but you get the point. That said, I will use the digital zoom from time to time when it’s the only way to get the shot.
Filters can be cute but everyone uses them. If you want your photos to be memorable then don’t edit them the same way as everyone else. Filters merely cover up flaws rather than addressing them. SnapSeed or Photoshop Express are your best friends. What amazing photo editors. You are able to adjust the color temperature, the exposure, the sharpness, etc etc. The list goes on. I rarely post a photo from my phone that has not been touched by Snapseed or Photoshop Express.
This is the unedited image that is at the top of this post. You probably notice it’s not as sharp and the colors don’t pop as much. Snapseed did an amazing job bringing out the best of the photo.
And here is the edited version again just for comparison.
By this I mean landscape or portrait orientation. Landscape meaning holding your phone on it’s side and portrait meaning holding it upright. All to often I see people just snapping away in portrait orientation out of habit because that’s the way they do everything else with their phones. This will drive me nuts. Especially if you are shooting video. Please NEVER EVER shoot video in a portrait orientation. It’s very hard to watch and really makes it look like you don’t know what you are doing.
With this in mind certain subjects will lend themselves to the different orientations more naturally. A photo of a lake or a mountain or even a group of people will look much better in landscape than in portrait where as a close head and shoulders shot of someone looks best in portrait mode. When in doubt, take a shot in each of the orientations and see what works best for the subject.
This crane looks alright but it could be better.
That’s better. It’s higher than wide and so lends itself to a portrait orientation.
Well there you have it. My top 5 tips. I could go on and usually do but I wanted to just give you my best tips.
And I’d like to give a special shout out to my son Jacob for helping me with the demonstration photos. You can see his preteen style fun over at his Instagram stream.
He just needed to rest. When he started out on this adventure he didn’t realize it was going to be so hard. Who knew running away would be so hard. I mean really, he thought, how hard could it be? You just take your board and whatever cash you could scrounge up and you just….leave.
He was wrong of course. He hadn’t thought about where he was going to sleep or eat or how he was going to get more money. He spent the first night hiding in a friends room. He was kind enough to bring him up a snack that night. The second night, well that was spent sleeping under the deck of a house he passed earlier that day.
For the last two nights now, he’s been sleeping in a garden shed in the huge back yard of a McMansion he spotted from under the deck on that second night. The people who live here never come outside, at least not in the back yard, and their dog is really friendly.
Today maybe he can find a shelter that will let him stay. Maybe he can find work and a place to stay before the winter cold sets in. Even now it’s getting colder. He’s scared now. He has no idea what he is supposed to do. No one ever explained to him what was expected of a runaway. On TV they always end up living on the streets or in jail. He didn’t want that. He’s really scared now. The world feels as though it’s closing in on him. So scared
Suddenly, the thought occurs to him. “I could go home.” He’s right of course. His parents love him and probably miss him. They would take him back. It would be alright.
As he is about to get up from his warm place by the rock, he hears his name. Softly as if spoken by the wind. Quiet….there it is again, a little louder. He closes his eyes in concentration.
When he opens his eyes again, he is in bed. His dad is standing there telling him it’s time to get up. It was all a dream! He never ran away, would never run away. Relief. Gratitude.
So that was my first attempt at photofiction. I have never claimed to be a writer. It might be corny but it’s what I think of when I look at this photo. The worst part is that it’s MY son in the photo. I wish it didn’t make me feel that way but talk about an emotional reaction to a photo!
Recently, on an episode of the LensWork podcast, I’ve come across the idea of photographic fiction and a work of creativity. I was intrigued.
The idea is to take a photograph, or a series of photographs, then write a story, long or short about that photo or series of photos. The story can be complete fiction or mixed with some truths about the photo(s). It doesn’t matter. The point is to create.
Looking back through my library of photos, I see lots of candidates for this type of story telling. I’m not going to use any of my clients portraits in these projects but I do have a lot of great ones that give me some ideas I can build on. I can see this as a project to carry me into the future.
Now, I’m not a writer but I do like telling stories. It’s going to be fun to work on this.
Living in Canada, there is that season that so many people hate. Winter. All the snow and the cold temperatures can really turn people off. A lot of the people I know would very much like to move somewhere warmer for the winter or at the least, hide away in the warmth of their homes.
Like it or not, if you live in Canada, you are going to see your share of snow for several months of the year.
I’ve always liked winter. As a kid we used to go snowmobiling and tobogganing all the time. The cold was never a big deterrent. Then as an adult I became less inclined to head out into the snow and cold just for the heck of it. Until I had kids that is then it’s all about the tobogganing again and recently snowboarding. But I’m getting off topic. What’s this nonsense about portraits in the winter? Who would want to do that and why?
Well, as it turns out I have decided that I love taking winter portraits! There are fewer distractions. No leaves to clash with clothing. No colors on the ground to be distracting. Just pure white backgrounds!
Have a look these photos from a recent winter portrait shoot I did for a young lady in need of some portraits. They are so clean and crisp. They just look great. (click on the images for larger views)
I’m looking forward to taking more winter portraits. I love the look of them.
If your interested and you are in the Edmonton area drop me an email and maybe we can work together to create some winter portraits.