I am not good at photography. There, I said it. But being the owner of a blog, I feel like I owe it to everyone to learn some tricks and not suck. If you want to learn along with me, I lay out below what I did to drastically improve my mobile photography skills in one week.
Here is an example of a photo of homemade Ding Dongs that I took about 2 weeks before this post. They don’t look nearly as good as they tasted.
Having a game plan before you start learning something allows you to focus on what you want to get out of the process and helps you assess if you have improved by the end. A book that gives advice on the learning process is The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman. He recommends strategies for focusing your attention for rapid skill acquisition which I have adopted in this post.
First, take a day or so and do some research about what you are interested in. Identify the subskills you need to focus your practice on and the materials you need to gather before you can begin. I looked up some library books but I was able to most quickly assimilate information from Youtube videos.
For mobile photography, the subskills I’ve identified include:
- Phone apps/settings – find an app that allows you as much manual control over your phone’s camera as possible. I am using a Galaxy S8. With the app Camera FV-5, I can manually adjust ISO and white balance which can really make a picture look a lot better.
- Lighting – morning or dusk natural light is best so that items don’t look washed out or have weird color tints. Also, using a white foam board opposite from the natural light source reflects light to the dark side of the object resulting in more even lighting of the item. Pay attention to your surface and how the colors of the object reflect light so they don’t blow out the white balance of the photo.
- Shot composition – a really nice photo isn’t just about the one object that you focus on. It is also about your backgrounds and other items that frame the shot. I found a gray t-shirt and a light blue pillowcase that I used in the majority of my shots. Add items that are related to the main object and scatter about or stack in interesting ways.
- Post editing – I used two apps, Snapseed and Instagram for post editing. Experiment with ways to crop and brighten images or spot target/spot fix. Then if you like the look, add a filter.
The necessary materials for practice include a white board or piece of foam to reflect the light, backdrops, window light, props, and phone apps.
Second, now that you have some basic information, make a goal for what you’d like to accomplish. S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound) goals give you the most clarity with what you’d like to accomplish. My “measurable” was the weak part of my goal statement.
I want to take professional quality photos of food and craft items with my mobile phone within two weeks or ~10 hours of practice.
Third, dive into practice and do as much as you possibly can within your timeframe. Each day I took about 40-60 photos in a 45min time frame and then spent about 1-2 hours editing the photos. Here are my favorites from each photoshoot.
When I look at the first picture of the week and then the last, I definitely see some improvement. But quite a few of my photos are still trash and I still would like to improve on every single one of the subskills.
That’s me checking in on a week of photography. If you have a photo you are particularly proud of, share it here!
- Identify the materials and subskills that make up the thing you are trying to learn.
- Make a goal and timeframe for what you want to accomplish.
- Practice as much as possible, preferably an hour a day.