#17 In the Judging a Photograph Series
It may be stating the obvious but beaches are beautiful and look great in photos. There’s a problem, though. If I’m going to have a day at the beach with my family then I am not going to take my big camera. There’s enough other things to carry like the beach shelter, the body boards, the towels, the flip flops, the picnic, the kite, the sunglasses, the hats, the sun lotion, the buckets, the spades and lots more. I know what you’re thinking – we have forgotten the barbeque!
I don’t want to leave valuables unguarded while I swim. That’s another reason for leaving any half decent camera behind, even my posh compact. Sand is another problem as it gets everywhere and will severely damage lenses. Sometimes I lock my phone in the car glove box when I am at the beach, but occasionally I do take it with me. I’m more likely to take it if it’s cloudy as photos are easier without blazing sun.
Understanding What the Phone Camera is Doing
If I’ve got my phone camera I am limited by its wide angle lens and the fact it hasn’t got a true zoom. Also the exposures values are judged automatically, giving me little control. What kind of pictures can I take?
My phone guesses the correct exposure by looking at the centre portion of the screen i.e. a fairly large area in the middle. It doesn’t matter where I tap to focus, it’s always judging the exposure of the photo using the centre of the screen.
In a bright and sunny place like a beach it’s really important to remember that my phone is guessing how to expose the photo using just the middle of the image. Anyone wearing a hat or standing with the sun behind them will be in too much shadow for their face to be visible, unless I get a close-up. Often my family won’t let me take their picture so instead I look for nice shots of the landscape.
Three Tips for Shooting Beach Landscapes on a Phone
First to make sure that the horizon is near the top or near the bottom of the photo. This means the phone will get a nice exposure of the main part of the picture.
Secondly use the wide angle to get the texture of the beach or sea into the foreground. Try holding the phone down low.
Thirdly use an editing programme to adjust brightness and contrast. There are loads of free apps like Snapseed. Small adjustments make a big difference. Not editing photos is just lazy! We used to call it “developing” when it was film.
My Photo: Bright Puddles – Before and After
This shot looked pretty striking before I edited it. The horizon is high up but the puddle is bright so the beach still looks a bit too dark. It’s a nice effect but even better after I edited it. I was using lightroom but all these effects can be found in a mobile app. Here is what I did.
1. Reduced the exposure a little.
2. Reduced the contrast a lot.
3. Clipped the blacks (which is like darkening the shadows in a mobile app).
4. Increased the vibrance (in an app that would be the saturation).
5. Increased the clarity (in an app that would be the structure or sharpness).
Look at the improvement in the sky texture, and see how the footprint has appeared out of the sand. It was definitely worth editing, would you agree?
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