Smartphone Photography Tips from Guest Judge Jo Bradford
Smartphones are brilliant because they give you a freedom to experiment and explore your own creativity wherever you are and whatever you are doing. For me, one of the most important things about photographing the weather is about reacting to its myriad changes (which can range from the subtle to the dramatic in seconds) and smartphones give you that ability in a way that more traditional cameras don’t.
The other benefit of smartphones is that they are now mostly waterproof (or made waterproof by cases) so when it starts to get wet you don’t have to put your camera away anymore. Likewise, it is really easy to make yourself waterproof too! Remember the old adage, there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor choices in outdoor gear. Be prepared before you head out for whatever kind of weather you might come across, that might mean carrying wet weather gear or sun cream and sunhats.
Sunshine and good weather offer abundant photo opportunities but, living on a wild and windswept English moor, these experiences have made me appreciate the different opportunities for atmospheric weather photos. I have become accustomed to shooting in inclement weather and come to appreciate the different opportunities delivered by dramatic clouds, shafts of light, rainbows and storm fronts passing across the landscape. I am a firm believer that moody days are when the light is at its best; you can achieve really striking images from low-key landscapes, where most of the tones in the picture are at the darker end of the scale.
Mist is one of my favourite types of weather to photograph when moody grey skies can work as a backdrop for images that are almost silhouette.
Don’t shy away from taking photos on the grey overcast days, as the grey sky can still bring drama all of its own to the scene. In fact the weather can bring an element of humour to images such as an ice-cream van hopefully waiting for clients on a misty day.
Another way to use mist is at dawn when the mist can be ethereal and otherworldly as the sun rises through it. If you can, position yourself above the mist so that it sits below you and gives the effect of a white ocean with tantilising glimpses of hills, trees or buildings poking through. In urban photography especially, watch out for lights that pierce through the gloom.
You can also capture great images in the moments that the mists clears; dramatic scenes often happen as a sunbeam pierces through the clearing mist and casts a glow across a partially shrouded landscape. This is also true of the moments a storm passes and gives breaks in the clouds to allow shafts of light and when sunlight and rain create rainbows (which happens a lot of the time here on Dartmoor!)
Some of my other top weather tips are:
- Elevate your photos by thinking about how you capture the weather from a different perspective….for example look for bodies of water to capture reflections and double the impact of what’s happening overhead.
- Drop the landscape into a smaller part of the framed let the weather in the sky dominate the composition.
- Expose the brightest part of the sky in your landscape photos, then use your editing software to lighten the foreground. It will look dark when you take the picture this way but it is easily recovered to good lighting during the edit phase.
And a couple of more general pointers:
- Set your camera to manual to take control of your own creativity rather than allowing the camera to decide what settings to apply in auto mode. My first book ‘Smart Phone Smart Photography’ gives plenty of guidance on how to do this.
- ‘Do less, in order to do more’ in the editing phase. Edit sparingly and don’t let your photos be defined by the filters you choose. Subtle editing should reveal the beauty in an image and enhance a great shot. If you want to know more about the amazing things you can do with editing on a mobile advice you can pre-order my next book now which publishes later this year. ‘Smart Phone Smart Photo Editing’ teaches you a complete workflow for the mobile editing process using the free Snapseed app.
Finally, good luck to everyone entering the competition. I am really excited about the new smartphone category. I can’t wait to see the images that are submitted and submerge myself in people’s different experiences of weather around the world.
The driving force behind Green Island Studios, Jo is an award-winning photographer who takes pictures of wild and windy Dartmoor from her studio doorstep and posts them on Instagram as @greenislandstudios where she has a large and loyal following for her smartphone photography.
At Green Island Studios, Jo has created a bespoke analogue darkroom and photography workshop and studio space from where she has developed a unique collection of workshops and courses in smartphone photography. The courses range from beginner’s sessions to masterclasses and Jo delivers these from the studio as well as for the Royal Photographic Society.
As well as delivering her courses, Jo works as an Associate Lecture at Falmouth University where she lectures on the BA Marine and Natural History Photography degree.