Phones At Parties: Gift or Curse?
The Language of Photography
I am going to start by saying this article isn't about the actual ways you should or shouldn't frame a photo, but instead about the abstract idea of language.
Mobile phones have become quite a gift to the world of photography in many ways; one of which is that we all speak the language of photography to some level without knowing it. All great photography is framing and timing, which can be practised by simply taking many pictures, and phones allow everyone to do exactly that. Portraiture has become huge with the front facing camera, and unfortunately Selfies have not helped with understanding the language of photography.
Sorry team selfie... I am not sure you understand why you place your phone where you do for selfies. Spoiler Alert, it isn't to fit everyone/everything in. There is a whole photography dialect to do with lens choice and camera angle in relation to portraits... that might become an article at some point.
Youtuber and Photographer Sean Tucker says about how a lot of his dramatic black and white street photos are taken on his phone. This shows the ability of a phone camera when correct photographic abilities are put to it. The picture to the right of this is one of Sean's photographs that he took on his iPhone. It goes to show you can take amazing pictures with anything, you just need to follow the basics: framing and timing.
Phone photography can be really great, it just needs to be done properly with attention to the correct places.
You might be interested as to why I mentioned the idea of them being a curse in the title, because they seem great for photography. They are great in terms of learning the language of photography, and discovering good framing and practising, in fact I teach that exact principle, to go and shoot with your phones.
The gift has been explored, and now the curse.
Recent studies have been done to look into how our brains react and engage with the environment around us while using our phones. The act of using our phones to record, or photograph something is engaging, but then by instantly posting it online, and commenting and tagging the image it disengages us from the environment, and ruins how immersed we are in the thing we are watching. And that has a knock on affect of causing us to avoid feeling satisfied with the performance, and that then leads to other issues.
Sorry Selfie Queens I am about to attack that delicious, duck face pulling habit.
There has been a recent spike in the number of people who have been visiting plastic surgeons for consultations. The reason is because they don't like how they look in their selfies, after the patient showing the surgeon their phone the surgeons have been showing them a mirror so they can see what they actually look like.
You: So... are you saying that my phone camera is doing something to me?
Yes... Yes I am. Your phone camera (the front facing is worse than the rear) is a wide angle lens (around 28mm) so it distorts images by stretching the world around it, this is also why you probably think you look fat in all your selfies, the camera is stretching your features and makes you appear larger. This has then caused a lot of new anxiety and stress in people today, as the "look at my perfect life" Facebook world is not the reality, and as the camera, which is used to create this world, falls down due to the fact that it doesn't fairly and cleanly represent the world.
Portrait photographers use focal lengths from 50mm all the way to around 200mm to take portraits as at the short end 50mm gives near no distortion, and creates a realistic look in the portrait. The closer you get to 200mm the compression you get in an image, which flattens the background and compress the face, which is something we also like the look of as a lot of celebrities have this look about them. If you want to see how easy it is to spot a phone camera in comparison to a professional portrait, watch this video by Chelsea and Tony Northrup:
In conclusion, phones are great for learning and discovering the language of photography, but they are not good for things like portraits.