Marc Saltzman / USAToday
The best camera, as they say, is the one you have with you.
While smartphones don't take photos as well as a dedicated digital camera, you never leave home without your mobile device. Plus, not only is the quality getting better with each generation, they're ideal for editing your work (and perhaps adding fun filters and other special effects) and then wirelessly sharing those memories with those who matter.
For some summer 'phoneography' tips, Surf Report caught up with pro photographer Jason Thomson, curator of Frame One Photo [https://www.facebook.com/frameonephoto], which helps demystify photography for the masses.
Turn the phone sideways: Use the 'landscape' orientation when taking photos to get more in especially when shooting group shots or if you want to capture the background, too. Holding your phone horizontally will also create photos that look better when viewed on a widescreen computer or television (i.e. no vertical black bars on each side of the photo).
Take more photos: Someone blinked. The angle didn't work. The clouds parted and the sun was blinding. You're fighting an uphill battle to take a better photo. Make life easier on yourself. The more photos you take, the better chance you have to find a winner. Where you'd take one, try taking five.
Get closer: Nothing screams 'my mom shot this,' more than three miles of headroom around subjects in a portrait. Fill the whole frame up with your subjects, even going so far as to cropping faces out for a more artistic look. Going in closer also means you can capture more facial detail, such as light freckling, a charming dimple or soft pale blues of the iris.
Turn off that digital zoom: On a related note, get closer by walking up to your subject or using the regular zoom on your camera. Digital zooms are a software trick that can make photos look blurry or pixelated.
Go left (or right): Memorable photos need great composition. Instead of placing your subjects in the center of the frame, move them to the left or right to make your photos instantly become more powerful and beautiful.
Love cloudy days: A big part of photography is light and for the most part, your onboard flash is your enemy. Get to know and use natural light and some of the softest and most flattering natural light comes when overhead clouds diffuse the sun. Take your subject outside, but be sure your back is to the sun and not your subjects -- or else they'll look like a silhouette.
Flash forward: If you must use your smartphone's flash, know its range limitations. Many people try to take pictures of, say, a banquet hall during a wedding, only to be disappointed because everything is dark image beyond a foot or so.
Twilight time: The hour before and after sunset creates gorgeous light for landscapes and outdoor photography. The golden hour (before) creates fiery oranges and reds. The blue hour (after) gives soft, subtle blues.
Hold your phone steady: Ever hold your camera at arm's length to get a shot? You're asking for trouble. To get a good, sharp image, turn yourself into a human tripod. Hold the camera with both hands and pull your arms into your chest or stomach. You're instantly sturdier and so are your photos.
Angle is everything: When shooting photos or videos, try to match the height of the subject, such as kneeling on the ground to snap a picture of a toddler. You'll get better shots when you're at eye level rather than angling the phone up or down. When shooting video, move the phone slowly to prevent blur while recording.
Simplify the background: Put whatever you're shooting onto a background that doesn't distract the eye. White plates are great for food, blue skies are fabulous for kids. These allow you to blur out the background for a more pleasing photo.
Abolish 'Auto': Don't let your phone do all the thinking for you it usually turns on the flash and blasts everything with a bunch of light. Get to know the better camera modes or popular phone apps. They're easy to learn and they let you decide how your photo should look.
Candid shots rock: Don't always take photos of people posing for the camera as their expression can be can look forced, unnatural and predictable. Some of the best photos of subjects are when they don't realize they're being photographed but be sure to get their permission before uploading to social media sites.
App it up: Apps can help you easily edit and share photos and videos with those who matter. Apps like Instagram can add fun filters such as a brownish sepiatone finish or a retro '70s look. There are thousands of apps available, for all platforms, so experiment away.
Don't delete so fast: Finally, avoid deleting unwanted photos from your smartphone: they may look great when viewed on a bigger screen; spending time deleting photos right after you took ones you don't like means you might miss an awesome shot; and removing photos prematurely drains the battery on your smartphone. Do it later, on a computer.