The old flip-phone with an afterthought camera is now definitely a thing of yesteryear. Why use a relic when you can viably combine a personal assistant and computer into a pocket-sized device with a 16-megapixel camera — actually, make that two or three cameras. Google’s Pixel 4, like other recent models, has two rear-facing cameras, one of which is 16 megapixels, with an 8MP front-facing camera. Added options mean sharper photos, detailed images with more-than-large-enough files for printing. Maybe you ended up with a new smartphone over the holidays? Get the most out of it with tips from a handful of Google’s #teampixel ambassadors. Up your photo game so your adventures appear as cool and as fun as they actually were.
Control your exposure
Though a smartphone doesn’t offer as many tools as a DSLR, most allow users to, at a minimum, adjust exposure up or down. In most instances, the controls for exposure are designated with a sun symbol and a slide tool. This is one of the first and easiest things you can learn to manipulate to improve your photos. “One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that you can manually tap on the screen wherever you want, to not only focus, but properly expose,” Photographer Josh Wiseman says. “You can drag your finger up and down after tapping to brighten or darken the image before you ever press the shutter. This gives you full control to either expose a darker foreground (trees, leaves, grass, etc.), or a brighter background such as windows, sky, or lights of some sort.” Enough already with the super dark pictures and blown-out images.
“Leading lines and framing are my ‘go-to’ methods when capturing visuals with my smartphone,” says #teampixel member, 3D Visualist and Creative Director Azeez Bakare, who takes composition to a whole new level. “For example, looking straight up (or even placing your phone in ‘selfie mode’ while placed on the ground) in an area with skyscraping architecture will cause all lines to converge to a point towards the center of your screen. I try to frame the shot by making the four corners of my photo contain architecture that will bring a strong line (like glass, mullions, building corners, etc.) drawing the eye towards the center. It doesn’t need to be perfect but using a building in each corner creates a smooth visual interest.”
Shoot in Portrait Mode
Never heard of it? Open your phone, go to your camera and look for it. Portrait mode is a game-changer. It’ll give you that blurry background that makes your photos look better than basic. The best part is that this mode can be utilized for more than just portraits of people. Use it to shoot anything that needs a little differentiation between subject and background. Try it the next time you’ve got your favorite beer in front of you.
Use any bonus features offered in your camera
Alright, so you can compose an image and find the sweet spot as far as exposure is concerned. But what about nighttime photos? Google’s Pixel phones have Night Sight capability, which allows the user to snap photos in scenes with very little light. The best part is, that you don’t have to blind anyone with a flash, and there isn’t any real trick to it. You just hit a button, hold still and the phone does the work. Jeremiah Bonds uses the Night Sight features a lot in his photos. “If you don’t have a tripod, try very hard to stay still,” Bonds says. “Because it’s darker, movement and noise can be an issue. The more still you are, the better the photo will come out. Also, try to use ANY light that’s in the scene to your advantage and manipulate your piece from there.” Bonus: The newest Pixel 4s will allow you to even take shots of the stars for that iconic Milky Way or northern lights shot that’ll make your Instagram account a cut above the rest.
Develop an Editing Style
Curated feeds come in all different forms and types. There’s the hard-core crossfitter who only shares photos of his WOD, the food bloggers who only shoot photos of their meals as if they’re hovering above their plates (it’s called a flat-lay), and the friend who posts nothing but selfies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these, but if you want to improve your photos as well as your online presence, consider developing an editing style. You’ll know you’ve nailed it when someone says to you, “I recognize your photos in my feed before I even realize you shot it.” Tom Windeknecht is that guy. He’s been a part of #teampixel since 2017 and has worked with brands such as Lyft, Hyatt and Alaska Airlines and his photos are instantly recognizable due to their bursts of vibrant color and playfulness.
Erin McGrady is part of #teampixel and shoots with the Google Pixel 4. She is based in Asheville, N.C. Follow her search for the perfect IPA on Instagram @e.mcgrady
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