“Equipment does not make the photographer” has been my motto for past the six years of my career as I deliberately honed my craft on a wide selection of cameras and various “qualities” of gear. “My gear does not define me,” said I over and over again. “Some of my favorite photographs were taken on a point-and-shoot camera,” I boasted.
So I decided to (try to) prove it.
Objective: Photograph a child exclusively on my camera phone.
Process: I recruited my friend Dayna and her son Thomas and their friend Tessa to be my models. Over a lunch-and-play date, I documented life-as-a-nine-month-old with my LG Nexus 4 (Google’s Droid-based cell phone). All editing was then done in-camera using the built-in Photo Editor app.
Result: While applying basic photographic techniques to my photos did improve my result, the fast-moving crawlers were ever-active and the delayed shutter release and slower shutter speed of a camera phone limited the success of my endeavor.
Lesson: Without denying the fundamental reality that a photograph is made by the skill of the photographer who is able to wield the tools of his craft with blissful results, I must also admit that there are distinct limitations when using minimal equipment, but I can definitely improve my result with patience, practice, and process.
I love that technological advances and cellphone-camera amalgamation have allowed cameras to be a daily, hourly component to my life. I take photos of almost everything in my world on my cell phone, and proudly. But if I learned anything from two hours photographing active nine-month-olds on my cell phone, it’s that patience is absolutely necessary. I took 153 photos in order to compile the 15 non-blurry, happy-and-smiling specimens you see here.
Take lots of photos. Lots of them. Eventually, and with patience, you will properly capture the delightful, quirky, exuberant living of your active child.
But, more than anything, embrace living instead of just photographing. As delightful as it is to have a bevy of photographs showcasing your child’s cuteness, it’s even more amazing to have a million happy memories with your child. Don’t let the desire for a photograph cloud the delight of living, being, enjoying time with your child.
First: pay attention to lighting. When indoors, put the main light source behind the camera. Whether that’s the open window, the overhead light, or the table lamp, position yourself between the light and the child. This will minimize unsightly shadows, it will assist in maximum impact from the auto-settings of your camera, and it will increase the chance of that coveted catch light that helps those eyes just-a-sparkle!
Second: deliberately compose the photo. Watch for distractions in the background, move (when possible) so the table leg isn’t projecting from the crown of your child’s head, go ahead and reposition to avoid seeing the pile of laundry in your photo. Get low low low so you’re at your child’s level, seeing the world from his perspective and photographing how he sees it. Practice the rule of thirds. Avoid placing your child in the center of the frame; for intrigue and impact, place him off-center. By showing more of his surroundings, you’re showcasing your child’s life and the world and what he’s seeing.
3. Process for maximum impact of cell phone photographs.
Find a photo editing app that you can love and use, then work it to your advantage. Adjust exposure in dimly lit rooms, increase or decrease contrast to enhance the mood of the photo, go ahead and tell the story in black and white if that works to improve the story.
Especially for fast-moving children who aren’t exactly keen on letting you capture a perfectly composed moment, embrace the beauty of the selective crop. Don’t over do it, but if the photo’s story and memory can be improve by a creative or impact-enhancing crop then embrace the technology and do it!
And, in conclusion: The camera doesn’t make the photographer, but the moral of the story is that it sure does help. For proof, I pulled out my Nikon with its prime lens. Same location, same kids, different camera.