Newborn Photography With Mobile Phone. Part 3. Taking Photos.

Newborn Photography With Mobile Phone. Part 3. Taking Photos.

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Newborn Photography with a Mobile Phone. Taking Photos.

Yes it is possible with a little bit of planning and controlling your camera. This is 3rd article in the series of posts on how to achieve great newborn photos with a mobile phone. Same techniques can be applied to a wide area of photographic situations be it your family, pregnancy or landscape photography.

Provided you went through the previous two sections (especially the theory) you are well paced to start taking better photos. In this article I’m specifically covering aspects of taking photographs, while questions of photographic composition, light controls and developing/retouching the photos will be covered in consecutive updates to the series.

I am covering only Adobe Lightroom Application which is available on iPhone and Android platform. Soon enough you will understand why there’s no other choice.

Navigation

This is the 3rd article in a series dedicated to producing good newborn and family photographs at you home or anywhere else with basic device such as a mobile phone. Use the following links to navigate through the series:

Part 1. Introduction to Newborn Photography with the Phone.

Part 2. Newborn Photography with a Mobile. The Theory.

Part 3. Newborn Photography with a Mobile Phone. Adobe Lightroom. This Page.

Part 4. Newborn Photography with a Mobile Phone. Light and Composition

Part 5. Newborn Photography with a Mobile Phone. Developing and Editing Photos in Adobe Lightroom.

Taking Photos with Adobe Lightroom. Why.

The Lightroom Application (LR) is a handy app available from the Apple Store or on Android Play. You can use it for free or as a part of your Creative Cloud subscription. The latter adds the ability to sync your photos across multiple devices. Here I’m covering the LR in standalone mode. In a situation you have a PC and invested in Adobe CC subscription you should absolutely invest in a decent digital camera which supports the RAW format and offers so much superior optics compared to any mobile phone. For someone owning a camera this article is unlikely to offer as much value as the topics on theory and light/composition.

OK. Why do we need the LR app when most of the phones come with a pre-installed camera app readily available for shooting? The answer is simple – RAW. RAW, or Adobe DNG format the LR uses, captures raw information as seen by the sensor before any software optimisation has taken place. By optimisation I mean colour balance, various adjustments and compression. Having access to this raw data allows the user to take control on how the photo needs to be developed before the compression algorithm removes all that excess, converting the image into a much smaller JPEG file. With that information removed the ability to adjust and improve photograph is seriously impacted. As you can guess, most of the automatic algorithms correct the photo to some mean average to ensure they look just OK. Not perfect and not terrible. Sometimes the odds are against you sometimes for. However, most of the time the results are quite poor as you can judge by comparing the photos shown in the first article in the series.

The photographers who are serious about the results work in the RAW format. The goal is to achieve the best possible quality. Similar to Formula 1, where automatic transmissions are unheard of, the manual controls are a must in this scenario. This becomes crucially important when inferior devices are used. I mean poor lenses and tiny sensors 99.999% of mobile phones have.

Other techniques and considerations for your newborn photography with the mobile phone.

Use Manual Focus. It is easy and will benefit you in a few ways.

  • firstly, you will ensure the focus points to where you want it to be (say nose of you baby), not some remote, high contrast object.
  • secondly, focusing takes time. This split second when you push the capture button while the camera is still focusing can introduce a lot of blur into you photos. This is especially prominent with older phones or under a hard lightning conditions where the camera has to work much harder to guess the main object of the scene.

Do not use the phone’s built in flash.

  • Find some good a natural source of light, such as from your window or ceiling. Without going into much detail here – small source of light (which is your phone’s tiny LED) will cause hard shadows. Generally dramatic shadows are an overkill in newborn photography. Or in any other situations telling a story of serenity, peacefulness and a dream.
  • Another problem is when the direction of the flash and the camera is the same. This will produce no shadows when the object is right in front of the camera. Combined with the optical distortion brought by the wide lens of a mobile phone the results will likely be quite atrocious. No shadows, flat, overexposed face void of most of the details plus disproportionate facial features – super chins, super noses and bobble foreheads are typical examples of that.

Now, as we are trough the introduction, lets move to the practical part of this article.

Installing and Launching the Adobe Lightroom.

Head to your app store, find one, install and launch. Sorry Windows Users.

Newborn Family Mobile Photography
Newborn Family Mobile Photography

On the screenshot below it shows “open” instead of install button since the LR app is already on my phone.

The Camera App.

The LR camera app can be accessed by clicking its icon in the right bottom corner.

Newborn Family Mobile Photography
Newborn Family Mobile Photography

The Auto mode.

By default, the camera starts in the Auto Mode. It allows to adjust the exposure or select various effects. The exposure can help to ensure the object is properly exposed. For example, when your newborn is next to a big window, the camera will read all available light and will adjust its settings to match the window. In this situation your baby is likely to be in the shadows. Similarly, when your baby is opposite to the window, laying on a white sheet everything can be just to bright. Dragging the exposure slider will allow you to fix that quite easily. This is especially true for darker babies.

Newborn Family Mobile Photography
Newborn Family Mobile Photography

Generally, having the photo a bit underexposed (sliding the exposure bar to the left) is better – you will be able to fix that later. The rule of thumb here is to ensure you record just enough light from the object of your photography trying to minimise the lost detail due to clipping (when white or black values are at their maximum).

Using the effects at the photography stage is useless. These will only distract you. It is much easier to record the photography as it is performing all adjustments and conversions after.

The second screen of controls is the same for both Auto and Pro modes and allows you to adjust the following settings:

Newborn Family Mobile Photography
Newborn Family Mobile Photography
  • Crop Ratio means how much visual information to be recorded via the sensor. Just cycle through those to see what works for your phone. On my phone 4:3 offers the best coverage. You can always do cropping later.
  • The Timer allows you to delay the release.
  • The Display Settings are in my opinion the most useful function here. It offers a set of grids to aid with composing your photography. The all time favourite is rule of thirds. Essentially you position your object at the intersection of any lines which generally produces much more interesting shoots compared to when the object is dead at the centre. However, use your own judgement and do not allow the rules to restrict your creativity and what is important to you personally.

The Professional Mode.

This is where you will be spending most of your time. In addition to all the controls in the auto mode, the pro mode offers you much more flexibility and control with achieving the best shoot.

  • The White Balance. My advice is to leave it as is unless your very special lightning conditions suggest otherwise. In most of the situations the “auto” is sufficient here. You will be adjusting the white balance section later, as you edit the photograph. The “auto” setting is least intrusive here, meaning less post processing for you.
  • Focus. Use manual. Focus is simply a distance to the object. Provided your object is still, the manual focus will work the best. Just slide the slider to ensure the most sharp focus at the main feature of the object. Generally eyes, eyelashes and other facial features are the best targets. Please note, after some point (1.5 metres or so) everything will be in focus. You simply move that distance away from your baby, move the slider all the way to the right and in such situation you will ensure your newborn is perfectly in focus, your capture a sufficient amount of surroundings and your phone shoots fast.
  • The Shutter Speed (SS). As discussed in the previous article, faster shutter allows to freeze the motion while slow can introduce the blur. The faster the shutter, the higher the ISO and the noisier the photo will be. The balance you need to strike is a fast enough shutter (no blur) with a low enough ISO (no grainy noise in your photos). The available lightning is the limiting factor here. Generally the speeds of 1/10 and above are OK in steady hands. 1/100 and higher will help to reduce blur even further. As you move the shutter speed left or right, the ISO settings will change. Once you’ve found the suitable balance you can shoot. Or, you can further adjust the ISO to suite your situation. Lower ISO = darker photo and less noise. Darker, or underexposed, is generally better option since it is possible to adjust it later. However, restraint is a must to ensure to visual information is lost in absolute black same as with over exposed photographs.
  • ISO Speed. This generally is the last adjustment to touch if at all.
Newborn Family Mobile Photography
Newborn Family Mobile Photography

Shutter Speed and ISO.

Unless you’ve noticed this already, these two settings work in unison. Reducing the shutter speed pushes the ISO up and vice versa. Using these it is possible to measure the optimal conditions according to the camera and then make your additional adjustments. For example, in a room you will want to make sure your ISO stays in under 300. You start with ISO while the shutter speed it left in its initial automatic mode. The camera will adjust the SS to match the desired ISO. If the resulting SS is to low (under 1/10) you have some choices to make:

  1. Ramp up the ISO causing noise and grainy.
  2. Source a pair of very steady hands (or use some sort of tripod and a delayed shutter release).
  3. Add more artificial light.

The next topic specifically covers the use of natural and artificial light amongst the other important photography techniques.

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