Today’s journalists need be multi-skilled, especially when it comes to social media journalism. In addition to producing news/features/reports, we are also expected at times to take photos, and the photo is often what carries the journalism on social media, no matter what platform you choose. If you have a good camera with a good lens, you are in a better position, but even your smartphone can be a good camera.
FIVE STEPS TO PORTRAITS WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE
Polish your lens to remove any grease.
Make sure you are close to a window if you are indoors; it’s much better to have good soft light on the face. At Swedish Radio, the lighting in our studios and newsroom/department premises is often yellowish. So it’s a better idea to go outside the studio to photograph your guests. Natural light shows people’s faces in a better way.
Go close to the person you are going to photograph.
Focus on the person’s eyes so that your smartphone doesn’t focus on the background (the person’s face will then be blurred).
Avoid yellow light on the person you are photographing.
Do not overuse your smartphone’s photo apps. It is often enough to adjust the brightness, contrast, focus for example to bring out the glitter in a person’s eyes. You can go far with Instagram’s own editing tools, but you could also test photo apps such as Aviary, Snapseed, PS Express and Afterlight and compare the results.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY WITH THE IMAGE?
All experience shows that presence, movement and people in focus work best on social media. Clichéd images never work as well, so be careful and consider and reflect on what you want to communicate with the image, what emotion you want to evoke with it, and don’t use pictures of people lined up passively in poor indoor lighting. Art photographer Casia Bromberg offers six great tips to bear in mind:
How do I want to present the person and what is the context? What do I want the image to communicate?
What perspective and what angle could work? From the side, angled from the top/bottom, with creative cropping, close-up/full body? Each of these choices communicates different things.
Environment: what is around the person/in the background? Bear in mind that all the elements in the picture are part of the portrait. A ball can communicate that the person is playful or has children.
It’s a great idea to chat with the person for a while before photographing them to help them feel more relaxed. But you should remain focused and decisive during the shoot itself.
Lighting: test by taking some pictures of yourself to see how the light falls. Beware of contre-jour which produces backlighting of the subject (unless you want to use it for effect), direct sunlight, or a flash directly from the front.
Do not let the person look at the results during the actual shoot. It can be stressful and feel weird. Agree right from start that you will send them a selection of photos later.