Winter holidays are only a blink of an eye away and we could see (or have already seen in some areas) our first snowfall this week. Gatherings of friends and family provide many opportunities to capture unforgettable moments. Luckily, many of us have smartphones equipped with good cameras, so we don’t miss out on fabulous and fun photo opportunities. Here are some photo-taking tips from BoomerTECH Adventures that you’ll appreciate in the future.
• Play with the camera app before events or gatherings where you want to take photos. Finding and practicing with the functions of the camera app ahead of time will keep you from fumbling when it comes time to tap the shutter. This procedure is especially important if you have a new phone. I’ve had a new one for a month and I’m discovering new options every time I open the camera app. I love them but they also drive me crazy because there are so many new things to think about. Remember that you can easily delete images you don’t like so as not to take up valuable space on your phone or tablet.
• Check how the focus and exposure functions work. On an iPhone/iPad, tap the screen to reveal the yellow focus box and the slider next to it that adjusts your exposure. On Android devices, the focus feature is often a circle that moves when you tap on different places on the screen. The exposure control is often a slider at the bottom of the screen. The focus function allows you to determine which part of the image is in sharpest focus. Adjusting exposure helps you take good pictures in situations where there is too much or too little light.
• Take your time to decide what type of image you want. You have to think about your purpose when taking a particular picture.
◊ Photo – The default 4 by 6 image.
◊ Square – Often the best option for social media posts.
◊ Portrait – Provides you with special lighting options for your subject. The motif can be a person, but also a pet or a table decoration or other special object.
◊ Panorama – A great way to capture everyone at the table. Just make sure everyone stays calm while you take the picture. The slightest movement can mean you have a double-headed person or an arm floating in space.
◊ Video – Capture actions such as stuffing a turkey, opening a gift, or playing the traditional after-dinner touch football game.
◊ Slow Motion Video – Slow everything down so viewers can see every part of the action.
◊ Time Lapse Video – Speed up the action so that a 10 minute process happens in 10 seconds.
◊ Cinematic Video (newer phones) – Allows you to adjust depth of field, use telephoto options, and so on while filming. Every camera app is slightly different, so google “Cinematic Video” + your phone’s specific name to get the details.
• Learn how to instantly open your camera app from the lock screen without having to enter your passcode. Sometimes the action starts when your phone is still in your pocket. By the time you enter your passcode and open the camera app, the special moment is over. Newer phones have shortcuts to quickly open the app. Of course, the methods vary depending on the phone type. Again, a quick search will show you how to do it. Type “instant access to the camera app” + the specific name of your camera in the search window. Remember to teach yourself this trick before special events.
• Use your timer. The timer allows you to be part of the picture. Needless to say, you need to be able to steady your phone as you won’t be holding it. There are relatively inexpensive small tripods that you can place on a table, or if you have a standard tripod, buy a smartphone tripod adapter. Or stack some books on a table to put your phone on, then tap the timer and run!
• Learn the different ways to release the shutter without tapping it. Sometimes it’s awkward to tap the shutter button due to the angle you’re shooting from. Did you know you can take a photo using the volume buttons on the side of your phone? Try it! This method is very convenient when shooting in landscape (horizontal) orientation. Another cool option is to use the volume button on your earbuds or AirPods. Combine this last method with using a tripod and you are guaranteed not to shake the phone while taking photos.
• Experiment with the burst feature, especially when trying to capture a moment in the action. You probably accidentally found the burst option when you held your finger on the shutter button for a second or more and heard “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta” as your camera took 20 frames before you realized what had happened . Use this feature when you’re trying to get a great picture of kids playing a game or a new puppy running around in the yard. Go to your photos app or gallery and choose the best burst pics to keep. Don’t forget to delete the others – they take up disk space.
• Make posed pictures for posterity and family history. Here are a few ideas for unique group pictures.
◊ Pay attention to the lighting. You don’t want to be photographing with a mirror or window behind the group. If you are outside, you should activate the HDR function. It helps with shadows on faces.
◊ Use a theme to keep everyone together – everyone wears flannel or the color red, or wears a colorful hat.
◊ Choose a family or friend activity as a connecting theme – cross-country skiing, chopping and stacking wood, ice fishing (not yet!), raking leaves, snowball fights, or building Frosty. The possibilities are endless.
◊ Look for intergenerational activities – grandpa reads to toddlers, grandma dances with her grandchildren, older brother/sister teaches a younger sibling how to bait a hook, and so on.
◊ Choose a fancy pose – build a pyramid; Use a table as a prop, some above, others below: lean a ladder against the wall and have people climb it. (Probably shouldn’t be great-grandfather at the top, but you never know—we Boomers are a wild bunch.)
If your family is like mine, you probably have at least one idiot who just can’t help it; You have to strike a silly pose or make a silly face. I usually resort to bribery (“Stay still and I’ll make you brownies”) or guilt (“This pic is for your grandmother who couldn’t travel to Thanksgiving due to hip surgery and is in rehab all alone today”). A lot of times I’ll just go into stealth mode and take a candid if they look serious or happy.
• Learn to hide and take honest pictures. This is where using the volume button on your earbuds/AirPods comes in handy. You look like you’re grooving to your favorite tunes as you walk around, but you’re actually pressing the volume button and snapping some great recordings.
• Don’t forget to use the editing features in your photo or gallery app. The editing features available in smartphones today are fabulous. My favorite tool is cropping. I try to use the rule of thirds, where the focal point of the image is in the upper right or left third of the screen, rather than exactly in the middle. Normally when you click on the image while editing/cropping, a grid will appear. Use it to cut out elements of the image that distract from focus.
Edit mode usually allows you to adjust exposure, deepen color saturation, remove red-eye, and convert a color image to black and white. There are many options, but you’ll have to spend a little time playing around with the editing tools. It’s worth the time, though, because you can create an image that you want to frame or turn into a canvas print, decorate a mug, or turn it into a set of note cards.
• One last idea: Use screenshots to remember images you’ve found on the internet. A screenshot captures what is displayed on the screen. You’re looking for Thanksgiving centerpieces and you find one you like – snap a screenshot and it’ll be saved to your Photos or Gallery app. Just yesterday I was looking for ideas for a decorated mason jar. I searched for “decorated mason jars” and immediately found something this artistically challenged person could create. I took a screenshot and will recreate the idea this afternoon. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one way to take a screenshot – it varies by phone model. Search for “screenshot” and a specific phone (iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy, etc.) to learn which keys to press correctly.
Enjoy the upcoming Christmas season and the snowy landscapes that we will have in the next few months. Play with your camera app and the editing tools available. Have fun capturing your memories!
BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults gain proficiency and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and breaking blog posts.
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