Today, you don’t have to own a DSLR to capture stunning photos and images. Smartphones can do the job just as well. Understanding your phone’s camera settings, setting the right resolution and light conditions and knowing the rules of composition may be essential, but above all that you need to have a creative eye that can perceive things differently if you want to be an outstanding photographer. If you’ve got yourself a Windows phone with a particularly good camera, you can do more with your photos using reflections.
Reflective photography involves making use of any reflective surface, such as the surface of a lake, a cracked mirror, or a frosty window pane to capture images. Photos captured with reflections have a surreal, out of this world look and can turn any ordinary photograph into a piece of art. If you are keen on taking your photography skills to the next level, capturing reflective photos is a great place to start. In this post, we’ll learn a little bit more about how you can capture fantastic reflective images but before that, let’s first understand the capabilities of your Windows Phone camera.
Understanding Your Camera Settings
First things first! Do you know all the features of your Windows Phone camera? You probably know that tapping on the screen will bring the focus to that area or how to turn on the Flash but can you manipulate the exposure settings on your phone under the right situations? What are the different levels of contrast and when do you use them? Well, the answer to that and more is to understand your basic camera features. These settings may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but should be common for most phones.
Most light sources including sunlight and light bulbs don’t emit a pure white color. Sometimes a light source will tinge your photos with a shade of orange or blue. The camera’s White Balance setting is designed to even out those color “temperatures” and display a whiter image. Most Windows Phone cameras will have a default White Balance setting that will work fine most of the times, but you can also manually select one for different lighting conditions such as sunlight, light bulb, cloudy and so on.
International Standards Organization (ISO) is the level of sensitivity of your camera to light. ISO settings can range between 24 to 6400 + and the higher the ISO setting, the greater the sensitivity of your camera and vice versa. A higher ISO usually results in a grainy image, so the general rule of thumb is to make your ISO levels as low as possible. But there may be times when a higher ISO is needed such as when the object of your focus is moving and you’re trying to capture a still shot. On the other hand when there is plenty of light around, having a low ISO is preferred. Most Windows Phone cameras have automated ISO settings, but you can never trust them enough. Manually raise and lower to ISO and experiment to see which works best for you.
Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness:
Contrast is the difference in color, tone and texture between white and black in your images. An increase in contrast will make shadows darker and highlights brighter. Adding contrast makes your images look more vibrant while lowering contrast can give the effect of a dull image. Saturation has the effect of increasing the difference between colors instead of just black and white. Sharpness has the effect of increasing the contrast only along the edges of an image. Although contrast, saturation, and sharpness may appear to be independent features, they are inter-related and changing any one of them can create complex effects in your photos. Before you tweak these settings ask yourself what you are really trying to achieve with the photos.
The Exposure value determines the balance of the shutter speed and relative aperture. If your shutter speed is slow, your images may have a washed out look and you’ll need to set a lower exposure value. On the other hand, if your images are too dark, you’ll need to up the EV setting to lighten the image. Most Windows Phones have a default neutral exposure correction, but you can tweak them to a higher or lower setting according to your requirements.
Panoramic images are images captured from an elongated point of view and are often multiple images put together to create a whole. Windows Phone makers like Nokia and HTC have panorama apps either built into the Camera app or make them available as a separate app, but you can also download third party apps to take panorama images. When you shoot panoramic images, the key is to hold the phone steady. On Windows Phones, the panorama mode moves the screen from left to right so you shouldn’t attempt to move it right to left or top to bottom.
A Burst mode captures a string of images and selects the best one of the lot for saving. Depending on the manufacturer a burst mode can range between 5 to 15 shots and is perfect for capturing impromptu expressions. Although the Burst mode only requires turning on the switch, it works best in low resolutions and for electronic sharing. Secondly, it usually locks the focus and captures the images, so you may not want to attempt capturing moving subjects.
In Windows Phones, image stabilization is fairly new and works by increasing the ISO setting to allow for faster shutter speed thereby reducing blurring caused by shaky hand movements. However, this also has the effect of reducing the quality of images.
The Macro feature in Windows Phone is basically a close up shot that records the finer details of the subject. In this setting your phone will focus on the subject from about 6 to 10 inches away so the key here is to make sure that you have the requisite lighting to capture your shots and avoid shadows.
This feature lets you add your location tags to your image’s EXIF file, so that when you look back on the image years from now, you will know exactly where you captured the image. One downside to this is that should you share the images with others, they will also be able to see your location data. You can keep this information private though by tweaking the Windows settings.
Scenes and Effects:
Plenty of Windows Phones now come with predetermined scenes such as sports, nightlife, and food in portrait and landscape modes. Some phones like the HTC Titan II can even intelligently detect and select the best scenes to affix to a picture. Effects range from black and white to sepia and negative and are basically a collection of filters that can be applied to images while the camera is processing it. If you want an old-time look to your images you can choose sepia or simply go for a black and white copy. Experiment with different effects to see what works best for your shots.
Capturing Reflective Photos on Your Windows Phone
Now that you know more about your camera settings its time to take a look at how you can take reflective photos on your Windows Phone.
Train Your Mind to See Reflections
The tricky thing with reflections is that our brain generally tends to overlook or blur them out of our minds. You’ll first have to tune your mind to see a parallel universe where reflections exist. It could be in the most ordinary of situations – on the dining table, in the pool, or in a shopping mall. Go around your environment and spend time looking around. Most of the beautiful reflective photos captured are done near a water body so get yourself to a lake or other nearby river and try to list down as many reflections and you can find. Suddenly you will see a world of possibilities that never existed before.
Add Elements to your Reflections
Once you have identified reflective objects, try to add new elements or props to make it more creative. You could use a brightly colored object, a human model, or a flying drone to bring the reflections to life and add some drama and context to the image.
Go for the Dramatic
There are reflective images and there are reflective images that spike your curiosity. Look out for extraordinary situations where you can capture images out of the ordinary – maybe a polar bear swimming under a glacier, a rainbow filled sky in a puddle of water, or a fireball captured in an eye lens. Try to find elements that add colors and tones to your photos and if you’re doing this outdoors do it just after sunrise or sunset, when you’ll get the best colors and tones.
Shoot from Different Angles
With reflective photos you don’t always need to shoot large bodies of water. Many beautiful masterpieces have been shot with just a single drop of water. When you’re going macro try to get as low an angle as you possibly can. If you’re using flash, keep the lighting low so that it won’t illuminate the background and take the focus away from the subject. In other situations try shooting from different angles to get the right viewpoint that focuses on the colors in your environment. You can do an extreme closeup shot or capture a part of the subject and the whole of the reflection. The choices are aplenty. Take different versions of the reflective image so you can come up with more creative uses for it post processing.
Keep the Symmetry
Symmetry is when you have one side of the frame or screen mirroring the other side. The two sides evenly balance horizontally or vertically to create a perfectly image. Take advantage of the fact that reflections naturally create mirror images. You can use the grids in the camera app to line up images to create the perfect symmetrical balance.
Capture Textures and Patterns
Try to look for patterns and textures in your reflections, such as a rippled water effect causing the tress or clouds to reflect in unusual patterns in the water. This can give the images an artistic and painted look naturally.
Make use of negative spaces in your images and keep your compositions simple. Negative spaces are basically large tracts of empty spaces that have the effect of making your subject stand out and draw viewers focus to the main subject. Having lots of negative space can evoke powerful emotions as the focus is solely on the subject.
Windows Phones cameras have dramatically improved over the years and its only going to get better. That leaves a world of creativity at your fingertips. With a little imagination and a lot of practice, you can train your eyes to look into a parallel world where unusual, wonderful and intriguing ideas exist for capturing reflection photos. So go ahead and start making magic with your Windows Phone.