By VINCE TANCHING
Many people think that remarkable photography is still a battle of gears. That if you want to take photography seriously—or if you want to be taken as a serious photographer—you have to turn to the latest technology out there for capturing “the perfect photo”. I mean the newest and most expensive camera and gadgets from the big camera manufacturers, with crazy large megapixel count and absurdly high ISO.
The truth is that owning the most expensive camera doesn’t make you the best photographer. It simply makes you an owner of an expensive camera. The one that makes the photo, surprisingly, is not the camera; it’s the man behind the camera.
More than getting the best gear, a photographer’s success is the result of fine-tuning his craft. Especially in a time when everybody can just reach in to their pocket, whip out a smartphone, and go to Instagram, it’s the skill that makes one stand out from the pack.
It doesn’t really matter if all you’ve got is a smartphone. With the dominance of social media, smartphones have proven to be a reliable tool in getting our photos up on the web—instantly. You can take it anywhere. Smartphone technology has already come a long way, now providing images that are almost at par with the quality of high-end DSLRs.
It’s no longer a battle of gears. It has never been. With equally powerful tools, taking “the perfect photo” is just a matter of seeing the world and capturing it in a way that has never been done before.
Vince Tanching, a graduate of Communication Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, is a PR, social media, and marketing practitioner. He uses a Huawei P9 for smartphone photography.
Show the story
“Images taken with smartphones—edited on an app or not—must relay a message even if they’re for social media posts only. If it’s for a documentary, each image must be cohesive to tell the story visually. As a news photo, the image is only a facet of the whole story, so the demand to relay the story in one image is crucial. Photography is all about content. Content demands a photographer to be visually literate and keen on his environment.”
Vic Kintanar is a veteran photojournalist based in Cebu. He is an active member of PHONEography Cebu, a group of smartphone photography enthusiasts. His piece won 1st place in the 2016 iPhone Photography Awards.
“Street photography is candid, unposed. Street is spontaneous, so practice operating your mobile phone as quickly as you can. Look for stories waiting to happen. Fuse together your technical skills and artistry in one situation, and press the shutter to capture that moment. In this image, I saw a good background and waited for somebody to pass by the white window. There’s pattern, contrast, geometry, gesture, and human interest in one photo…everything in one moment, which cannot be redone. That’s the essence of street.”
Mike Perez, a graduate of Fine Arts, is known for his works in food and street photography. He’s a staple judge in photography contests in Cebu and has worked with major food establishments for their promotional materials. Mike keeps a Facebook album featuring his phoneography shots.
Move and inspire
Documentary and Travel Photographer
“Regardless of the camera you’re using, a strong travel image should really motivate or inspire the viewer in some way. Get away from the snapshot (I was here) kind of photos and think about how you can show something with more depth. Photography has never really been about the camera–it’s about what the images say. Focus on your creativity and experiment with different perspectives.”
Jacob Maentz is an American documentary and travel photographer based in Cebu. His works focus on social issues, culture, and humanity’s interactions with the natural world. Jacob’s photos have appeared on everything from television commercials and billboards to magazine and book covers.
Shoot with the best light
“While it isn’t really discouraged to shoot mid-day, the best light is available around sunsets and sunrises when the light is low on the horizon and is filtered by the low atmospheric haze, creating a soft light that gives life to the colors of everything around you. It also casts a golden warm light. And the most beautiful portion of it happens in the first few minutes after sunrise and before sunset. While the blue hour (before sunrise and after sunset) is also one of the best times, it might be hard for a mobile photographer to shoot in the dark. In this case, a small portable tripod would help greatly.”
Ed Lim is a self-taught photographer who loves shooting stars and seascapes. With only a Fuji X and limited lenses, he travels around the country to build up his portfolio of the best landscape photos featuring the Philippines.
Play with lines, patterns, and textures
Abstract and Monochrome Photographer
“Traveling lets you see the world with brand new eyes, and your mobile phone is a very handy tool to capture stills more conveniently. Your perspective allows you to explore different compositions, so play with textures, lines, patterns, and curves. Frame places using leading lines to add depth. You can balance out your elements by using the rule of thirds or simply aligning your subjects. Most importantly, find where the light leads you and shoot where the lighting is at its most mysterious.”
Banawe Corvera, a graduate of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, is well-known for her low-key (i.e. dark) monochromatic images and abstractions. On August 2016, she held an exhibit with Jan Sunday featuring their monochromatic photos that celebrate womanhood.
Be creative with light (and shadows)
“Learning to see good lighting is very helpful in creating images that stand out. Train your eyes to find the light when composing the image. You can do it even without your camera. Look at the scenery without your gear and study the details, where the highlights are, where the shadows fall, check the lines and patterns. Your imagination should be limitless.”
Rhonson Ng is a prolific photographer whose works have been published in various magazines, billboards, and tourism promotion materials of the Department of Tourism. He was also a grand winner in the 2015 Pagcor National Photography Competition for the conventional catgeroy.
Wedding and Travel Photographer
“Keep your eyes peeled for beautiful shafts of light and shadows, of pops of color and movement. Stop, be patient, and relish the moment when it unfolds before your eyes. Anticipate, but make room for serendipity. Walk around, get a feel of the place you are photographing, talk to people. ”
Nikka Corsino is one of the bloggers behind Two2Travel, the 2016 Best Photo Blog in the Bloggys Philippine Blogging Awards. Nikka’s photography works also include documentary, lifestyle, and wedding.
Find the best angle
“Phone cameras are so advanced nowadays. It’s extremely easy to produce magazine-like food images from simply using editing apps like VSCO and Snapseed. Composition-wise, I think overhead shots, commonly known as “flatlays”, are the most convenient type of composition you can do on a smart phone as it eliminates the need to blur out the background. But if you have a phone with good bokeh effect, by all means use that to your advantage.”
Mylene Chung is a food photographer and prop stylist. Her photography studio PhotoKitchen has seen a good number of clients, from neighborhood restaurants to big brands like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and major advertising companies. Mylene also works for Pepper.ph, which features “the best food writing in the Philippines”.
Wedding and Portrait Photographer
“When using smart phones, always look for the best light source. Shoot on a higher angle when taking selfies, extend your neck a little bit just to remove the double chin effect. You can also enhance the images using Snapseed or Filterstorm. It’s the best application that I know.”
Lito Sy, considered as one of most-awarded Filipino photographers today, has 26 years of experience in wedding and portrait photography. Among his distinctions is being a Double Master Photographer of the Wedding and Portrait Photography International (WPPI) and Wedding and Portrait Photography of the Philippines (WPPP).
Use the best settings
Landscape and Advertising Photographer
“All cameras including those in our mobile phones have sensors that measure ambient light and allow them to calculate the right exposure for the scene being photographed. Unfortunately, these auto exposure AI can be fooled in tricky conditions such as shooting towards bright light sources or capturing a dark subject against a dark background. In these situations, you, as the photographer, should be able to dictate the right exposure given your creative intent and force the right settings (overriding the camera’s auto exposure) using the exposure compensation +/- buttons. Also, use your phone camera’s best settings: lowest ISO + finest file quality + max file size.”
Jay Jallorina is a commercial and advertising photographer. He’s a brand ambassador for Canon and is the co-founder of Chasing Light, the country’s premier landscape photography workshop.
Keep on learning and improving
“My advice to new photographers can be summed up in these three tips. 1. Look at great photos from great photographers for inspiration. 2. Attend workshops. You’ll shorten the learning curve and will enjoy shooting more. 3. Share your work. That’s how to gauge if your photography is improving in the direction you want to take it.”
Paul Res is known for his landscape and fine art photography. He has held several exhibits around the world and was awarded the 2015 Photographer of the Year by the International Photography Awards. Paul Res was a finalist to the 2015 Lucie Awards, labeled as the “Oscars” of photography.