We ask Africa's finest photographers how they get the most from their smartphones
From third-party apps to accessories, there are many ways to improve your pictures
Does your Instagram feed require a revamp? Need to find a way to up your game? Luckily we have some of the world’s best Instagrammers on hand to help.
Gareth Pon is the king of Instagram in South Africa. Voted the continent’s finest at the African Blog Awards, the Johannesburg native is bringing communities together via “instameets”and hosted the country’s largest ever gathering in Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape earlier this year.
Photography has taken Pon all over the world and he has gone on to become a brand consultant for some of the biggest companies on the continent. Suffice to say, he’s a safe pair of hands when it comes to improving the quality of your pictures.
Together with Cape Town photographer Brendon Wainwright and the team behind instaLens, a South African startup designing attachable lenses, they’re ready to show you how to make the most your smartphone.
Here’s their top 10 tips to Instagramming like a pro:
1. Start with beauty
Gareth Pon: “Becoming an Instagrammer starts with beautiful images. Nobody is going to want to follow you if you don’t have beautiful photos… People need a reason to follow you, [so] post images that reflect a beautiful moment in time that you have experienced.”
2. Don’t use the front facing camera
instaLens: “The front facing camera on your phone is of a substantially lesser quality. When you couple this with the other hardware and software packed into the rear facing camera such as image stabilization, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that using the front facing camera is a bad idea.”
3. Set exposure manually
Brendon Wainwright: “It’s best to shoot slightly under exposed than over exposed because it’s easier to bring back shadows than it is with highlights.”
iL: “With a quick touch to the screen/tap of a button, you can create dark moody pictures, bright happy shots, or anything in between. For iPhone users, when you set image focus by tapping on the screen, a small sun icon appears on the side of the focus square. Simply swipe up or down on the screen to adjust the exposure slider, until the picture looks best.”
4. As night falls, break out the accessories
GP: “Tripods will hold your phone nicely to get a bit of a better still shot at night time… A light cue gives you light in three stages, and sometimes you can incorporate into shots its weird color functions, which make [your pictures] psychedelic.”
5. Use natural light
iL: “Natural light is by far superior to any kind of artificial form, and cannot be replicated or mimicked. Use overcast, gloomy weather to create moody depth to your images and during sunny days try looking for areas of shade that block vertical light and create interesting shadows. Our favorite tip: wait for those magic ‘golden hours’ of the day during sunrise and sunset time, when the sun’s rays are at their softest.”
6. Utilize other camera apps
GP: “I use Light Room apps on my phone depending on the content, [and] when I edit I edit on my little Macbook.”
BW: “Apps like VSCO and Camera+ can control shutter speed and separate exposure from focus. Moving a marker around the screen users can select precisely where they would like to expose and focus. And if you use Camera+, you can capture photographs not only in JPEG but in TIFF format, which allows users to maximize the overall quality the smartphone can deliver.”
7. Stay charged
GP: “I always walk around with a battery pack. You will always see in an Instagram backpack a mobile charger… it gives you power on the go, [and] Instagrammers are always on their phones.”
8. Explore more
iL: “No matter how claustrophobic it may make you feel, your city has more to offer than meets the eye. Thanks to the photographic communities Instagram has created, it’s never been easier to go on a ‘photo mission’ to hunt for those hidden gems and secret spots. Make a day of going on a little exploration; take a picnic basket, cameraphone and your adventurous spirit.”
GP: “An instameet is a really fun excuse for instagrammers and photographers to get together and capture images. It’s also a really good way to show different spots of the world… that sort of discovery is something that’s happened for me all over South Africa; being able to touch details that I would never have known about it if wasn’t for Instagram.”
BW: “Everybody’s style is different. [At instameets] it’s always nice to learn or get ‘hot’ tips from [those] who inspires you.”
10. Be true to yourself
iL: “There are so many ‘rules’ attached to photography that it can get pretty hard to keep up. While best practices for composition, exposure settings, the rule of thirds and framing can all come in handy, they can also start to heavily restrict your creative process. Photography is about having fun after all, so go out and have it, and you’ll be surprised at the magic that comes naturally.”
GP: “My advice to the next generation of Instagrammers is be genuine, and tell stories that nobody else can tell.”