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How To Lo Hei With DSLR? Try These 5 Smartphone Photography Tips This CNY Instead

Chinese New Year means house visits, and house visits mean photo opportunities.Instead of lugging a DSLR around all day, why not use your smartphone instead?

Chinese New Year is less than a week away, which means that our Instagram feeds will soon be bombarded with pictures of #OOTD’s, awkward moments with relatives, and all kinds of festive foods.

Of course, we’re going to get in on the action too, and while smartphones and their intelligent cameras might have made things a little easier (Apple’s recently released CNY short film — which was shot entirely on an iPhone XS — is pretty much all the proof you need), you’re still going to need a certain degree of skill to do it right.

To make sure we’re ready, we met up with some of Singapore’s leading photographers at FOOK KIN for a crash course in photography, and here are five things that we learned:

A Quick Fix

Most – if not all — modern smartphones come with a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode in their camera app, and Javan Ng (@javan) recommends turning it on when you find yourself in a low-light environment.

By increasing the dynamic range (i.e the ratio of light to dark) of your photos, there’ll be more detail, less shadows, and highlights will be balanced out as well. It’s not effective in every situation, but more often than not it’s the simplest way to give your pictures that extra oomph.

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Smartphone cameras might not be as powerful as a dedicated DSLR, but one area where they definitely win is subtlety. Because phones have become so ubiquitous, they’re the perfect device to capture moments without drawing too much attention.

“People are less likely to stop what they’re doing, or pose for you when shooting with a mobile phone,” says Scott A. Woodward (@scottawoodward). “Use this to your advantage to shoot more candid and evocative pictures”.

Let There Be Light

Good lighting is the foundation of any kind of photography, and while it probably isn’t advisable to bring a reflector to your aunt’s house, there’s are still some things you can do to improve your conditions.

“Be on the lookout for beams of light, or try to use backlighting to silhouette your subjects,” Scott adds. “Dramatic light can make even the most mundane subjects appear outstanding.” Looking at his photos, we’re inclined to agree.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Depth of field is another sure-fire way to make your photos look professional, and portrait mode has made it easier than ever to achieve it. Just stand a short distance from your subject, wait for the background to blur, and you’ve got the next photo for your Instagram feed.

Some phones like the iPhone XR are only programmed to detect faces, but Jason Lim (@jsnjnr) has a workaround if you want to take bokeh-licious of food or pets. “Place an object closer to the camera lens, and tap on your subject of focus to create contrast using depth of field”.

Think Out Of The (Photo) Box

Considering how impressive video capture on smartphones have become, why limit yourself to just photos? Just like depth of field, playing around with slow-motion is a simple, yet effective way of looking like a pro.

For something a little more out of the box, you could try this cool little trick by Yudhi Aristan (@aristan8) — construct an image on a chopping board with some garnishes, shake like there’s no tomorrow, and reverse the video. If that won’t impress your judgy uncle, we don’t know what will.

If you follow these steps, getting an Instagram-worthy photo and/or video at your next house visit should be a piece of cake (or in this case, a piece of carrot cake?). Leave the heavy DSLR at home, folks – you’re not going to need it this year.

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