I think one of the greatest motto's in photography is the best camera is the one you have. For 99.9% of us that is always going to be an iPhone or whatever kind of cell phone you happen to have in your pocket (I'm going to say iPhone for the rest of this article).
In the gym that saying still holds true, and with a few tips and tricks you can still get great photos with that camera that's almost always in your pocket anyway.
A few notes: This is going to exclusively talk about working with a iphone/cellphone/smartphone in its default camera mode without any "pro camera" app in use. On to my guide, in somewhat of an order of importance.
One: Wipe off the lens! I'm sure you've seen it on your favorite social media site, but someone's blurry gym selfie where everything seems blurry or foggy. No, the humidifier is not on, what's happening is there is grease, sweat, or oil on the camera lens. Every time your phone goes back in your sweaty shorts, that lens is getting more moisture on it. When you take it out for a quick selfie or to catch a friend's lift, it's going to be covered in sweat and the photo is going to be ruined. The same rule applies for the selfie camera on the front. Before every shot make sure to wipe off the front of the phone (the lens is up on the top 1/4 of the phone). Simply using a t-shirt or paper towel will do the trick. The lenses on camera phones are extremely sturdy, so a quick wipe is critical to taking a clean shot.
Two: Rotate the phone 90 degrees: I'd say something like 85% (not scientific) of all photos taken with a "real camera" i.e. dslr or point and shoot are taken horzintical/landscape. Yet, with an iPhone, 99% of photos are taken vertical/portrait. Rotating your camera 90 degree will immediately make your images look more professional and planned. Further, If the really good stuff happens to be dead center, you'll be able to very easily do a 1x1 square crop for instagram.
Three: Use the physical shutter button on the phone: To actually take your photo, don't click the shutter button on screen. It will immediately knock out the carefully framed up composition you've set and add camera shake into the photo. Whereas you can use the physical shutter button on the phone - on the iPhone it's the volume rocker - and you're able to keep the framing and control of your camera much better. Pro tip - don't try and find the button when you're ready to take a photo. Leave your finger on that button while you're setting up the shot and then just click.
Four: Use natural lighting. Lighting is one of the most critical components of a good photo. It takes a snapshot into a photograph. Most gyms have a window or a door or some other kind of natural light. We always want to set up with our subject facing the natural light. If they aren't facing it, just ask/tell them to! It will make for a better photo and make you feel like a pro photographer instantly as you direct people around. Now when you're shooting your subject they should be bathed in natural light, make sure not to stand directly in the way of the light casting a shadow on them. With an iPhone-style camera, never try shooting a subject against the light. This is called "backlit" and the auto mode on these cameras will freak out and generally just give you a silhouette where your subject is supposed to be. That can be cool from time to time, but shouldn't be your only trick.
Five: Get low. When you're at the gym, it's all about looking huge and strong. The easiest way to start getting that look is to shoot from a low angle. Get into a nice deep squat and shoot up. If that's not enough, lay on the ground and shoot from there. It will turn any PR into an epic hero moment. Any time you shoot up on the subject it's going to make them look bigger and fill the frame better.
Six: Get close. Never use that zoom in the camera, but instead just get closer to your subject. Your goal should always be able to fill the frame with your subject. This might take a couple of tries but always work to be as close to the subject as humanely possible. Often times, this is going to put you very close to falling barbells, but that's half the fun.
Seven. Memory is cheap, take lots of photos. Finally, don't just settle on one click of the shutter. Take lots of photos. Especially with a camera phone firing in auto mode, you need a lot of shots for the focus and exposure to line up just right. Further, the built in burst modes are great for taking a ton of frames very quickly without you have to press the shutter multiple times. Sometimes these types of cameras have a bit of a lag, so taking multiple photos will help nail that decisive moment in the lift of movement. You can always go back through and delete out the crap later.
One final note, make sure you have space on your phone! Nothing is more amateur hour than going to take a photo or video and getting the "no space available". Buy the biggest phone you can get, and pay the extra few dollars a month for the huge iCloud storage options.
*** All photos taken with iPhone 6, edited in Lightroom. Athlete: Rob Moloney, Location: CrossFit Island Park
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