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Lessons Behind the Lens is a series documenting the different tips and tricks I’ve learned from collaborating and shooting.
The music pounded in my ears as the lights changed paths and colors around the edges of the stage at the DreamWalk Fashion Show. A girl with dark hair and combat boots was singing her heart out and propelling herself around on pure adrenaline and the power of rock and roll.
In the family tree of music, Gina Royale feels like she’s Taylor Swift’s edgier cousin. Her music has the same confessional tone and relatable subject matter, but when she screams that it hurts like hell (as she does in her killer new single), you never doubt it.
Enjoying Gina’s concert is a simple task. Photographing her as she rockets around the stage is another one entirely and demonstrates a basic technique that is worth reviewing.
Have you ever looked at your photos and thought ‘UGH why is this blurry!’? I’ll be the first to admit that I absolutely have. Without getting too deep into photography jargon or writing a blog post that is full of wonky technique and contingencies, I want to cover one main reason that your photos might be blurry and how to fix it.
Before we talk about anything else, I think it is worth mentioning that getting a sharp photo is about focus. Your camera (or phone) isn’t a mind reader. You need to tell it what you want to be clear in the photo. If you’re taking a photo on your phone, tap the screen on whatever you want in focus and it should immediately sharpen. This may seem elementary, but it is worth a reminder and, honestly, may solve your problem.
Cameras can get a little bit trickier, but if you haven’t changed the settings on your camera then half pushing down the shutter button should engage the auto-focus. Usually some sort of green box or dots will also show up on the screen to tell you what the camera is focusing on.
The problem that I was facing while photographing Gina wasn’t that I wasn’t focusing on her. It was movement. Too much movement, either by the person taking the photo or the person being photographed can cause blurry photos. Now, don’t get me wrong, a phone or a camera can compensate for some level of shakiness in the person holding it and some level of subject movement. But, if you’re consistently getting blurry photos, this might be your problem.
So how do you still take clear photos when you don’t have the option to tell the subject to stand still and pose? Increasing your shutter speed. (Which, I promise, is easier than it sounds.)
Shutter speed is exactly as it sounds – how fast the camera shutter moves to take the picture. The faster the shutter speed the faster the photo will be captured and the more action will be frozen in time. Think about a flip book. When you go through a collection of photos with a high shutter speed, it will look like a flipping through the action piece by piece. Shutter speed can also help offset someone’s hand shaking holding the camera/phone.
On a camera, your shutter speed is an option either on a dial or a menu. Every camera is a bit different. Grab your instruction manual or just type your camera model and ‘shutter speed’ into a search engine. Either way, you can quickly find instructions on increasing your shutter speed. There’s no one shutter speed that magically captures everything, so you’ll need to experiment. Start at 1/250 and keep going up until you’ve frozen the scene.
But there’s an easy way to increase your shutter speed on your phone and it is called burst mode. Instead of allowing you to choose the shutter speed (like you do with a camera), burst mode just takes a bunch of pictures in a row. Remember that flip book we talked about either? Burst mode creates one in your photos app. If you have an Android, just hold down the shutter down. If you have an iPhone, go to your camera settings and make sure you’ve turned on ‘Use Volume Up for Burst’. Then just open your camera app and hit the volume up button. So easy!
Now, enough of me babbling about camera settings and let’s get to the fun stuff – photos of Gina! Bonus points if you stream her music while scrolling, my favorites are: Hurts like Hell, Lemon Drop, and Boys Like You.