Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Using Instagram on my phone has brought me right back to the basics of photography. If you want to get a blurred shot of a skateboarder, you need to make sure your shutter speed is fairly slow, given the amount of available light. That's not so easy to do with a phone; at least, not with mine - it doesn't give me manual control over the aperture and shutter speed. So I have to learn how I can affect these settings on my own.

The ceiling in the skateboard park at London's South Bank reflects light more than the dark floor. The graffiti at the back is somewhere in between: a midtone in the light-to-dark scheme of things. So if I angle my phone down, it sees the dark floor and compensates by lightening the whole picture up. This results in a faster shutter speed, which tends to freeze the subject. However, if I angle the phone up so that some of the light ceiling is in the shot, the phone compensates the other way, darkening the picture down. This, as you'd expect, results in a slower shutter speed, so I get my blurred subject.

There is a limit, though. I really wanted a more blurred subject than this. He's just landed on the floor after going across the top of the slab behind him, so I wanted some forward motion blur. But I got more blur from the way his body swivelled as he landed. If I'd had more time I'd have tried as many shots as it takes to get what I want. Or I could have waited for a skateboarder dressed in all-white to come along.

Interesting how a change of camera, with a change of inbuilt functionality, brings us back to the lessons we learnt right at the beginning.

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