Quirky, Set, Go!
Is classic too boring? Or, is classic simply dead? Priyanka Chharia suggests simple ways to remake the quintessential portrait using an ordinary phone.
This article was originally published in July 2014.
What would Richard Avedon’s iconic portraits have looked like had he used a smartphone? More importantly, would he have used a smartphone? Can the modest cameraphone reinvent the classic portrait?
The obvious advantage of shooting with a cellphone is that it’s always on us. You are more likely to use a cameraphone while you hang out with friends. Portable, handy and lightweight, it is far easier to carry around than a regular DSLR or compact camera.
Much Less Intimidating
Unlike bulky DSLRs, cameraphones are subject-friendly. They spell casual and fun.
At the Right Angle
Most camera phones have extremely wide lenses, unlike the conventional focal length that one would associate with portraiture. How do you deal with this? Experiment with angle that you shoot from. Go wide or low, shoot from the top or the hip… or just get really close—this may distort the person’s face but that itself can look weird, unusual and fun.
Alternatively, allow the background to give some context. Is there a part of the city where you have always wanted to make a portrait, but never tried? Cellphones allow you to make pictures in a lot of locations where photography may otherwise not be approved of.
Let Colour Liven Things Up
Place your subject in front of a vibrant yellow wall or set up a bright coloured chart paper behind them. Use a retro-effects app like Instagram to make this colour look cooler.
Have Fun with Accessories
From pocket spotlights to fisheye lenses, there are a bunch of accessories that are available for cellphones nowadays. You can also put a magnifying glass in front of the lens and shoot someone’s face. Or put some cellophane paper in front of the cellphone’s flash to get a dynamic tint that gives the image an Warholesque feel.
It’s Meant to Be Offbeat
Guide your subject well and ask them to enact a variety of facial expressions for you. A smile, a frown, a wink… experiment with as many emotions as possible. Do not shoot just the regular moments, but even after they relax.
Make ‘Quirky’ Quirkier
There’s a crazy amount of filters and apps that can make any portrait look different. For instance, use Pixlr-o-matic’s edgy frames, Hipstamic’s old world look, Instagram’s vintage filters or Snapspeed’s grunge effects.
At the end of the day, portraiture is all about the people you photograph, and not the gear you use. Classical portraiture is something you should definitely practise, but get quirky sometimes. The genre is vibrant, dynamic and everchanging. More than anything else… it’s far from being dead!
Two Simple Ideas to Capture Funky Self-Portraits Using Your Cameraphone