Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh My!

I love this title which is a phrase taken from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are walking through the Spooky Forest chanting, “Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my.”

So what does this title have to do with photography? Well nothing really, except that my subject is about using flash with cell phones and tablets and I certainly wouldn’t recommend using either of them to photograph lions and tigers and bears.

In fact, it’s quite impossible to capture movement with a cell phone or a tablet because there is no way to set the controls to stop the movement. So if you want to play and use them for animal photography, be prepared for a lot of disappointment.

However, if you just want to grab pictures as a record keeping technique, then a cell phone or a tablet will work. The pictures won’t be great and the resolution won’t be great either, but “easy and simple and quick…oh my.” 

There are a few things you can do to be more successful. For instance, using the flash. Cell phones have an option to turn the flash off or leave it on, so turn it off for any kind of close up animal work. Otherwise, you’ll get a lot of photos like this where the eyes of your subject will be rendered red or yellow.

With a real camera, there’s a setting that will reduce or eliminate red eye by sending out a short burst of flash just before the main flash fires. (The short flash causes the pupils to close a bit…voila… no red eye.) Works the same with human eyes too.

Hum. So what to do if I’m using a cell phone to get a pet portrait? I need to search out my  location for a window with a lot of natural light and use that area to make my images.

I’ve never tried to take a picture with a tablet. Too many years of using good holding techniques with a real camera for me to enjoy trying to juggle a stiff board while squinting at the LCD to frame up a shot. Yikes. Still, you can get some good results with a tablet if you allow for their limitations. Take this one of a dish of shells by my friend Bonnie Daniels.

Pretty isn’t it? I wondered how it would look if she used the flash, so I asked her to take a photo of the bowl with the tablet flash on.

Egad. Way too much flash power. With single lens reflex cameras, the computer measures the subject’s distance from the lens and sends out the correct amount of flash for a correct exposure. Ok…there’s more to it than that, but we’re not going there. Because, we want to enjoy our photography and know just enough to have fun and not get bogged down in mumbo jumbo.

So. Bottom line. For close up images with your cell or your tablet, turn off the flash and find some good window lighting to illuminate your subject.

If you want to be a “real” photographer, save the cell and tablet for record shots, and get a real camera.


 Good shooting,

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