Different technology, same technique
It was 71 years ago, in 1947, that the Las Vegas News Bureau began documenting entertainment and tourism in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. Also in that year, the Falcon Deluxe Miniature camera was produced. About the same size as today’s cell phone, the Falcon was indeed miniature for its day. There’s a not-so-old adage that says, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” and both the Falcon and your cell phone were designed to be that camera. And in fact, the best pictures from each come from remarkably similar techniques, recommended by the photographers at the Las Vegas News Bureau:
- Fill the frame. Both cameras have a fixed lens, no extra-wide angle, and no zoom. To photograph just a portion of what you see before you, move yourself into position to fill the viewfinder frame or screen with your subject. Not a true zoom, the electronic zoom on cell phone cameras will degrade the image by using fewer pixels. Severe cropping also reduces the number of pixels, and when enlarged to full-screen size your picture may appear unsharp. Fill the viewfinder or the screen with just what you want in your final photograph. As you move yourself around your subject, you’ll be thinking more about the photograph you want to make, and consciously deleting elements of the composition, which distract from the subject. You’ll get a better photo.
- Look for the light. Be aware of the direction of light and how it hits your subject. In 1947, the basic rule was to put the light source (the sun) behind you or to the side, over your shoulder. That rule worked well with the Falcon and the limitations of its lens and film. Phone camera lenses and sensors are much more sensitive and work amazingly well in all kinds of light. And sometimes – think of a sunset — your best photo is looking directly into the light.
- Think before you snap. Despite its simplicity, the Falcon requires a bit of calculation to make a good photo. With only two shutter settings, a fixed-aperture lens, and only 16 exposures on a roll of slow ISO film, it was pretty easy to make 15 mistakes per roll. The cell phone camera can give you perfect exposures on a virtually unlimited number of bad photos if you don’t pause to think about what you’re doing. Better to plan for a good photo than hope for a happy accident.