I’m sure you’ve heard of this before:
the best camera is the one that’s with you.™
This famous statement was coined by photographer Chase Jarvis (who proceeded to own the trademark). It’s a rather hard lesson to learn, but it’s true that the camera is only as good as you make it.
So in the end, it hardly matters what gear you use. Those who do not have DSLRs should therefore not feel discouraged that good photos only come with expensive cameras.
In the same way, those with all the gear in the world should never assume that good photos come automatically—or automagically, for that matter.
It always boils down to this:
work with what you have.
This is especially true when traveling. You can’t always bring everything you have, unless you want to carry a bag full of metal on your back while walking in a strange place. From experience, this just spoils the fun and makes photography seem like a burden—which it is not.
Festivals are especially difficult to take photos of because of the crowds and the occasional problem of not having media accreditation. Last weekend, I went on this self-imposed challenge to take photos of the Panagbenga parades with only my phone. I left my DSLR behind, and since I didn’t get an accredited ID, I decided to take pictures along South Drive where marshals don’t usually check you for hobbyist or media IDs.
When in similar situations, the challenge always is to use any camera like a DSLR. In this particular case, if you can’t zoom in or out, you use your feet instead to go nearer or farther your subject.
Applying the basic rules of composition helps too. If the lighting is bad, move around or wait for the right light instead.
All images shown here were taken with an iPhone 4 and post-processed using Snapseed (from the genius makers of Nik Software) and Instagram.
Look for patterns and shadows. Festivals are full of them.
Take shots of small details for context.
Try experimenting with color after taking photos.
Turning them into grayscale or black and white can reveal patterns not visible in their full-color version. Turning monochrome can also put more focus on the subject if you’re working with a busy background you want to eliminate, as is the case in the next photo.
Experiment with angles.
Take photos from above, the hip, and below. Get as close to your subjects as you can.
Don’t forget to take photos of the crowd.
And the dancers too.
Whether you’re using a lomo, a Polaroid, or a camera phone, master its technicalities so that it will work well for your purposes. Photography didn’t start with a high-end DSLR, nor should it end with it.
If you’re not convinced yet, watch Chase Jarvis on an episode of DigitalRev as he takes on Hong Kong with a very interesting camera. Watch till the end! :)