Basic Guide to Cell Phone Photography for Pen Lovers

Hello! Let me first introduce myself. My name is Lindsay, and I am the photographer and social media team director at iPenstore. You will see my photos all over our social media, blogs, and our website. I may be the one you are chatting with on social media as well!

Pen lovers are very enthusiastic about sharing photos of their collection, no doubt about it, and this blog is just for you. I’m going to give you some super simple tips and tricks to help take your Tweets and ‘Grams to the next level using your cell phone's built in camera. You will be able to apply these skills to most of your phone pics, not just pens.  I have chosen to use a Cross Botanica fountain pen for the sample photos. With the exception of the photos of me holding my phone, all the sample pics here were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S8.

Let’s get started!

We’ve all been there…. You get home from a long day at work and find a box from iPenstore at your doorstep. You may be tempted to rip into that package like a hungry honey badger and snap a pic of the treasure right in the box, but if you wait until morning your photo will be much more Instagram-worthy. Check out the side by side pics below. On the left you have the lonely pen just sitting in that cold box all by itself in a dimly lit room, surrounded by the remnants of the shipping packaging. On the right we’ve propped her up on her cap on some white wood, tilted the camera a few degrees, and put her next to a bright window. Much better.

For these photos I’ve used real white washed wood. Choose something that compliments the subject of the photo, and has an interesting texture.  Look around you and get creative! You might consider using floor tiles, pottery, glass, plates and serving dishes, scrapbooking paper, and things from nature.

Before taking any shots, wipe down the pen (particularly the nib and clip) to remove finger prints and dust, a microfiber cloth works well for this. Dust and fingerprints are very time consuming to edit out of a photo with image editing software on a computer, and nearly impossible on your phone's editing program.

Try moving the phone close to the pen’s most beautiful features, and tap the screen right where you want the camera to focus. There’s no rule that says the entire pen has to be in the shot. I do not recommend using the camera’s digital zoom. Even with the most high tech phones, the digital zoom will greatly reduce your image quality. I suggest just moving the phone closer by hand, which is what I did with these shots:

Photo composition is how the shot is put together/arranged. There’s plenty of “rules” for composing shots, but we’re not too worried about them here. If you are really going for something special with your pics, you do want to look at your background and make sure there’s no ramen noodles or car keys in the shot that can distract the viewer from the pen. 
You also want to fill your frame as much as possible with the subject you’re photographing. A great way to fill your frame with the pen, and make the shot more interesting, is to rotate your phone ever so slightly so the top of your phone is pointing at 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock. This makes the pen go from corner to corner in your image. If you are going for a more mod look, straight up and down with evenly spaced props can be great. Play around and see what you like.

Lighting is the single most important thing to understand when taking photos, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Now we’re really getting down to business here! As mentioned in tip #1, I suggest taking your pics next to a bright window in the morning sun whenever possible. Direct sunlight creates very harsh highs and lows, and deep shadows. If you could melt a green army man in the light coming in, you’ll definitely want to “filter” the light, and it’s super easy to do. You can try pinning up a thin white sheet, or a piece of white paper. Anything that the light can gently pass through can work. You can also purchase a collapsible light diffuser very inexpensively.
To help fill shadows you can “bounce” the light back at your subject. You can try anything reflective, such as aluminum foil slapped on a baking sheet pan. Silver will bounce cool tones, gold will bounce warmer tones. In the pic below I am using a large collapsible light reflector that zips over a diffuser.

The flash can be a very helpful tool in low light situations, or with fast moving objects. The flash allows your camera’s shutter to fire faster, resulting in a clearer picture. However, pens don’t have little tiny legs to run away from you while you’re trying to take their picture, so I suggest just using Mother Nature’s natural light as much as you can, along with the light from lamps and fixtures around you. When used improperly, a flash can really mess up your image. It creates harsh shadows, bright spots, and muddies up the colors, as pictured below.

Have no fear! Manual mode on a cell phone is VERY easy to learn to use, and opens a whole new world of possibilities. Most likely your phone is in auto mode right now. Find “pro” or “manual” mode, as pictured here:

Locate your ISO. This is essentially how sensitive your camera’s image sensor is to available light. A higher number means more sensitivity to light, giving you a brighter picture. A lower number means less sensitivity. If your ISO is set at 200, and you go up to 400 you are making your image sensor twice as sensitive to the visible light. Go ahead and slide the bar around, and watch how the image brightens and darkens. There is a trade-off here though… The higher your ISO, the more “noise” will be in your image, which can make it look grainy. Most cameras perform pretty well at higher ISO levels, so you may not even notice a difference!

Now locate your shutter speed. This is how fast the camera’s shutter fires. The faster it goes, the less light is being let in, and vice versa. In the pic below you can see that it says 1/1000, this means the shutter is opening for 1/1000th of a second. Again, slide this bar left and right and see for yourself how this will change your shot. In normal lighting conditions, try setting your ISO at 400, and your shutter speed at 1/20 and play around with it from there.

A great prop can go a long way in a photo, but try not to overdue it and clutter the shot. Include your favorite ink or paper, and use it to hold the pen in juuuust the right position for you.
Pilot Iroshizuku Ink, Kosumosu

Have fun exploring your phone’s camera and editing software. Brightening your photo and adjusting the contrast after taking it can really bring your photos to life! Go ahead and shamelessly use those built in filters too. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this blog, and that you'll share it with your friends. I’d love to hear your comments and questions here, and on social media @ipenstore on Instagram Twitter and Facebook




Popular Posts