The unique phone camera class at James Patton Community Park was offered by Lakewood Ranch Community Activities.
Esplanade’s Shelley Chinskey is the photographer in her family.
From birthday parties to holidays to family gatherings, Chinskey always is ready to take photos with her phone to capture the moment.
But Chinskey said the photos don’t always reflect the joy of the moment.
“They just seemed like they’re always too dark or they were boring or dull and lifeless,” Chinskey said.
Chinskey decided to try to improve her photos by attending Lakewood Ranch Community Activities’ Intro to Phone Photography class June 18 at James Patton Community Park.
“It seems young people have a natural affinity and know what to do with the camera,” Chinskey said. “Coming into use of technology later in life, it just doesn’t come naturally for me, so any class will help. Being a visual person, it’s far easier for me to learn with somebody showing me as opposed to reading a book.”
Lakewood Ranch’s Bill Mills, who has been a photographer for 14 years, taught the class, sharing tips and tricks to elevate those phone camera photos.
Mills taught nine people composition tips, such as how to frame a shot.
He also asked his students to take out their phones and point their cameras at him. Each of them held their phone vertically.
Mills smiled and said holding their phones vertically was limiting their photo opportunities. He had everyone turn their phones horizontally so they could have a wider field of vision in their photos.
Chinskey and Lakewood Ranch’s Mary Denz partnered during the Intro to Phone Photography class to practice putting the tips into action.
Denz had Chinskey lean against a white fence with a bridge and pond in the background. She tried a few photos of Chinskey looking one way and then another to see how it could change the photo.
Woodleaf Hammock’s Gayle Sweda and her husband, Rich Sweda, practiced getting low to provide a new perspective in their photos.
They knelt down at one end of the bridge at Waterside Place to take a photo of Mills as he walked toward them on the bridge. The couple also used a tree to show how nature can work as a natural frame.
Gayle Sweda has been interested in photography since high school and used to develop film and work with process cameras, so taking photos with smartphones was new territory. Rich Sweda had similar experiences, taking photos in high school and college for the yearbook, with most of his photos being in black and white.
“Since the iPhones came out, I’ve always been interested in learning to do more with the iPhone because you always have it in your pocket,” Rich Sweda said.
Some of the biggest challenges they have is trying to take photos of their grandchildren who won't stay still for a phone camera that might not have the speed of a regular camera.
“It’s like herding cats when you have a group of kids,” Gayle Sweda said with a laugh. “You can’t get everybody doing the same thing. I loved what (Mills) said about just taking the pictures naturally and having them playing.”
Rich Sweda appreciated the tip of getting low to the ground when taking photos of children.
“You get a lot more interesting shots from that perspective,” he said. “Especially with kids, they’re always jumping and romping around. Getting down low is a great tip.”
Chinskey wishes she knew those tips and tricks when she was taking photos during a kayaking trip with friends June 15 in St. Petersburg. She took dozens of photos but was disappointed when she saw how they turned out.
“It didn’t capture any of what we felt that day,” Chinskey said. “It was just these simple moments that brought you joy, and the photos didn’t do them any justice.”
Denz uses some of the photos she takes of landscapes as resource photos for her oil paintings, but often she said her photos aren’t good enough for that purpose.
Now with the new composition tips she learned, Denz can’t wait to try again.
Rich Sweda said he will look at landscapes differently, thinking about how he could frame them in a photo and what he could use in the landscape to make it more interesting.
Gayle Sweda looks forward to sharing images of her community.
“I’m always sending pictures to my family who live around the country because I’m trying to get them to move to Florida,” Gayle Sweda said. “I just tell them, ‘Look at how beautiful it is.’”
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