Mobile Phone Photo Tip – Panoramic Photos

Since we’re working on content for a mobile phone photo course, it’s a great time to share a few simple tips on getting better panoramic images from your phone’s camera.

I personally love photographing panoramic images with my Iphone and think they do a phenomenal job of seamlessly stitching panoramas together. Below are a few recent panos I created with my Iphone:

Panroamas can be great for interior shots where you can't quite sqeeze everything into a nomral shot

Panroamas can be great for interior shots where you can’t quite sqeeze everything into a nomral shot

Panoramas create a unique perspective for scenic shots

Panoramas create a unique perspective for scenic shots

Another scenic shot that just needed a panoramic to do it justice

Another scenic shot that just needed a panoramic to do it justice

Iphone panoramas can be great for large groups

Panoramas can be great for large groups or events

Iphone panoramas are espcially great for scenic photos

Panoramas are especially great for scenic photos

The first tip for creating a great panoramic image from your phone camera is to get an Iphone! Only kidding, other phones do great panos as well, but the Iphone just seems to do it really well.

  1. The real first tip is to rotate the phone so you’re shooting in vertical or portrait orientation. This lets you capture more “real estate” vertically in the image and since you’re going to be sweeping left or right, you need to maximize what you can include top to bottom in the image. Yep, that’s a simple one, but it’s technique that a lot of people don’t utilize.
  2. Number two is composition. You need a little composition for the image to have impact, so think about horizon line placement and have some elements at either side of the image, or both, to create some boundaries, book ends, etc. Check out one of my previous posts on composition here for more info on the rule of thirds.
  3. At number three is another key technique to make sure your panos turn out nice. When you’re panning, you need to pan slow & steady (to allow the software to seamlessly stitch your pano). Also, keep the horizon line steady while panning; In other words, don’t move the camera up and down.

Hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned and we’ll tell you how to edit your mobile images to have some color pop and texture like the ones I posted here.


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Photo Tip – Composing Your Photos

Rule of Thirds – The easiest compostional form to use!

I’ve loved teaching photography over the years and through different venues like Wake Tech, NC State’s Technology Training Solutions division, and my own business. We like sharing some nuggets on the blog occasionally and all of these tips come from the boat loads of course content that we’ve developed over the years and that we will eventually incorporate into online courses! For more info, check out our photography training page here and enjoy the tip!

The rule of thirds is the easiest compositional form / rule to use because you can almost always use it regardless of the image you’re photographing!

First, let’s back up and define composition. Composition is simply the arrangement of elements in an image to make it more pleasing.

You almost always have a primary subject in an image. This is the main focal point or dominant subject in the composition. Most people naturally put this primary subject in the dead center of the image frame. While this can work some of the time, it usually doesn’t create very much impact and makes the image somewhat static. Try placing your primary subject off center and on one of the 4 power points in the frame (see diagram below). These 4 power points are areas in the frame where subjects will have the most impact from a compositional standpoint. Also (big tip here) when you have a horizon line in an image, put the horizon on one of the two horizontal third lines. If you want to emphasize the the sky, put it on the bottom third line, and if your image has more to emphasize in the foreground, put the horizon line on the top third line. Notice how in the lighthouse image below the horizon line is on the bottom third line and the lighthouse is on the left vertical third line. When you put your horizon line in the middle, it cuts the frame in half and divides the image. Give this a try and see how much it helps improve your images and happy shooting!


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Upcoming Photography Class at NCSU’s McKimmon Center

Mark your calendars! March 6th & 7th I’ll be teaching a two day hands on workshop at NC State University’s McKimmon Center. This is a basic DSLR workshop designed to teach you everything you need to know to take control of your DSLR camera and create better photos! Here’s the link with more details and registration info. Look forward to seeing you there!

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Tripod Buying Guide

Below is a link to a tripod buying guide article from B&H Photo Video. The post & article are primarily for people who take my basic digital photography classes, since I recommend a tripod for the class photo shoot, where we do some low light / night photography. This is good info for beginners who may not know what to look for when purchasing a tripod for their camera. B&H is one of the top online camera stores and they have good pricing & variety, so I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase from them. Enjoy!

Tripod Buying Guide

Photography Classes Spring 2016

I’ll be teaching several photography classes at Wake Tech and NCSU coming up soon! Here are the details:

Basic Digital SLR Photography at Wake Tech:

Course Number 152770 on Monday nights from 3/7/16 – 4/25/16

Course Number 152772 on Thursdays nights from 3/31/16 – 5/19/16

Here is the link (search digital photography):

NCSU Photography for Business Courses:

Basic Digital Photography for Business: Mon & Tues March 7th & 8th 9:00-4:30

Basic Adobe Lightroom Photo Editing For Business: Mon March 21st 9:00-4:30

Photographing Events for Your Organization: Mon April 4th 9:00-4:30

Photographing People for Your Organization: Mon April 11th 9:00-4:30

Photographing Product for Your Organization: Mon April 18th 9:00-4:30

Here is the link (click on classes):

Private Training Sessions also available – Call for details 919 850-0492

General DSLR Camera Recommendations for Beginners


Hey there camera & photo enthusiasts!

My name is Charlie Dickens and I teach basic (and other) digital SLR photography courses at Wake Technical Community College as well as for NC State here in Raleigh, NC. I often get asked by students before signing up for the basic class, what camera they should buy, so I thought I would write a post on the subject so that others can benefit as well.

I’ll give some general direction & some specific examples to support, but this will be geared specifically towards DSLR cameras and not the newer mirrorless technology cameras or anything else.

There are lots of considerations to factor in when purchasing a new DLSR camera like budget, your aspirations in photography, what type of photographs you want to take etc etc. but this post should cover the 80-90% of you that are just getting into photography and want to take better photos and learn how to use a DSLR.

First, I recommend going with Nikon or Canon for various reasons, one of which is the numerous lens options & accessories available as you grow in photography. Sony, Pentax, Olympus etc. all have good cameras and lenses too, but Nikon & Canon are just simply head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in lots of areas when it comes to DSLRs. I shoot with Nikon personally, but (as much as it pains me to say this) Canon’s are comparable. First, I would suggest going at least one or two models up from the bottom model SLR. For instance, Nikon’s bottom model DSLR currently is the D3000. I would suggest the D5300 or D5500 so you have some “room to grow”. You’ll also get some helpful additional features by not going with the bare bones, bottom of the barrel model.

Second, I would recommend purchasing a kit that includes the camera and lens (since you can’t take many photos without a lens). On the lens, you will eventually want one or two lenses that cover the 18mm-200mm range. Kit lenses usually come in 18-55mm, and 55-200mm if you get both, however you can get an 18-200mm in one lens if your budget will allow. If your budget is limited, consider an 18-140mm as a compromise over the standard 18-55 that usually comes with the kit. If that’s too expensive, just start with the 18-55mm and you can add on later. I suggest a nice padded bag and lens cleaning kit too.

Once you’re up an going with a basic photography class and have your basic camera and lenses covered you’ll naturally want a stronger hot shoe detachable camera flash. I wrote another post with some good recommendations on flashes here: Flash Recommendations

Hope that helps and happy shooting!

P.S. Check out the link below for a great site for comparing cameras and lenses.


Upcoming Photography Classes at NCSU & Wake Tech

I’m super excited to announce some new photography classes I’ll be teaching this fall at NCSU and Wake Tech. The NCSU classes are targeted primarily for business with a photography for business theme. The Wake Tech classes are continuing ed / personal enrichment classes for individuals.

Basic Digital Photography Class at Wake Tech

I have a basic digital photography class at Wake Tech that will be on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:30pm starting Sept 30 at Sanderson HS. This class is great if you have a nice digital SLR camera and want to learn how to use all the features and functions to create better photos, or just understand how everything works. 🙂 Click the link here to see details and sign up. Just type digital photography in the search bar.

Photography for Business Classes at NCSU

At NCSU I’ll be teaching several classes coming up this fall including Lightroom photo editing, product photography, event photography, and people photography for business. Click here for details and look under the digital photography heading.