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.


Mobile phone photography, photography classes Raleigh, Wake Tech photography classes, photography courses Raleigh,

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.


Camera Flash Recommendations

So now I have a nice DSLR camera, what flash should I buy….

I’m posting this article primarily for photography students in my second level (intermediate) photography class, but thought it would be good info to share with anyone else considering purchasing an affordable flash that you can grow into. Below are a few considerations to think about and a some actual flash recommendations. I’m not recommending manufacturer brand flashes because they are typically 2-3 times the price of comparable aftermarket flashes and the goal here is to stay affordable!


1. Purchase a dedicated TTL (through the lens) flash that has a manual mode and variable power output adjustments. This is non negotiable – you need both of these features. The TTL feature allows the flash to communicate with your camera on metering and light output for automatic flash shooting. Manual mode will allow you to take creative control of flash output. You will need to purchase the correct model that is dedicated to your camera brand (i.e. Canon, Nikon etc)

2. If you want to shoot off-camera with your flash, you may consider a flash with a sync port incorporated, or you can purchase separate adapters later for $15-20. Not a show stopper for now.

3. I recommend a flash head that has tilt and swivel features and also has a diffuser and reflector card built in (as shown below). These features allow more creative flexibility and control as you learn how to use your flash.



1. For the lowest price and with all the above mentioned features, the Yongnuo YN-565ex N is my top recommendation for Nikon owners, coming in at roughly $80. Here is the link:

2. Updated 10/31/16: For Canon owners, the YN-565ex C was discontiued at one point but now seems to be available again, so here is the link for it: This comes in around $80 currently.

Update 10/31/16: If you want to spend about $25 more dollars and get everything you would ever want in a camera flash, you can upgrade to the top of the line Yongnuo flashes for Nikon or Canon, which includes high speed sync (HSS) and a built in wireless receiver. With the built in receiver, you don’t have to wire up and purchase a separate receiver to the flash for off camera wireless triggering. (see links below):

For Nikon Cameras

For Canon Cameras:

There are certainly lots of other brands, but not many that offer all the features and reliability that these flashes offer. Happy shooting, and remember, don’t flash people without permission 🙂


Update 11/14/16: Interested in some other options? Here’s a great article from B&H Photo on 7 recommended third party flashes:

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Photography Class Photo Shoot

A couple of fun shots from the photography class trip downtown last night. The students love the field trip photo shoot and I love to see them putting all the classroom info together and applying it to create some great photos. I love facilitating those “light bulb” moments in photography!

Capitol_Photo_Class_Shoot-1014 Capitol_Photo_Class_Shoot-1034-Edit


Photography Classes Starting in May

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about your digital SLR (removable lens) camera and how to create great images, now’s your chance. I’ll be teaching two basic classes through Wake Tech starting in May. Classes are 8 wks long, one night per week for 3 hrs.

Here is the link for signing up:

The classes are a combination of classroom and hands on photography so you get to apply what you learned. One class is Monday’s 5/18-7/6, the other is Tuesday’s 5/19-7/7.


Important considerations for your library of digital images

Interesting article here in MacWorld about Apple dropping support for Aperture and Iphotos. I’m sure everyone is familiar with Iphotos, but Aperture is Apple’s pro image editing software that has been around for years and was a big rival for Adobe’s Lightroom.

So what do you do when all your thousands of images are tied to a now unsupported and soon to be phased out program?? This can be a disaster if you’re not prepared and don’t plan ahead. If you’re just getting started there are several things to consider:

1. Pick a program that has been around and is fairly dominant in the market, and

2. Pick something that stores image metadata and info in formats that are cross platform compatible and can be transferred to other major programs if possible.

There are no guarantees of course, but you can at least minimize your risk by not going with newer, more obscure programs. The article itself has some detailed info on transitioning existing libraries, so if you’re in that boat check out the article.

These are some of the topics covered in the digital workflow portion of the photography classes we teach. There are lots of things to consider when choosing image editing and organizing software, but above all, assume that whatever you choose may be unsupported down the road, and choose something that minimizes your risk of losing images & edits as much as possible.