Smartphone photos not just for selfies


A Perth photographer has hit the streets to show the WA capital how to take professional-quality photographs with their everyday smartphone.

Clem Bailey runs ‘Smartphone Photography Courses’ every second Saturday morning in the Perth CBD.

We meet Bailey this morning at the million-dollar Perth Cactus sculpture in Forrest Place.


Clem Bailey at The Cactus

“A lot of people have seen this thing,” Bailey says of the stylised green Cactus.

“If you change your perspective on how you shoot it, there is a bit more thought.

“You want to try and see things in a different light.”

With the world now obsessed with snapping themselves, Bailey reveals “soft light” as his top selfie tip.

“Anything with harsh shadows looks too contrast-y, its not very flattering,” he tells us.

But he says that, overwhelmingly, his students don’t come to perfect their selfies.

Most are middle-aged women wanting to take better photos of their children, grand children and pets.

Tourists, young people, and business owners interested in photographing their products, also tag along.

Fifteen minutes before our encounter with Bailey and the Cactus, we’d taken a stroll down Plaza Arcade, about 100 metres to the south.

Here, Plaza Cameras manager Brad Kirk was selling iPhone photography accessories alongside SLR cameras and professional equipment.

Mr Kirk with one of his 'best-seller' selfie sticks

Mr Kirk with one of his ‘best-seller’ selfie sticks

“If people get really interested in photography with their phones, they come in trying to buy lenses for their phones,” Mr Kirk told us.

He admitted the smart phone lenses did not work or sell well.

But selfie sticks sell well.

“Selfie sticks went crazy over Christmas,” he chuckled.

“We sold out over three times.

“I called over five manufacturers and they were all sold out.”

Realising we were in danger of running late for our date with Bailey and the Cactus, we said ‘good day’ to Mr Kirk, and hurried down the arcade for the start of our tour.

Having stalked him on Instagram, we knew to look out for a young man with beard.

Arriving fashionably late, someone fitting that generic description and wearing a canvass cap and khaki jacket, approached us.

It was Bailey, armed with his smartphone.

We began chatting, and soon enough he has us taking photos of the Cactus – for practice.

With the pleasantries out of the way, and our initial snaps now behind us, Bailey leads us to an elevator and up to the Wellington Street overpass.

Mr Bailey lines up a shot

Bailey lines up a shot

“This is where I teach the rule of thirds,” Bailey explains.

His course also explores composition, lighting and other techniques.

Down the tight alley of Wolf Lane, Bailey reveals the wonders of vertical panorama.

“I always test people here to get the whole piece in the shot,” pointing to Re+Public’s mural that stretches more than a storey high.

With our backs against the opposite wall, quite literally, there is no way we can fit the entire artwork in our tiny screens.

Bailey shows us how.

He says his students tell him the panorama tip alone pays for the $60 course.

We’re not gonna give away all Bailey’s trade secrets because that would spoil the surprise.

However, we cannot resist sharing this one gold nugget – snap your smartphone shot with the volume button on the side of the phone, rather than tapping your finger on the touchscreen. This has the twofold advantages of maintaining the focus and accelerating the often delayed shutter speed.

Mr Bailey's challenge: Re+Public mural, Wolf Lane

Bailey’s vertical panorama challenge: Re+Public mural, Wolf Lane

With Bailey’s Smartphone Photography Course ending in the shadows of the Central Park skyscraper, we wonder whether we can now go out and sell ourselves as professional photographers.

On one of our iPhones, we call Australian Accredited Professional Photographers Inc. president Chris Percival, to find out.

About to depart for a wedding photo shoot in Busselton, Percival warns there is danger in thinking an iPhone will suffice for professional practice.

He says the photographic industry has been given a bad name because some amateurs sell themselves as professionals.

“They just don’t have the experience or level of understanding to take it from the actual photo to a production product,” he says.

Percival says the AAPP is not against amateurs entirely.

“We would rather take someone who is really keen, wants to be a photographer, wants to do it properly and help them become a good photographer,” he says.

After 30 years in professional photography, Percival has seen the industry evolve with advances in technology.

“Even in our own association a few years ago a photographer won the landscape competition with images he had taken on his iPhone,” he says.

He says a photographer’s tools are crucial to the quality of the end product.

Categories: Arts, Media, News Day

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