Getting smart about smartphone photography

Photographer Kim McCarthy brings ‘Beyond Selfies’ workshop to Chilmark library.


Did you know your phone camera can be used for more than selfies? If not, head to the Chilmark library on Wednesday, March 29. Kim McCarthy will use her decades of experience as a journalist and photographer to help people improve cellphone photography.

Ms. McCarthy has hosted weekly mobile photography workshops at the Chilmark library since March 8. Ms. McCarthy moved to the Vineyard in October from Southern California, where she ran her own portrait studio.

“The workshop has been really fun, I think it’s been interactive,” Ms. McCarthy said.

In addition to her many years of shooting experience, Ms. McCarthy teaches advanced photography to high school students through an online summer course offered by the Mother of Divine Grace School in Ojai, Calif. All her students own cell phones, so she found it just as easy to teach her course while allowing her students to do their assignments with phone photography.

The first week of her course here focused on composing photographs with a mobile phone. Students learned about the “rule of thirds,” using diagonal and leading lines, finding triangles within your frame, and using patterns to strengthen a picture

The rule of thirds is a basic photography principal that divides a frame into a three-by-three grid. Using this grid to compose images leads to stronger, more engaging pictures. For example, positioning your subject in the left or right third of the frame instead of the center or using lines to break your image into three parts.

Leading lines and patterns also help make photographs more engaging by forcing the eye to take a certain path through your image. Another photography 101 is building an image with triangles, which means searching for lines and moments that form a triangle within your frame. This also keeps a viewer’s eye continuously circling within the frame.

“I had one elderly lady who came to the first workshop and she said ‘I don’t take phone calls on my phone because I don’t know how to answer the phone,’” Ms. McCarthy said.

The woman stayed for the whole class and was determined to learn how to take pictures on her phone because she was going on a cruise.

The second week of lessons focused on taking pictures from unusual angles and how to capture motion to make more dynamic pictures. Her most recent class was about depth of field, exposure, and light. These fundamental basics, Ms. McCarthy hopes, will enable people to take their snapshots from ordinary to extraordinary.

For those who need quick photography advice, Ms. McCarthy has some suggestions. “Get as close as possible to your subject,” she said. “Don’t zoom and don’t stand up straight to take a picture. Lean around, kneel, sit, try different angles.”

Students post their pictures on the class blog (, and Ms. McCarthy critiques them in the next class.

Ms. McCarthy’s final class will focus on cropping photographs and what phone applications will enhance your photography. The workshop is free and open to all Island residents. It is appropriate for pre-teens through adults.