our first official #instacamp prompt: sunshine!

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I've been so enjoying watching the #instacamp twitter stream and the images on Instagram, not to mention seeing all of the images you've shared in the comments on Friday's post -- it's absolutely awesome to see how much summer happiness is going on all over the globe.  If you haven't joined in with the fun yet, it's not too late at all -- today is our first official prompt for our month-long virtual camp.  And our prompt and inspiration is ...

sunshine!

Let's face it:  when we hear the word "summer," on of the first things we imagine is sunshine.   It's the season that is defined by basking in the sun's rays, watching the sun reflect off of lakes or oceans, or watching the sun go down after a long, lazy day.   So let's get out there and capture the sun in all its shiny glory:  images of your friends with their faces turned up to the sun, enjoying its warmth; or the sun's rays at the golden hour, or even the orange of a sunset.   Just grab as many pictures of the sun as you can.

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"But, Karen!" I hear some of you saying.  "I've just checked the weather forecast where I live, and we're not going to be seeing sun for over a week!"  Never fear, friends!  This is the part of this exercise where we get creative:  instead of capturing the actual sun, how about taking a photograph of a representation of the sun (like the image at the top of this post)?  Or,  get abstract with it:  grab a lemon, cut it in half, and take a photograph of the heart of the fruit, with the citrus-y bits radiating out from the lemon's centre.   Or just a photograph of something that reminds you of the sun, like a yellow or orange ball.  Or stained glass.  Or whatever.  Make the sun happen for you.

And, as you've been doing, share your camera phone photographs somewhere publicly online -- on Twitter or Instagram, of course, but feel free to share them on Flickr, or on your own blogs, as well.  As long as you tag your photographs #instacamp, I should be able to find them.   And just like last week, I'll share some of the ones that caught my eye on this Friday's post  -- and I'll likely do a giveaway of some fun summer reading while I'm at it, so get ready to share links to your favourite shots in the comments section on Friday, as well.

Now.  Before I send you off to shoot awesome things, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while shooting with your camera phone:

1.  If you're shooting an object (other than the sun), don't be afraid to get close.  One of the biggest mistakes I think novice photographers make is not getting close enough to their subject; moreover, most camera phones have really wide angle lenses, which make the subjects look smaller than they actually appear.  Get comfortable getting a little closer to the action that you might normally -- I think you'll find your images will improve with just that little tweak.

2.  That said, don't get too close -- be mindful of your camera phone's ability to focus.  In my experience, the closest I can bring my phone to my subject and still maintain a sharp image is about 15-18" -- and I'm shooting with an iPhone 4 (not the 4S).  Note that different camera phones may vary.

3.  For this week's prompt (if the sun is cooperating where you live), try experimenting by shooting right into the sun (although please don't actually look into the sun when you do it -- protect those eyes!).    I love doing this early in the morning or late in the afternoon, because I find that my camera phone makes these awesome lens flares -- circles of light that convey the brightness of the sun.  Like this:

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Notice the red circles radiating from the centre of the shot -- kinda cool, right?

4.  If you're shooting an object that represents the sun (rather than actual sunlight), remember that camera phones tend to work best in as much natural light as possible.  So try to shoot in daylight hours if you can, and if it's raining outside, near a window with lots of natural light.  If you shoot your subject using the lamps in your house, your image will likely turn yellow (since incandescent light is much yellower than natural light -- although, for this week's prompt, if your lamp reminds you of the sun, perhaps a photo of the lamp would totally work!).  Also, shooting at night will make your shots look grainier -- which is fine, if that's what you're going for, but frustrating, if it's not.

5.  Finally, if you're shooting with a smart phone, go wild with the camera apps.  As I mentioned above, I use an iPhone, and have fallen madly in love with Snapseed and Instagram, sometimes using both on the same shot  (note:  Instagram is also available for Android phones), but I know there are tons of camera photo processing apps out there for many different types of smart phones,  so explore and try them out.   But if your camera phone isn't a smart phone, don't let this stop you from participating -- I've seen a lot of beautiful shots that had no processing whatsoever, but the framing or the camera angle made them awesome.  Just get creative.

That's it for now, my shutterbug friends -- if you can think of additional tips to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.  In the meantime, go forth and capture the sun!  I can't wait to see what you do.

Song:  The sound of sunshine going down by Michael Franti & Spearhead.  I'd never heard this version before, and it's lovely.