Filing with Android: Notes from a low-income mobile journalist

Tonight I’m shooting photos of a Halloween-themed luau at a bar in Fort Lauderdale. It will probably be dark, loud and smoky. And I’ll be armed with only my smartphone.

The company I work for provides my team with HTC myTouch Android phones, the idea being we can use them to file on location. They can become wi-fi hotspots and the camera quality is not bad, but the OS leaves something to be desired.

Regardless, I am one of the few who use the phone — as a cell phone, a camera and sometimes a computer — because I can’t afford to buy equipment and the thing saves me roughly $50 a month on service costs. When I first started using it to shoot, I was filing images like this:

Participants in a spicy-meatball eating contest at Wicked Awesome Snackbar. Boca Raton, Fla. — Maria Murriel, 2012

My Web editor demanded better quality shots, and I struggled with the phone’s ability to focus and capture movement at fast-paced events such as the one pictured.

Not all my shots were bad, but I have been getting better. It’s also helped that I attended the SPJ conference this year, where some photo tips stuck out. One of them, given by CBS’ Les Rose, was to compose photos in thirds. (I should add here that I never had professional training in visual journalism, but I work in the digital field, where visual and text are one.)

So I think about that while shooting now, but still struggle with lighting. These days, I try to be conscious of my light source and where I stand in relation to it. It’s especially tough at bars, where I happen to do a lot of my shooting.

Last week, I caught this beer festival in Miami, and the shots were pretty good.

“Little cheers for little beers” at Grovetoberfest 2012. Coconut Grove, Fla. — Maria Murriel, 2012

The direct light actually helped me get clear shots, because my slow camera didn’t need so much time to locate its focal points. At bars, however:

Cocktails at Steak 954 in the W Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Maria Murriel, 2012

Definition’s not so hot with the lights dimmed low. Check back later tonight so see how I did at the luau.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse this photo gallery and the Instagram widget to its right.