Whether it’s gazing directly into the lens or pushing the shutter for that one perfect shot, Helena Christensen knows her way around a camera. As a model, she’s appeared on over 600 covers. As an expert photographer, the Dane has shot countless of photos for her own covers and campaigns. Her latest project? Partnering with tech company Huawei on a photography campaign shot using their latest smartphones, the P20 and P20 Pro—the latter of which boasts the first triple lens (made by camera-industry giant Leica, nbd) in any phone camera.
And it was a challenge Christensen was eager to take on. “Photography to me is just limitless. There are no rules,” she said via Skype at the phone’s launch event in Paris in April. “I think you discover so much more in life when you look through a lens. You can focus on the details that might just pass you by in your daily life.”
We were in Paris for the launch, where we gleaned a few photography tips from the pro herself.
1. Lighting is key
For Christensen, lighting is the single most important factor to a great photo. Some people may assume this means full or natural light, but it doesn’t have to. “The less light there is almost becomes a more interesting challenge and a more beautiful photo because it kind of captures the essence or the spirit of somebody much better,” she says.
And don’t think selfies are an excuse to get lazy with lighting. Christensen’s tip: hold up your hand and move it around to see how the light changes, keeping in mind that the inside of your palm is how the skin on your face will look in a photo. Once you’ve found your perfect lighting, hold up your phone to match the results.
2. Play with composition
Of course, you want the all the attention of your photos to go straight to your subject, but that doesn’t mean they have to be the only thing visible in frame. Christensen says she’s obsessed with composition—how objects in a photo are arranged in an image. When it’s your turn behind the lens, take a look at the lines and details of your setting, trying to place your subject in reference to what’s behind them. “It might be an interesting challenge to keep an eye out and be open to whatever’s happening in the near vicinity [of your subject].”
3. Get up close and personal
While not every photographer will be super keen to use their cellphone for a shoot, Christensen says there’s one huge advantage: “When you have a camera like that, when you can get so close, [it] almost feels like air in your hands. There’s no heaviness, no big physical object between you and the subject. You don’t feel like you’re intimidating the subject, you’re just moving with them. Almost like a fly on the wall.”
4. There’s no such thing as the perfect pose
Many photographers will attest: taking a great portrait can be quite difficult, especially when the subject is someone you don’t know. The trick is find that split second where the person isn’t thinking about the camera pointing at them. “I don’t believe in the ‘perfect pose’ for a portrait. There are many things in any given situation that determine what works for that person,” Christensen says. “Have a good camera handy at all times that can quickly adjust to that situation and allow you to capture that moment.” This way, you’ll end up capturing someone in a more natural situation, allowing their personality to shine through. Get those reflexes ready.