The heck with cameras and silly arguments about megapixels. Let's talk about something more important: good freestyle technique! Practicing a stroke incorrectly, day after day, makes that stroke harder to correct down the road. Today is a good day to start working on better technique.
I've been swimming for a long time and I'm here to tell you that your impression of your arm position and its actual position in three dimensions can be completely different. Case in point, I thought I was placing my arms directly in front of me on my freestyle recovery and had been practicing that way for years. A month or so ago one of the coaches stopped me mid-set and told me that I was "crossing over" way too much. That meant that if you drew a line from the top of my head down the center of my body my arms were crossing over that center point in front of my head as I placed each hand in the water. Crossing over reduces the efficiency of your stroke because a certain amount of your catch and pull is spent pulling your body left and then right instead of having all the power of the stroke pushing water back in the direction of your feet. That side to side wiggle is just lost energy and requires even more energy to keep pulling your body back to center.
If you want to see just how much you are crossing over a good drill is to have a fellow swimmer walk backwards in front of you in the pool holding a kick board at the center point of your head. (The board is held perpendicular to water instead of its usual flat on the water position). As you stroke, if you are crossing over, you'll repeatedly hit the board with one or both of your hands. That's a sure sign that you are crossing over.
The cure is to swim wide. You have to swim with the feeling that your arms are entering the water much wider. And even better is to tilt your head back and watch your initial entry to make sure you are getting wide enough. Over time what felt awkward will become normal. (don't keep tilting your head up, you don't want to affect your overall balance in the water...).
Another thing to consider is that the pull of the stroke, from the entry to the final push at the top of your thigh, needs to be more or less a straight line with the intent of anchoring your hand in the water and pulling your body past that point. Moving your arm in a wide "S" curve during the front end of your stroke takes time and uses unnecessary energy to move the body laterally. Every unintended lateral move has to be corrected by use of power expended in the opposite direction.
A quick catch, following by a pull with a high elbow position, and increasing speed and power at the end of the stroke is the optimal way to swim freestyle, provided you don't waste energy and mess up your body position by crossing over.
When you are working on correcting or fine tuning a stroke you may find it uncomfortable at first. The key is to drop down a lane and swim with slower swimmers so you can concentrate on technique instead of speed and endurance. Trying to do a stroke correction while maintaining training at a high level is a recipe for failure as you'll get tired and allow your stroke to fall apart. When the workout is tough most swimmers working on strokes revert to what's familiar and that's exactly where you don't want to go. If you normally workout in a lane that repeats 100's on 1:15 you might want to drop down to a lane that repeats on 1:25 so you have the energy to focus on your course correction.
And now a photographic tie-in: It's helpful, when reconstructing your freestyle, to see what your stroke looks like both when you are doing it right and when you are doing it wrong. Get a friendly swimmer or coach to video tape you swimming toward the camera. Best to get your person to stand at the end of your lane and for you to swim toward them so you can see clearly your arm entry and catch. Watch the footage pool side and then hope in and fine tune it.
I spent the morning workout really concentrating on my stroke technique. I've been at it for a month. It's feeling easier and more efficient every day. It was wonderful to be in the pool early this morning and to watch the sunrise as we swam. Coach, Tommy Hannan, (Gold medals at the 2000 Olympics) was on deck and coaching with gusto. It's a great day to be a swimmer.