There’s a popular saying that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” I love my DSLR camera and my variety of lenses, but don’t always have it with me. Yet, I still want to be able to capture memories and the things that that inspire me. That’s when I’ll use my iPhone. Read on for my tips for taking better photos with your phone.
Cell phone cameras have come a long way since the early days of bulky phones with limited pixels and low quality. I’ve seen some incredible pictures captured by professionals and hobbyists alike with simple cell phones. Check out #iphone_photography_school on Instagram for some inspiration!
Here are my top 10 tips for taking better photos with your phone.
Okay, this may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how grimy the camera lens on your cell phone can get from fingerprints, dust, and pollen during the spring, all of which will lead to photos looking like they were taken under water. Trust me. I’ve been there. It’s a good idea to regularly clean your phone’s camera lens gently using a microfiber cloth or other wipe for use with camera lenses or even just your shirt if that’s all that’s available.
This is a game changer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a shot frantically trying to unlock my phone and access the camera only to miss the moment. Did you know that you can instantly access the camera app on an iphone by swiping left, even when the phone is locked? Pretty cool, huh?
Light is the most important aspect of a good photo and adjusting exposure can have an enormous impact on the quality of an image. I often see people post phone photos that look dark (underexposed). This happens when we let the camera control exposure rather then choosing it ourselves. To adjust exposure (how much light enters your lens), tap the subject of your photo and a yellow sun icon will appear. Drag up on the sun to add exposure (light), or down to decrease exposure. Pay attention to how changes in exposure affect not just your subject, but the entire image, including a background.
Before you take a photo, be sure that your subject is in focus by taping on the small box that appears on each of the faces in the photo. If you are focusing on a scene without people, tap over the part of the scene that you want in focus.
For fast moving subjects (like kids running or playing sports), burst mode is a lifesaver. Burst mode is an iPhone camera setting that lets you take ten photos per second. If you have an iPhone XS, XR, or older, to take a burst of photos, keep holding down the shutter button. This will give you a sequence of action shots. If you have an iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max, slide the shutter button to the left.
One of the easiest ways to take your pictures from looking like snapshots to more polished photos is to be more intentional about what you choose to allow in your frame. Before you take a photo, scan the edges of your frame for distracting elements like tree limbs poking out above a person’s head, or background or foreground clutter that will compete for attention with your subject. Sometimes just shifting your perspective will easily eliminate elements that don’t add to your image. In the first image below, I wanted to take a photo of my son on his last day of 6th grade, but the first shot I took I didn’t like the electrical wires hanging above in the background and that I could see the street and neighbor’s house.
In the next image, I moved my son in front of some greenery and took a few steps closer to capture him without fewer distracting elements. I also asked him to take his backpack off for the shot so I wouldn’t have the straps as a distraction.
Shooting from different angles, such as below or above your subject, will give your images a more creative feel and allow you to isolate your subject against a simple sky in the background. This is a great way to eliminate distracting elements that would otherwise detract from your photo.
In the example below, I got down on the ground and shot up at the flowers to highlight just the colorful blooms against the blue sky.
In the image below, I stood over my nephew who was laying on the floor and shot straight down.
And, in this image, I was in a glass enclosed ferris wheel with my family and shot down on the beach below.
Here’s are a couple more images shot from above.
Another easy way to make your images more impactful is by moving in closer to your subject. This not only helps draw the viewer to your subject but also ensures your subject doesn’t get lost in the surroundings. This is a good tactic when shooting both portraits as well as details like flowers or other subjects that you want to stand out from their environment.
In the image of the apples, I moved in really close and shot down on them so that the apples filled my frame.
I did the same for the flowers.
Notice in the image below I asked my husband to take of my son and I that we get a bit lost in our environment because he was standing so far from us. There’s nothing wrong with that image but I really wanted the main subject of the photo to be my son and I and the pretty sunset and beach grass to be secondary to the story. In the second image, I asked my husband to move much closer to us and take the photo. Do you see how in that image your eye goes right to my son and I first before taking in the scenery?
Composition is a powerful tool for taking great images whether it’s with your Iphone or a DSLR.
There’s nothing wrong with centering your subject in your photos. This works especially well for portraits, but varying your composition will add visual interest to your photos. The Rule of Thirds is a great compositional tool to try and involves placing important elements in your photo along intersecting points in a 3×3 grid, which equally divides the image into nine parts. This concept can be applied to any genre of photography, whether photographing people or landscape for example.
When taking a portrait, placing your subjects eyes so that they align with the rule of thirds will draw the viewer immediately to her eyes. When photographing landscapes, placing the horizon along the top third of the frame according to the Rule of Thirds will make your image stronger.
Here are some examples showing the rule of thirds.
A handy feature found on most phones is the ability to display the Rule of Thirds gridlines. On the iPhone you can switch the gridlines on by going to Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid to turn on.
And here’s an example of leading lines.
Here’s an example showing both leading lines and the rule of thirds. See how the wood fence draws your eye to the subject, who is placed just slightly to the left of the [imaginary] rule of thirds.
Placing your subject between natural elements or structures that frame them will really draw the viewer’s eye into the image and give it a greater depth.
In the example below on the left, I used the fencing to frame my son as he turned around in the middle of his teammates stretching, and on the right, I had my son sit in a window framed by stones.
In the image of the red barn, I used the tree foliage on either side to frame the building.
Here’s a more subtle example of framing. Notice how the painted baseball diamond (lines and circle) frame my son and keep him from being lost in the background.
Look for interesting reflections or silhouettes.
Follow these tips for print worthy photos and stay tuned for my upcoming post: Simple Steps for Editing Your Iphone Pictures.
And make sure you print your favorite Iphone images. Wondering where to print your pictures? Read my Top Picks for Where to Print Your Photos.
Did you find my tips for taking better photos with your phone helpful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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Winner of the 2020 and 2019 Most Loved Family Photographer award by Hulafrog, Debbie Camba Photography is a New Jersey Family Photographer based in Scotch Plains. She specializes in natural light, authentic and timeless child and family photography.
She photographs outdoors and in homes throughout Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, Mountainside, Cranford, Summit, Springfield, Madison and the surrounding area, including Union County, Morris County, Middlesex County, and is available in other locations upon request.