In celebration of the new iPhone 5s coming out tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to recap some REALLY simple tips to improve your phone photography. This isn’t an exhaustive best-photography-how-to post. These are tips for the average folks out there that just want to know like one of the functions of their iPhone better and take a slightly better photo. Keep in mind that post processing aps and filters are all very helpful too but we won’t be going into that here. That’s another can of worms we can eat another day. And all the photo illustrations are from my instagram feed and most have been altered from their original state but ALL are phone photos.
Okay…so here goes…
1. Hold your phone with both hands
Since you can’t adjust your shutter speed on the Iphone, it’s imperative that you try to make your subject and your camera as still as possible for super sharp images. I hold my iPhone with my left hand with my elbow tucked into my side for stability and press the shutter button with my right thumb or pointer finger. Remember that the shutter isn’t released until you take your finger off the shutter button on the touch screen.
2. Don’t zoom
iPhones were not created equally to lens with zoom capabilities. You will lose a ton of quality when you zoom. It’s actually better to take the best possible photo zoomed out and then zoom in on it later with editing software. But also there are MANY occasions where I have taken a photo zoomed all the way out and after the fact, I saw that if I had zoomed in, I would have lost a lot of the ‘story’ or good composition.
3. Details from here to there
Since you can’t adjust the shutter speed or the aperature or the ISO, limit your photos to include the most still subjects. That means no action, high speed items, sports, or fast moving wildlife. You may get lucky once in a blue moon when a red fox is howling but it’s still rare and difficult to capture great details on those subjects.
To focus your phone correctly, pull up your camera, widen your stance, set your elbows into your body or waist (this is called the human tripod position), determine what particular area you would like in focus and then tap that area of the screen. A square will appear on the screen to indicate what part of the image the camera is focusing on. Autofocus also automatically adjusts exposure and white balance.
For a more advanced method of focusing, use auto exposure/auto focus lock. This option actually keeps the iphone camera at the same settings for different shots so keep that in mind. To use it, you do all the same things as auto focus but instead of tapping, hold your finger on the screen right over the part that you would like to focus on for about three seconds. A focus box will flash. Release to save the settings and look for the AE/AF Lock text on the bottom of your cameras screen.
To clear the lock, tap the screen again, and the iPhone will auto focus again.
4. Go for simple, clean and repetition when it comes to background
If you are a parent and just trying to capture your kids (that’s like 18.104.22.168% of my readers), don’t let your photos swallow your kid. I say that because sometimes the background is actually so distracting or crazy that you don’t focus on the naked baby laughing hysterically with marshmallows stuck to their hair….but instead you look at that random guys leg photobombing the background…or the scene from Hoarders: Buried Alive playroom edition that is obviously the scene of the ‘cutest kid ever does the cutest thing ever’ photo. Create opportunities for your backgrounds to be just that…backgrounds. I personally dig repetition (like the rocks or the towel stripes) and it’s easy to make happen with a quick adjustment of your camera angle.
5. Use side and back lighting to create mood and drama
I talked about back lighting and side lighting in regular photography tips posts….well, the same applies here. The phone can capture your subject in a well lit situation if you allow the camera to focus on the subject. What I do is angle my phone toward a darker area of the room (whether it be the corner or floor) and adjust the lock-focus, then I readjust the camera to my subject and snap the photo to expose the subject correctly and not underexpose the cute profile or scene from Baby goes on a Picnic.
Think about exploring HDR. Click on options in your camera app and toggle the HDR to ON. HDR stands for high dynamic range and it is an option that can make even the most average Jane seem like a professional photographer. How it works is this: Instead of taking one photo at one exposure, HDR mode takes three different photos at different exposures and combines them to create a more natural looking photo. It’s not great in every situation but in good lighting (especially outdoor shots like cloudy skies), it can take that picture to a whole new level.
6. For square frames, think leading lines
This is great for photography in general, but think about leading lines in your photos. They can be anything that leads your eye from one side or corner to your subject. See how the shadows lead right to Will walking on the bridge? And the shorelines leads right to Jeremy having a daddy-son moment? Or the strawberry fields lead right to Will thinking about throwing the berry at my face? All of those can help add interest and keep your eye moving. So even if you are a bit confused about how to do ‘the rule of thirds’ in a square, the angled leading lines are like one page of the cheat sheet of square composition.
Well guys…that’s it for today. Off to camp out in front of my local Apple store….kidding. I don’t do sidewalks or cold or hungry. I do diapers and crying and chewed food in my bra.
wait. Now that I think of it….camping out sounds pretty nice…at least for one night