Taking photos with your iPhone is just about as simple as simple gets. Apple makes everything so easy and they have certainly made it easy for the iPhoneographer. However, if you want to take better iPhotos, there are few things you should know. If you are like me, you don’t want to just “take a photo”. You probably want to “capture a moment”. After a few years of neglecting my Canon and using my iPhone as my primary camera, I have found that there are a few things that I consistently do to achieve a great photo.
I decided to write this post for several reasons. I often get private messages asking all kinds of iPhone questions based around how I shoot, what apps I use, and so on. I’m always happy to answer the questions; nevertheless, I thought it would be fabulous if I could also attach a link with my Top 10 Tips. There are certainly habits that I have developed over the years that I feel are essential to taking a better photo. Some of these things are pretty basic, but honestly, they are also things that people just don’t do. Don’t fret! These tips don’t take away from the simplicity of shooting with your iPhone. If anything, they should show you just how simple it is to be a better iPhoneographer.
Choose a Camera App
Find a camera app that you love and shoot with it regularly. Personally, I shoot my images with Camera+ by TapTapTap. I begin my edits there, too. I like that it also saves a copy of the original shot to my iPhone camera roll (you can configure this in the settings). This gives me an unedited back up version of my image, which I love. I can’t tell you how may times I go back and re-work an image in a totally different way. If you want a tutorial on this app, click here. They’ve added some great updates since I wrote that post, but you’ll get the general idea. This was my first camera app and I still use it the most.
Holding your iPhone
Shoot in Landscape. In other words, hold your iPhone like you would a real camera. It gives you a better perpescitve of the entire scene, especially when you go to crop your image later. Additionally, hold it steady. Hold it with 2 hands for stabilization if you haven’t mastered shooting single-handed. I often shoot one handed because I have a dog leash in the other hand. But, I don’t recommend it. Many camera apps also have stabilization features. Find a position that is comfortable for you and keep those fingertips out of the way.
Experiment with Lighting
Shoot in all kinds of light. Shoot into the sun, shoot away from the sun…you name it. You can achieve some amazing silhouettes if you position your subject with the sun setting behind them. You can also experiment with some fantastic sun flares. The image below is a silhouette I captured of my youngest son as the sun was setting behind him.
Change Your Angle
Position yourself in different angles when shooting. Squat down, get on your tip toes, move yourself around! Don’t be afraid to shoot the same scene from a different perspective. For example, I love getting low down on a dock and shooting the view across the grain of the wood. Don’t just move your body, but move your camera, too. Hold it high above your head and snap.
Select a Subject
Shoot what you love. Many people take photos of their kids and pets. It’s a great place to start. Remember that practice makes improvement. The more you shoot, the more you edit, the better you will get. Broaden your horizons by capturing some sunsets, flowers, and places around your town. Who says those family vacation photos have to be boring? Here’s a simple photo (with some added pizazz) of my family walking along the beach in Mexico. Select your subject and make the best of them! (Flare added with Lenslight)
Snap, Snap, Snap Away
Shoot the same image multiple times. This is the glory of digital photography. Why the heck would you only take one shot of something when you can take 10? You will notice the benefit of this when you look back in your camera roll afterwards. I will take 5-10 quick shots of the same sunset or sailboat. You can always delete the unused ones later or use it for a different edit. Check out the shots I took below. I took 9 shots in less than 2 minutes of this sailboat. I positioned myself and my camera in different angles to achieve multiple perspectives. These are unedited and straight from my camera roll.
Don’t zoom in too far with your iPhone, crop afterwards. I find the clarity of my image is much better when I do this. When I zoom too much, the image becomes pixel-ated. It has become habit for me to crop in on my image later. This takes some getting used to if you generally use a Canon or Nikon. With my Canon, I can crop in real nice from a distance. Try this with your iPhone and you’ll quickly see where the iPhone camera lacks. Play around with the cropping features in your favorite app and work some magic. It only take a second and it can make a world of a difference in your finished photo. Make sure you take the distracting extras out of the view. I can not emphasize this enough: Cropping is your friend! Who wants to see that weird guy in the corner of the shot next to your cute kid? In the example below, you will see that the top photo is a basic photo of my son sailing. I didn’t zoom in too much when taking the original photo because I wanted to keep the clarity intact. You can also see the other boat to the left. I knew that I would want to crop them out later. The second photo took me all of one minute to edit. I cropped it using Camera+ and then added a filter, vignette and frame in Wood Camera. How easy is that? Even without the WoodCamera edits, just cropping the image would have been great.
Edit With Apps
The great part about iPhoneography is the ability to edit your image right on your phone. Experiment with multiple apps. There are plenty of free apps out there to get you started. And free doesn’t mean bad (Filtermania 2 & Pixlromatic). Check out the star ratings as well as reviews. Take FilterMania 2 for example. It is free and fabulous (and currently the #2 photography app in the US). There’s also super apps that are only $.99 or $1.99 on the app store (FX PhotoStudio & Hipstamatic). Try adding a variety of apps to your editing tool box. There might be something you love in one app, then save, and pull it into another app for some more editing. Secondly, don’t be so quick to discard an image from your camera roll. I generally open up the photo and do some basic edits before I decide if I’m going to ditch a photo. And I rarely ditch photos, hence the reason for the 5,000+ images in my camera roll. The Ferris Wheel photo below was an edit I did for a challenge that required the use of 10 apps!
Update, Save & Back it Up
It is really important to keep your apps updated. App developers are constantly fixing bugs and crashes. They also add new and exciting upgrades to the app as they learn what works and doesn’t work for users. Secondly, make sure you save your photos. That’s one thing I like about shooting with the Camera+ app, and not the native iPhone camera. I know my image is instantly in 2 places. Lastly, back up your photos! I then regularly sync my iPhone and back up images to my desktop. I have gotten in the habit of syncing my images the first week of the month. If I’ve gone a shooting spree, I will sync that night because it means I probably took about 100-200 photos. I’ve heard too many horror stories of friends losing thousands of images because they don’t regularly save their photos.
Now that you’ve done all this work, do something with your photos! Join Instagram, Tadaa, Streamzoo, or Gifture (just to mention a few) and start sharing your images. You’ll be amazed at how inspired you will become when you view great photography. You will get some cool ideas for your own photos as well as editing tips form your fellow iPhoneographers. All in all, the mobile photography community is very welcoming.
Many of us like to share our tips and the apps we use. Remember to interact kindly and compliment someone on their image before asking, “What app did you use to edit that?”. Try and establish a rapport with someone and they will be more than happy to share their knowledge. Many apps also let you connect directly to Facebook or send by email so you can share your images with friends and family.
About Nicky Sanford
Nicky Firment Sanford is a self taught photographer specializing in iPhoneography.
Finding inspiration through her daily surroundings, you will see her coastal lifestyle come through in her work. Sunsets, sailboats, and silhouettes are her favorites to shoot. She is the momma to two growing boys and a proud military wife. Her personal website is www.thephotomomma.com and on Instagram @thephotomomma