Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you are probably well aware that cellphone photography is here to stay. The battle for the best "cellphone camera" heats up with each successive device release, as Google's recent Pixel phone and Apple's iPhone 7 both illustrate. Recent estimates put the number of cellphone photos taken per year at 1 TRILLION. I mean, that's a LOT of photos. Everyone owns a smartphone with a camera and sharing those photos to the web has never been easier. No wonder we take so many photos these days!
So why are there so many mediocre pictures being shared on the internet?! We take WAY more pictures than we ever used to, and yet it seems, instead of our photos getting better, we just keep posting the same dog/cat/kid/sunset/selfie photo over and over again. Can we just take a minute to be honest here...most of the stuff we see online is kinda blah.
Most people whip out their phones and just hit the button and don't think twice about it! We understand that not everyone has the time to invest in lighting courses, composition seminars, exposure triangle tutorials, or advanced editing techniques. But that doesn't mean your phone photos have to suck! So instead of you investing tons of hours and dollars to learn loads of super fancy photo techniques, we have decided to share a few quick tips so that you can take better photos with your iPhone!
1. Use tap to focus.
Let's be honest, in most modern cellphones, the autofocus does a pretty good job. But using tap to focus (especially in difficult lighting conditions) helps the camera decide where to place the emphasis of the photo. More than helping to adjust the actual "focusing" or sharpness of your subject, tap to focus gives the camera more information about how to adjust the exposure (brightness) and contrast of the image to give you a better photo. Go ahead and test it out. Have your subject (kid/dog/family member) stand in front of a strong light source like the sun or a bright lamp. Let the camera autofocus and see what happens. Usually the person's face will be too dark to see. If you tap to focus on their face, the camera adjusts it's settings to the subject and the end result is better light on the face and a better overall picture! Keep in mind, this isn't foolproof and your cellphone still might struggle in difficult situations, but it can help a lot of the time!
2. Compose your image...don't just take a "snapshot!"
If you are around photographers for any length of time, you will hear them say something like "Composition is key." The fact of the matter is, the best equipment in the world can't create a beautiful picture by itself. Most photographers realize that composing a picture properly is much more important than the equipment used to take the photo. And guess what?! That little device in your hand is a CAMERA. It takes photos...and photographs need to be COMPOSED properly. So what can you do? Two simple things can really help you compose better images.
First, use the "rule of thirds" grid that comes on most camera apps. On your iPhone, you can turn this on in Settings>Photos & Camera>Grid. This will overlay a grid on top of the scene as you take your photo. Use the grid to your advantage by simply placing your subject (typically whatever it was you tapped to focus on earlier) at the cross-section of one of the points of the grid. A lot of times, this will help you follow the "rule of thirds" and, for most simple images, will help your photos to have a better composition. This isn't a hard a fast rule, but in most instances utilizing the rule of thirds is more pleasing to the eye (thus creating a better photo) than whipping out your phone throwing the thing you're taking a picture of in the middle of the screen and tapping the button.
Second, pay attention to what's in the picture!! Or to put it another way, look at what's on the whole screen! Every photo contains a foreground, mid-ground, and background. These are important concepts and we could spend a whole blog post on each one, but for simplicity's sake just pay attention to what's on the WHOLE SCREEN. Take a half second to look at what's in front of and behind your subject. A lot of times we whip out our phones to take a picture, and we are solely focused on the person's face on the screen and waiting for the "smile" moment. The problem is, if you aren't paying attention, you could miss the light pole or tree growing out of the person's head because you were too focused on their face and didn't pay attention to what was behind them! As important as catching your subject at the right moment is, it is all for nothing if there's a big distracting thing right in front or behind them!
3. Take one minute to edit your photos!
We know what you're thinking...we aren't asking you to run all your iPhone photos through Photoshop. Nobody has time for that! But, there are so many other quick options for editing photos on your phone now, that ANYONE, at ANY skill level, can spend (literally) 30-60 seconds to make their photos look better. A simple editing principle to always remember is: you edit to enhance your photos not fix your photos. No amount of editing will make a bad photo look good. But a little bit of editing can make a good photo look great. Here are a few options you can use depending on your skill level...
For the beginner, VSCO, Afterlight, or PicTapGo are great options. These are great because they add simple films and don't require a lot of technical knowledge to get a decent result. Each app is a little different so it really just depends what look you want! Just be careful because most of these "simpler" options can look overdone if used excessively. Also, don't forget iOS has some basic editing options built right into your Photos App. So if you don't want to download (or pay for) a new app, just open your photo, and tap the three lines next to the trash can and explore the editing options!
For the intermediate/advanced photographer, Snapseed is OUR OVERALL FAVORITE mobile photo editor. It's a little more complicated and does require a little bit more technical knowledge, but even applying a few basic adjustments in Snapseed (the Tune Image and Details modules are our favorites) makes your photo really stand out! More advanced photographers will love the Selective Adjust module to really take their images to the next level!
For the super-intense, highly-advanced, semi-professional....Lightroom Mobile is a high quality, desktop level editor that we love! This app is not for the faint of heart and does require some significant know-how. But for those with the expertise, it really can transform a good photo into a great one!
We love taking pictures but more importantly we want our clients to have beautiful gorgeous "post-worthy" pictures ALL THE TIME...even when just snapping photos with their phones! We can't be with you on your family vacations (although you can take us if you want to, we won't object) or at the ballet recitals or soccer games where you take all your photos. But if you follow these few simple tips, you can take better photos with your phone and have photos you're proud of, even when we can't be there to take them for you!