I’m a fastidious photographer.
My personality isn’t so exacting in every other sphere of my life, but when it comes to taking pictures the lighting, composition and focus are imperative. It doesn’t matter if I’m taking pictures with my Nikon D7000 or my iPhone 6 Plus. In every case, I want my photos to look as sharp and compelling as possible. I don’t always achieve this (as you’ll see with my crappy photos inside this article) but it’s always my goal.
The photo should engender an emotional response. It should elicit an emotion in the eyes of the viewer but most importantly it should tell a story.
Contrary to what most people believe you don’t need a multi-thousand dollar DSLR to take good photos.
Do you know what the number one cause of bad photos is?
Bad technique. If your photos suck it’s because you suck at taking pictures!
I know that sounds harsh but it’s true. I apply the same logic to my own photos. When my photos suck I don’t blame the lens, the weather or random people who keep walking in front of the camera. I blame myself.
Perhaps I don’t have enough patience? Or perhaps I’m too lazy to move into a position that would get the perfect shot because it’s uncomfortable? The bottom line is we are the problem so if we want to take better photos we need to fix ourselves.
That being said, today I want to show you 3 tips for taking great photos with your iPhone. These tips aren’t revolutionary and to be honest are a little pedantic; however, if you follow them I guarantee you’ll see vibrant results and eventually you’ll have pictures worth bragging about.
To cardinal thing I try to keep in mind with my photos is sharpness.
As it applies to the iPhone: always touch the screen before shooting.
Although the iPhone does a fairly good job finding the subject sometimes autofocus hones in on the wrong thing or sometimes there’s not enough light or sometimes your hand isn’t steady enough.
There are many possibilities.
The proper way to take the photo will make you look silly but will increase your chances of taking a sharp image.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Hold up your phone and touch the screen where you want the sharpest focus
- Holding the phone horizontally with one end in each hand, bring your elbows into your side.
- Spread your legs shoulder width apart and slightly squat.
Yes, you’ll look like an idiot taking pictures this way but who cares what people think about you? No one really cares. People are too consumed with their own issues to care about your insecurities.
If you want the best pictures you need the best control.
And although iOS 8.1 has a pretty good camera app it’s not enough.
If you really want to amp your iPhone photography you need selective focus and a means of adjusting the shutter speed.
There’s a free app called Manual Cam. I’ve been playing with it but it takes a while to get cozy with all the features.
As you can see from the above screenshot, while holding my phone in landscape orientation I pressed the volume down button in attempt to snap the photo. That didn’t really work as I expected.
To be honest you can take great photos with the built in iOS 8.1 photo app but you just need to know how to polish your work.
Lighting is a big deal (photography literally means writing with light: photo(light) graphe (writing). That’s why after every photo I tweak the exposure and brightness settings.
After taking a photo, tap it and select Edit from the menu bar at the bottom edge of the screen.
In the left pane you’ll see three icons. You want the last one that looks like a little dial turned to the right.
Touch that and you’ll get the light settings.
Play with the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows and Black Point settings.
You can fiddle with the sliders until your whites aren’t blown out and details aren’t lost in the shadows. Also, if the entire image is too bright or dark you can crunch those settings accordingly.
3. Big don’ts
Try to use ambient lighting as much as possible. This restriction is going to make your photographic escapades more laborious but who said taking good pictures was easy?
You’ll have to experiment with different things. For example, try opening the window shades or positioning yourself (or the subject) so that the light falls in just the right place.
If it’s too dark you can turn on the lights but it won’t look as good. And although the iPhone camera is technically impressive with a fast f-stop at f/2.2, it’s still not ideal for low-light photography.
Move, Don’t zoom
Need to get closer? Don’t zoom the camera; zoom your butt to the subject!
Zooming not only amplifies the image but also the artifacts. IT’s cranking up the volume on a static FM channel. You’ll get louder audio but also louder static.
Zooming doesn’t gather more of the desirable details because it’s basically just blowing up the photo. Imagine what would happen if someone took your standard 3×5 photo and blew it up as a Time Square billboard image? It wouldn’t look very nice.
This is roughly tantamount to what happens with digital zoom. Try to resist the urge to “pinch-out” the screen. Instead move in close to your subject and take the photo that way.
Of course this isn’t always possible so just do the best you can and go for it.
Smartphone cameras have come a long way but even with the auto-everything world we live in there are still a few benefits gained from being deliberate with our photos. Taking a few minutes to frame and focus the shot is always a good thing. And then taking a few minutes to adjust the exposure and lighting settings with the Edit button will also help out. And by all means, try to avoid the flash and digital zoom the best you can.
Have you had any success taking good photos with your smartphone? Let me know (or send me a few of your photos – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org – and yes I actually do check it daily).
I’d love to see what you came up with.