You may think you’re a pretty good iPhone photographer. Your Instagram game is on point, you have a killer Snapchat score and you always know exactly what filter to use. But are you on the same level with Boston’s best Instagrammers? If you’re not, you can get there.
I do pretty well with an iPhone myself, but when I’m working as a journalist, the images I shoot reach a larger audience than my personal Instagram posts do. That doesn’t mean I always turn to a DSLR. It’s important my photos are the best they can be no matter what camera I use. Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do.
No need to fear, Android users — these tips aren’t exclusive to iPhones. All smartphones have similar capabilities, even though the controls might be a little different. So, whether you have the new iPhone 6 or not, check out these tips to be a better iPhone photographer:
This is the golden rule of all iPhone photography. Think about it — everything is set up horizontally. Your computer is horizontal, your TV is horizontal, your eyes are horizontal. It just doesn’t make sense to shoot your subject vertically. I get that there are exceptions to this, but try to keep your phone horizontal as often as possible.
I’ve seen so many people take photos haphazardly, with their smartphones about to fall out of their hand. Since you’re using your iPhone like you would a real camera, treat it like one. Hold it firmly with two hands, not one hand. This not only protects your phone from falling, but it also stabilizes it, giving you clearer photos.
How often have you taken a photo that you thought was awesome, only to realize your subject has his or her eyes closed? The best way to avoid unwanted shut eye is to take three pictures in a row. Taking three increases your chances of a subject looking nice and it also gives you some insurance photos just in case something goes wrong.
I think this is the best photo advice I’ve ever received. Whether you’re using a iPhone or a professional-grade camera, an interesting perspective is what makes a good photo. Get low, get high, lay down, climb around — photography all about moving and looking at things differently.
The zoom feature is one of the iPhone’s weaknesses. If you’ve zoomed in while taking a photo, you’ve definitely noticed your photo gets grainy and blurry. On a digital camera, you can zoom and maintain quality, but an iPhone simply blows up the image when you zoom. In my opinion, the lower quality is never worth it. Do what you can to avoid the zoom — like I said, get closer, climb up high, etc.
As you may have noticed, iPhones always want to focus on whatever is front and center of the frame, which often leads to a tree in focus and your friend’s smiling face blurry. If you want to focus on a certain part of your frame, you can use the tap focus feature. It’s easy: tap what you want your phone to focus, then wait a few seconds. Your iPhone will also adjust lighting so the person or thing you focused on is bright and visible.
Say you have the perfect shot set up — the focus is correct, the lighting is correct and you’re ready to press the button. But then your iPhone refocuses and everything’s all out of whack. A little known secret: you can “manually” focus your iPhone and lock your exposure like you would with a
DSLR. If you hold your finger on your focus point for three seconds, a yellow bar reading “AE/AF Lock” will appears on the top of your screen.
AE/AF Lock stands for auto-exposure and auto-focus lock. If you have this lock on, the lightness and focus of the frame won’t change. With this lock, you can move your iPhone around and not worry about rogue lighting and focus changes. This lock feature is awesome if you’re shooting a subject that isn’t moving or only moving in one plane of focus.
You’ve probably noticed the little “HDR” on the top of your iPhone screen. Most people notice it slows down their camera — I promise it does a lot more than that.
HDR stands for high dynamic range. DSLR users have been using this technique for years but it’s only recently moved to the smartphone world. When you take a photo with HDR on, your iPhone actually takes three images: one underexposed (too dark), one overexposed (too bright) and one somewhere in the middle. In a brief second, it automatically combines the best part of theses three images, giving you a photo that doesn’t have overblown whites and super dark blacks.
Here’s some iPhone photos with and without HDR:
HDR doesn’t work well with fast-moving subject, like hockey players or cars on a highway. Because it takes three photos in a row, a fast subject will be blurry in one of the three photos, giving the final image a weird look.
You can also chose if you want to keep the HDR photo or the HDR photo and the untouched, mid-exposed photo. If you go into your settings to the photo and camera section, you’ll see this option:
If you want to keep the mid-exposed photo, move the toggle toward “Keep Normal Photo.”
The flash isn’t only for nighttime. If you’re taking a photo of someone and the background behind them is very bright, the person’s face is going to be very dark and shadow-y. If you turn on the built-in flash on your phone, you can brighten their face without blowing out the background. You need to be close to the subject for this to work though.
Photos can be saved in post-processing. If somethings a little too dark or too bright, don’t go straight to filters — try some editing apps. My favorite (free!) editing app is the Photoshop app, PS Express. Even though the name sounds intense, it’s super easy to use. If you’re feeling a little more artsy, VSCOcam is a crowd favorite.
So there you have it. Grab your iPhone (horizontally of course) and go shoot like a photographer.