You’re scrolling through Instagram, looking at everyone else’s beautiful photos, and you think to yourself “man, I bet they took those photos with a nice camera, that’s way too much work.” While I’m sure that there are some super dedicated people who do just that, I’m not willing to put in that much effort – and if you’re reading this you aren’t either. It is 100% possible for you to take beautiful, Instagram worthy photos of your kids, home decor, dinner, or even a selfie from your iPhone. All you need to do is learn how to make your phone work for you.
Work That Light Girl
First, you must find a great source of natural light. Whether it’s a window, screen door, or even outside on your back porch, the easiest way to improve your photos is to frame your subject with natural light. So many times we can look at our photos in our camera roll, upset with the shadows, grainy quality or weird tint from fluorescents. Even on a rainy day, great natural light can take your selfies to the next level.
Once you find. your source, it’s time to play around with your shadows. If you want a backlit photo, place your subject directly in the light, and stand in front of it. If you want a softer “lit from within” look, stand in between the subject and the light source. Be careful while doing this though, and make sure you or your phone isn’t casting a shadow.
Take this photo my sweet momma took for example. This shot of my daughter and i would be so cute – if it weren’t for the shadow of the stroller, and my mom’s head. (No offense momma. I still like this picture). Anyways, instead of just snapping a photo and moving on, take a moment and make sure there aren’t any weird shadows being cast on your subject. Sometimes you may have to curl up into an awkward position to avoid this – oh the things we do for the perfect shot 🙂
iPhone Photo Composition
Next, you want to think about your photo composition. For more information about this, check out my more in depth post about the rule of thirds. In a nutshell, you can play around with the focus of your photo. Don’t be afraid to place your subject somewhere other than dead center! One of the easiest way to understand this concept, is to turn on the grid in your phones camera. To do this on an iphone, go to your Settings > Camera > Grid. This will divide your “viewfinder” up into nine sections, helping you decide where to place your subject.
Also, you want to pay close attention to where you are cutting off your subject. Let’s look at that same photo of my daughter and I again.
The tip of my head is cut off, which you may have never even noticed if I hadn’t pointed it out to you. My rule of thumb for body composition is simple. If you have to cut off part of a person, do it in the natural bends on the body. By that I mean if you’re zooming in or cropping an image, cut the person at the neck, elbows, knees etc., anywhere the body bends.
Take this shot of Nicole for example. I wanted a close up shot, but not a full bust shot. So I chose to fill my viewfinder with her torso, and cut off the bottom of her body at the knee.
You also want to pay attention to the background and foreground of your photo. Most of the time, you’re just concerned with the foreground of your photo and you zoom right in on it. Take a moment and step back, what is in the background of your photo? Is there something laying on the floor that takes away from the subject? Move it! Is there a piece of trash outside that would be a distraction? Change your angle until it moves out of sight. Are there really clean lines on the wall behind your subject? Play around with how much of the wall you include and see what adds context to your photo.
Turn that Phone!
Now I know this is crazy talk – but don’t be afraid to turn your phone horizontal. Pay attention to your subject. Are you taking a photo of a long vase with beautiful long stem roses? Leave your phone vertical so your focus stays on the flowers. Or, are you taking a photo of the massive 12 inch sub you ate for lunch? Turn your phone horizontal and don’t cut off any of the delicious meat and cheese. Don’t be afraid to play around with your shot, and take some photos both ways – see which one you like best! I will add, anytime you take a video on your phone – TURN YOUR PHONE HORIZONTALLY PLEASE! Phones today take full HD video, and it is truly maximized when you fill your frame and turn your phone sideways!
Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention editing your photos. Personally, I try not to edit my photos too heavily. You should be taking a good enough photo to begin with, that it doesn’t need much work post comp!
Now there are literally thousands of photo editing apps out there, and I’m sure they are all great. There are two main ones that I use regularly. The main app I use is Snapseed. It truly is the one photo editing app that does it all – and it’s free. Seriously ya’ll. If you download any app, please make sure it’s this one!
On it’s main page, you have several filters, or “looks” for you to choose from. If you want to get more detailed, you can go to the tools tab. Here you can adjust your photos white balance, curves, add a little bokeh, you name it. You can truly just play around for hours and get to know all the different tools available for you here. I’m working on an entire post dedicated to this app, check back later for an in depth description!
If I just want a quick edit of a photo to share, I use Pictapgo. It can help you rotate and crop your photos, do a quick adjustment of the contrast and color and adjust the lighting. Pictapgo also has several filters you can use, and I personally find them to be much more natural looking than the preloaded ones on Instagram.
I hope you have found these tips helpful, and are ready to start taking better photos on your phone! Drop some of your photos in the comments and tell me which tip was your favorite!