iPhone photography is all about taking incredible pictures on the iPhone. Your ability to create a truly great image improves as you practice. The creative process is not hard to learn, but you need to get the basics right. In this article, you’ll find out 20 essential iPhone photography tips that every iPhone photographer should know.
If you are new to iPhone photography, you should understand these important yet easy-to-learn techniques before anything else. It’s always a good idea to go through these tips and tricks even if you’ve been an iPhone photographer for a while.
So, let’s get started with these iPhone photography tips you need to know for taking amazing photos with your iPhone!
Clean the camera lens
Whether your iPhone stays in your hand, a pocket or on a desk, the camera lens is always exposed. As a result, dirt, dust, grease, and fingerprints get your camera dirty.
You just can’t create great photos if the camera lens is not clean. A dirty camera lens blocks lights coming through, leaves smudges and blurs your photos. A clean lens is a fundamental step to a sharp and clear picture with your iPhone.
Tip: Use a microfibre to clean the lens every time before you take a photo with your iPhone. Don’t use any abrasive cleaning solution because it will scratch lens.
Find good lighting
Lighting is one of the most important iPhone photography tips. It is essential for capturing details and colors. Sufficient natural light, in particular, is great for iPhone photos. The best time would be either early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is softer and more gentle than mid-day.
If you shoot when the sun is directly above you, you can find a tree or a shaded place. Shades reduce vertical lighting and soften the brightness. However, be careful not to go deep into the shade as this will block the horizontal light and produce flat images.
For indoors, make sure that the light is not on top or behind the subject. Find a good angle where the line of light gently hits the subject yet provides enough coverage to illuminate the entire scene.
Set the manual focus
Whenever you take a picture, you want to make sure that the subject you shoot is in sharp focus. To set the focus in the iPhone Camera app, you simply tap the subject in the frame and a small yellow square will be the central point of focus.
You can also lock the focus. You simply tap the subject you want to set focus on, and press down the small yellow square for a few seconds. When you see AE/AF Lock in a yellow box at the top of the screen, release your finger. To unlock focus and exposure, just tap anywhere on the screen.
Tip: You can lock the focus in many scenarios. If there’s movement in the background, you want to keep the shooting subject focused. If you find it difficult to get the subject in focus in macro photography, you can lock the focus first and adjust the distance between your iPhone and the subject. Or if you want to create an artistic photograph on a rainy day, you can set the focus on the raindrops on a window-panel, and the background turns semi-transparent or blurry.
Adjust exposure yourself
When you tap on the subject to trigger manual focus, the camera also uses the focus point to set the exposure in the frame. Exposure is the brightness of an image.
When you tap to focus on the subject in the frame, a small sun icon appears on the side of the focus reticle. That’s the exposure slider. You can swipe the slider up or down to brighten or darken the image. The manual exposure slider gives you more control over the look of the final picture.
Tip: Your iPhone does a good job setting exposure on the focus point. But you can also control the exposure level to avoid over-exposed (too bright) or under-exposed (too dark) areas.
Use the rule of thirds
Composition is as important as focus and exposure in photography. The rule of thirds is one of the most easy-to-use composition techniques in iPhone photography. It allows you to produce more engaging photos by placing the subject in certain part of the frame.
The rule of thirds is to divide up an image by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. You then place the important elements within a frame along those lines, or at the meeting points.
You can turn on the rule of thirds grid overlay in the Camera app. Go to Settings > Camera, and toggle on Grid. If you are new to iPhone photography, you can leave the grid turned on. The grid forces you to think about the shot and move around to get the best composition. However, the rule of thirds isn’t the only way to compose an image. You should explore and learn other approaches.
Tip: Using the rule of thirds in landscape photography makes the image more appealing. If you place the horizon in the center, the final image looks boring, However, if you place the horizon on one of the horizontal lines, sky or earth will make up two-thirds of the scene. The final image is more interesting to viewers.
Explore different perspectives
The compact and lightweight iPhone allows you to easily explore alternative points of view. If you only take photos from a standing position, you miss out the creativity of iPhone photography. You can move around the camera lens to discover some unexpected yet stunning perspectives that a bigger camera can’t.
Tip #1: Get down low and shoot from ground level.
Tip #2: Shooting from high up.
Yes, they are very simple tips. By placing at different heights and angles, your iPhone will capture scenes that you normally don’t see from a standing height. You can take as many pictures from as many perspectives as you want, and just delete the ones you don’t like.
Shoot from a low angle
Most mobile photos are shot from chest height because it is the most natural and comfortable position. But you can make your iPhone photos more interesting by shooting from a different angle.
One good alternative is to take photos from a lower angle. When you use the vast blue sky as the backdrop, you can emphasize the subject in your photo by getting rid of unwanted distractions. You also get to capture foreground details that would otherwise be invisible or lost. Next time you go out to take photos, try kneeling or lying on the ground. Use this great iPhone photography tip to show your viewers the world in a whole new perspective.
Good photography means a good balance between the foreground and background. A common mistake among iPhone photography beginners is that they shoot too far from the subject. When you are far away from the shooting subject, many colors and details are lost. When you get closer, you capture more colors, textures, and edges that bring your photos to life.
Getting closer to the subject is a popular method used in portrait photography. A close-up shot captures all the facial features, allowing more emotion into the subject. Because your iPhone camera has fixed aperture, it doesn’t focus well when the camera is too close. To get sharp close-up shots, you will need to add a macro lens. It is a great way to take your iPhone photography skills up a notch.
Remove distracting backgrounds
Keeping your photos clean and simple is one of the most useful iPhone photography tips. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” as Steve Jobs used to say. While detail adds value to an image, too much of it will divide the attention away from the main subject.
You can filter unnecessary elements in the background. All the empty space in the background is known as “negative space” in photography and it’s an effective technique to make your subject stand out. Photos with minimalist compositions are great for social media and online content. Since most people prefer to browse on their phones, photos with a good, clean focus will look great on a small screen.
Tip #1: Use the sky as your backdrop.
Tip #2: Eliminate all colors. If the backdrop to your photo has many distracting colors, you can use a photo editing app, such as Snapseed or VSCO, to convert the image into black and white.
Tip #3: Blur the background. You can easily create DSLR-like depth of field effect in in macro photography or with dual lenses on iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X. Otherwise, you can manually blur the background using a photo editing app such as Snapseed.
Use leading lines
Leading lines in photography can be achieved by using any linear element in the scene. There are many linear elements in our daily life such as roads, fences, and shorelines. You want to make sure that the line leads from the foreground into the background. In this way, the photo directs a viewer’s attention from the front towards the distance.
Leading lines also allow you to make small spaces look wider and longer. This is particularly useful for shooting interior design spaces and architectural models. For single object photography, linear elements are good for emphasis.
Depth makes your photos more interesting because it draws viewers into the scene. Commonly used in landscape photography, depth can be incorporated using leading lines. Streets, rivers, fences and the beach side are all great lines to make use of.
Keep in mind to compose the photo in such a way that the line leads away from the foreground. This creates an illusion of viewing the scenery from a close position to a distant one. You can also use an object in the foreground as a frame for the entire scene. You can shoot through a window to make your viewers think that they are looking out the window to see the things beyond when looking at your photo.
Look for reflective surfaces
Reflections make the best iPhone photos, and they are very easy to achieve! Mirrors are the most common choice for this. You can also use different surfaces such as glass windows, sunglasses, and silverware. All you need to do is shoot your subject against the reflective element. This results in incredible shots that have depth and perspective all in one. If you want to add more appeal, shoot reflections in the water. Just make sure the light is not directly above so you have less shadows. Your final photo will look like actual paintings with the added texture.
Symmetry in photography refers to those images that are identical when halved. Sometimes photographers make a few elements different on each side to make the photo stand out.
The most common way to achieve this iPhone photography trick is to use reflections. The line of symmetry runs in the middle of the photo. You can use a mirror or any reflective surface. You can have the line split the frame from top to bottom or side to side. Keep in mind that different surfaces create different reflections, so you’ll have to figure out what works best for the effect you’re trying to do.
Create a sense of scale
You can produce creative iPhone photos by taking advantage of the relationship between your subject, foreground and background. When you take a photo of a natural scene, you will find that including mountains and trees in the background gives a great impression. It is a matter of knowing how to emphasize the size or scale of the subject. For example, you can show how large and majestic the Grand Canyon is if you include some hikers.
Shoot shadows and silhouettes
Adding mystery to your photos is also one of the creative iPhone photography tips. The best way to do this is by capturing shadows and silhouettes. As the sun goes down to the horizon, you can capture long shadows of your subjects like railings and trees. This adds a dramatic effect to the shot. Silhouettes are great for taking portraits and abstract photos of random objects. This is a popular photography technique because all you need to do is shoot your subject with the light source at the opposite side.
Remember to adjust your iPhone’s exposure levels so that the shadows and silhouettes are dark enough.
Don’t use the zoom
The iPhone Camera app allows you to zoom in by spreading two fingers on the screen. Unless you use an iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus or X which have an optical zoom, other iPhone models only have a digital zoom. Digital zoom is to crop an image down to a specific area. The more you zoom in, the less image quality the result will be.
Tip: Instead of using the digital zoom, you can attach a telephoto camera lens such as the olloclip telephoto lens to take a photo of a faraway subject, don’t use the zoom. Or shoot as usual and crop the image afterward.
You might have heard or read High Dynamic Range or HDR in iPhone photography. This term refers to taking photos with a larger range of colors and contrast. It allows a good balance between brightness and contrast, resulting in very high-quality images.
You can activate the feature in the Camera app by tapping on the HDR button at the top of the screen. You do the same to turn it off or set to auto mode. For iPhone 7 and later models, the HDR is set to automatic by default.
Hold your camera steady
It is more difficult to produce a sharp image in a low light environment. The iPhone camera has a set aperture, so the only way to allow more light to reach the sensor is to use a low shutter speed. When it takes longer to capture a scene, any movement of the camera will blur the image.
Tip #1: To avoid blurry photos, you should hold your iPhone with both hands, rest it on a solid surface, or place one side of the phone against a wall.
Tip #2: Set the timer to 3 seconds. Any slight movement of the phone can result in a blurry movement. This can happen right after you hit the shutter button on the screen or the volume button on the side of your iPhone. If you set the timer, you can hold the phone still after releasing the shutter, and the camera won’t snap a shot until 3 seconds later.
Tip #3: Use headphones as the shutter release. You can plug in your headphones and use the in-line volume buttons to control the shutter. Because you won’t touch the phone, you prevent any chance of camera shake.
Take multiple shots
As much as I wish, I don’t always get a good photo in just one shot. There are many reasons for beginners to take more than one picture in a scene. When the subject is moving, you want to take multiple shots to ensure the subject is sharp in focus. When the lightning in a given frame is complex, you want to shoot with various exposure levels. As mentioned before, you want to experiment different angles and points of view to get an interestingly composed shot.
You can put different thoughts to a scene, and keep taking pictures until you’re happy with what you want to express in the final image.
What about the bad shots? Just delete them.
Don’t over-edit your photos
Another beauty of iPhone photography is that you can edit photos. While you can apply presets in photo editing apps to your photos, don’t over-use them. A high-contrasting, over-saturated effect doesn’t look real and turns a good photo into a bad one.
Whether you take photos with a DLSR or iPhone, exposure, focus, composition are the determining factors to a captivating photograph. The purpose of using photo editing apps is to enhance the natural beauty of the photo, not to overpower the elements in the scene.
I hope you find these iPhone photography tips helpful. Some of them are general rules in photography. Using these tips is just like driving. They will become your second nature when taking photos. My advice to you is keep taking pictures, reviewing them, and thinking how to take better pictures next time.
You can also read more about your iPhone camera’s features in another article.