8 Tips for Taking Better Camera Phone Photos This Year

3 years ago

I'll start off by admitting the obvious: I am by no means a mind-blowing photographer. A lengthy scroll through my 1,600 Instagram photos, if you dare, will tell the tale of improvement; although there still are plenty of hastily taken and posted photos. However, I did do that art school thing: I'm clear about the basic principles/elements of design and composition, blah blah blah.

I like to tell myself that I DO know how to implement that knowledge. Sometimes I'm right. My husband might beg to differ, especially when in the middle of IKEA arguing over how to decorate our home. He wants a vase full of crushed seashells topped with a tumbleweed, and I want a vase filled with grandma's faux flowers. But that's another story for another time. Okay, that has nothing to do with taking iPhone pics. How can we take better iPhone pictures this year? [Side note: I am currently using an iPhone5S, though I took some of these photos an iPhone4S, and I indicate which. I am writing this assuming you know how to operate a camera phone, too. My unfortunate subject matter for some of the examples is my middle son, Emmett, who is currently sleeping through the barfs and the heavy D's of whatever virus which has struck Happy House. Hmm. That sounds happy. Okay, go!]

Lay Off the Flash

Taken with an iPhone4S, in the dark, dungeonlike house in which we used to live. (regrammed)

Only use that blinding lightning strike to find your keys in the dark. A huge part of taking pictures that are pleasing to the eye exclude this harsh, unflattering, direct light. Turn it from "Auto" to OFF. Unless you like how that looks, then by all means...

Use Natural Light

Taken with an iPhone5S

The best photographs, in my opinion, use natural sunlight to illuminate the subject. Find a place in your house, or outside, with abundant filtered, not direct light: It might be your bathroom, your front porch, the landing at the top of some stairs, the floor in your kitchen. Pay attention to the kind of light projected in those spots, as the sun moves in the sky throughout the day. These lighting patterns can create different moods for your pictures. It's fun to test and practice taking pictures in the same spot at different times of the day, and on different days when it might be raining outside or cloudy.

Take as Many Photos as You Want (aka: PRACTICE)

Don't feel guilty about taking "too many photos." FUH-REAL. If you're trying to photograph your fidgety children, how can anyone, even a professional photographer, expect to get a beautiful picture if he or she only snaps one pic? There's a delete function on your phone for a reason. Take 20 photos, select the 3 (or, in my case, the ONE) you like best, and delete the rest of the blurry attempts. You don't need 20 successive photographs of the same thing. Maybe you take 20 photos throughout the day, maybe during a family gathering. And 20 is just a suggestion. Whatever your magic number might be works. You don't even need to keep count! I'm just tossing a number out there. One clean photo is better than 20 blurry photos, but sometimes it takes the 20, or however many, in order to achieve a winner. The more you practice, the fewer photographs you'll need to take in the future.

Try Different Angles

Taken with an iPhone5S

Don't be lazy, just sitting there and snapping a pic of your kids from your recliner. Get up and get down to their level. Hover above the scene. Take a picture of precious toddler fingers gripping a toy. Try something other than the obvious.

Zoom In

No. Don't use the zoom function, ever. It makes the photo grainy, and lemme tell you about my favorite fuzzy portrait I've ever seen... er... no. Again: Get up and physically "zoom into" your subject.

You're trying to capture your pathetically sick child and not give everyone a tour of your disheveled, un-color-coordinated living room. And I promise you, there's plenty more clutter where that came from (iPhone5S). This crops out all of the distracting... crap... surrounding your subject and creates a cleaner photograph.

With the living room cut out, Emmett is clearly the story I'm telling, and the story on which the viewer focuses. It's cleaner and easier to view, even with a print on the blanket (iPhone5S).

Don't Worry about Setting

When we lived at Bumpy Bridge House, I took a lot of photos outside.(Regrammed) (iPhone4S)

Trust me on this one. I used to live in a house with a kitchen full of peeling cabinets and a black/burgundy marble floor. If you can employ numbers 4 & 5, having an ugly background doesn't matter because you're not taking a picture of your ugly background; you're taking a picture of your cup of coffee, or your pet, or your child. Unless you're using your iPhone to photograph your house for a realtor (which in that case, WHO ON EARTH HIRED YOU?), no one needs to see the entirety of the environment to understand the photographic story you're telling.

Editing Program is Optional

Yes. A computer and Photoshop absolutely expand the possibilities of enhancing your photo quality. Obviously, it's counted as a necessity these days for professionals. But, if you don't know how to take a clean picture in the first place, no app or program in the world is going to fix that. I assure you, an expensive camera won't fix that either. HOWEVER. You can find one or two photo editing apps for your iPhone, if you'd like to play around with it. If you're interested, I can dedicate another post about Photo Editing Apps, but it would be more technical and in-depth than the purpose of this current post.

Get Inspired

Find and follow other bloggers, designers, photographers and artists who you admire! Try to utilize the above tips to create a photograph in a similar style to one you enjoy viewing.

Taken with an iPhone4S in the burgundy living room at Bumpy Bridge House. Who knew?

Overall, if you want to improve your pictures, that's really the first and only step required: striving for improvement. The steps I've listed above will tend to naturally fall into place and (hopefully, if I'm a good teacher), you'll begin to think about the purpose of the photo you're about to snap, and you'll adjust your picture taking habits accordingly.

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