How I Learned To Take Better Photos With My iPhone
I like to take photos. I like to use a smaller Fuji apc camera with manual basic controls. While that camera can be fitted with large professional wide aperture lenses, I like to use smaller lenses whenever possible because people react a little more naturally when you are not pointing a giant barrel full of glass at them and the whole kit is relatively light.
Sometimes though, it is impractical to take even that minimal camera. And of course, those are the times I often serendipitously run into great opportunities to capture moments and regret not having my trusty Fuji. An amazing photographer and teacher by the name of Chase Jarvis famously said “the best camera is the one that's with you,”. And like every phone maker wants you to learn from their ads, that is almost always the camera on your phone.
While almost everyone I know is perfectly happy snapping away with their phones, I admit to irrationally being a snob about using my phone to take pics and for years I have cringed at this “last resort”. Recently though, I have been forcing myself to use my phone when I am stuck and am trying to learn new habits to decrease the number of pictures of my fingertips and increase the number of phone pics I actually want to keep and share.
Here are some of the basic tips that helped me take better iPhone pics:
1) Clean the lens before taking a picture. Yup, that simple. I don’t know where you keep your phone but no photographer would ever knowingly expose the front glass of one of their camera lenses to the inside of their pockets and expect to take great pics. So, the least we can do to expect a decent phone camera pic, is to clean the lens. Don’t use your finger to do it. Ideally you would have a glasses cleaning cloth with you. These lenses are typically Sapphire crystal or Gorilla glass, but they can be scratched, so take a moment to look at the lens and make sure you are not dragging grit over it and then give it a quick wipe with a clean cloth or sleeve. Without a clean lens your pics just wont look sharp.
2) Hold it right. Turn your phone landscape…long edge parallel to the ground. Grip it firmly on the edge so the index finger of your right hand is resting on one of the volume buttons, the middle finger of the left hand supports the upper left edge of the phone, and the bottom edge of the phone is supported by both thumbs. Curl the rest of your fingers on both hands into your palm so they don’t drift Infront of the lens. Now your left index finger is free to adjust the camera setting on the screen and the right index finger can depress the shutter button (Volume Up, Or Down Buttons) while your thumbs are creating a stable platform to reduce motion blur as the picture is being taken. Regardless of what the marketing says, the sensors for these phones are very small and slow. Unless your subjected is bathed in light, it is very important to hold still. Drawing your elbow in and support them against your ribs makes for a far better platform than holding your phone three feet in front of you. The better you get at holding the phone very still, the sharper your photos will turn out.
3) Use Portrait Mode. If you are taking pictures of people, use the portrait setting. It often does a great job in creating an artificial version of blurred backgrounds, causing the subject of your pic to stand out. While in portrait mode you can adjust the simulated f stop, increasing the background blur with a lower setting, or decreasing it with a higher one. Watch for poses where your subjects’ limbs or hair, loops back to the body as the camera AI often wont fill in the gaps with the appropriate background, blur which will look strange.
4) Manually adjust the exposure. I find the setting I manipulate most is the exposure setting. You can greatly increase the contrast and drama of your shots by taking control of the exposure compensation manually. In my opinion, my iPhone works too hard to expose every shot evenly and as a result forces longer “shutter” times and more noise in the shot. In reality, a darker background or foreground would allow a faster shutter time, more contrast and less motion blur and noise in the shot.
5) Look for the light. Photography is really about capturing light. Unless you are taking shots in bright sunlight or well-lit rooms, you should be looking for pools of light to position your subject in. As I mentioned above, these phone camera sensors are small, and you are constantly trading light for “shutter time”. The more light on your subject, the less time the sensor will need to process the image and the better the chance your Picture won’t be blurry and noisy.
For me, many of my most favourite shots were quick snaps of my life where I didn’t really have time to think and plan the shot. Because I had practiced with my equipment and was familiar with the settings and controls, I was able to rely on muscle memory and maximize my chances of getting a great pic. Remember you are never wasting film with your phone, so take lots of pics, share them and have fun!
Written by Brad Chisling (email@example.com)