iPhoneography. Can you believe that’s become a word?” Mobile phone photography has become an artform of its own. We all know that digital cameras are everywhere, but you might be surprised to learn that the Chicago Sun Times laid off their full-time photographers in place of outfitting their journalists with iPhones.
You may not aspire to be a professional-caliber photographer, but you probably want to take nice shots. Parents, in particular, frequently take thousands of smartphone photos of their kids, striving to document each milestone and joyous moment. You don’t want to look back years later and ask, what is that blurry thing in our living room? Here are the Top 3 Dos and Don’ts for basic iPhoneography.
Find the right light!
This is the most basic rule in all photography, but it’s even more critical with camera phones. Note that ‘good’ light doesn’t necessarily mean the brightest light. For example, harsh, direct sunlight can cause unwanted shadows on your subject’s face. Bright, non-direct light, such as an overcast day or an open shaded area on a bright day, is ideal. If you are indoors, professional child photographer Julie Campell recommends north-facing windows for beautiful non-direct light!
Use the Volume button
Use the volume control on the iPhone, rather than the shutter button, to snap photos. This way you reduce camera shake because you push on the frame instead of the screen.
To take it even further, you can do this using the volume up button on your headphones. This means you can stand your iPhone up on a table and use your headset to trigger the shutter - wobbleless!
Apply the Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a basic rule of composition in photography. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. The Rule of Thirds is also a nice reminder to get away from always centering your subject. Great news: the iPhone will show you a grid if you ask for it (aka, turn it on), so you don’t need to try to image the grid in your mind.
Now that you have the grid, here’s how to use it:
- Put the subject of your photo in one of the four intersections between guidelines, not in the center.
- If your subject looks in a direction or does a movement, then put the subject on the vertical line more distant from the edge in which the action ends, so as to create a movement in the picture, from one side to the other
- If you are more interested in the sky, put the horizon line on the lower horizontal guideline (vice versa if interested in the ground)
Don’t zoom with your phone, zoom with your body. The iPhone doesn’t have an optical zoom, only a digital zoom, which means that your photos will have fewer pixels as you zoom in, which results in blurry, pixelated looking photos. If you use your body as the zoom and get closer to your subjects, the iPhone will be able to absorb more detail.
We all love to use those Instagram filters but the sad truth is that filters and fun effects decrease the quality of our photos. Emil Pakarkis from iphonephotographyschool.com warns us that default filter strength is almost always too strong and the quality of your photos suffers so use post-processing if and only if it helps you enhance the feel or message of that photo. Try an app like Snapseed that gives you full control over the power of the filter and all the adjustments you make.
It’s tempting to use flash when we can’t find good light, but don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary! In addition to causing red-eye, the flash can also ruin your low-light photos by adding a glare and making colors cold and unnatural.
Here’s a bonus tip specific to photographing our kids, from photographer, mom and founder of Begift, Tamara Kate
Get on their Level - As a general rule, always get down on their level vs. shooting from standing. But have fun and switch up perspectives too! Put the camera on the floor, walk outside of the room for a pan-back, shoot aerially from above.
Emma Weisberg is the Founder & CEO of Blinkbuggy.com, an ex-Googler, and most importantly, Ciela and Micah's mom. She wants to reinvent the baby book.