5 Easy Tricks To Take Incredible iPhone Photography

Photography has always been a passion of mine, but for many of us it can be really intimidating.

There's a heck of a lot of jargon, a ton of gear and it really takes time and dedication to master it. I suppose that's the case with anything worthwhile, right?

However with today's incredible camera phone capabilities, it's not totally outrageous to say that some of us might never pick up a "real" camera again! (I'm determined not to be one of them, but go with me here).

Not long ago I invested in the Apple iPhone 8 and I cannot believe the amazing image quality from a mobile device. 

You'll have seen many of my photos from my recent trip to Tulum and you may be shocked to hear these were all taken with an iPhone 8!

The art of creating that perfect shot is truly a talent that's not limited to the device you're using. I find myself regularly blown away by the sheer talent found on Instagram - often just iPhone photos taken by the every day man or woman! That's you and me.....!

Over the coming months I will be sharing many of the tips and tricks I learnt during my Pangea Dreams retreat to Mexico but before that, I wanted to share some quick tips. 

To get you inspired to curate that "perfect shot", I paired up with the incredible talent that is Jenna-Leigh Photography to share our top 5 tips to take the best photo with your iPhone. 

Here goes...


1. Set Up, Exposure + Focus 

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The Magic Grid

First things first, you'll need to make sure your iPhone grid is turned on [launch Settings, tap Photos & Camera, tap the switch next to Grid to turn it on] to make sure you can assess the shot in the rule of thirds (a photography golden rule, see below).

 

This will help to ensure the content is straight - another photography essential! 

In talking about the power of the grid, Aimee Song (influencer and author of the must-have book Capture Your Style) says "This will change the way you take pictures. Trust."

Enough said, Aimee. 

Focus + Exposure 

To change focus, simply tap the screen where you want the focus to land and it will automatically change your exposure and adjust the focus accordingly.

There is also the option to manually increase or decrease the lighting when taking the photo. This can be good for slight adjustments but be careful not to overexpose photos, it's better to have less exposure and to bring up the lighting editing afterwards.

"If nothing else, remember to always look for direct sunlight. Backlighting can be really difficult and natural sunlight is your secret weapon!" advises Jenna.  "Use your grid to refocus and recompose the shot. Just tap the square and move your phone to change the composition - it will keep your focus point while creating interesting compositions". 

There is also the magic feature called Focus Lock which is something to consider for kids on the go, models on a runway or....cats on the move (I can see you rolling your eyes at me!).  Instead of  a tap-to-focus, try holding your finger down for about two seconds. You'll see a yellow AE/AF lock banner appear and this will avoid blurry photos of a subject on the move! 

2. Shoot Low 

"Most people want to hold their phones up high or shoot from chest level - this won't give you the best shot, especially when shooting people or details." mentions Jenna.

"If you shoot low you can add a lot more interest in the foreground. The soft focus and shallow depth of field will look much more pro and viewers won't believe the shot was taken with an iPhone".

Often the simplest of objects can become art by taking the shot from a different angle.

If you're looking to photograph people, a full body shot taken whilst kneeling with the camera angled slightly upward is preferred to make you look as long and leggy as possible. Now who doesn't want that!

Also, a key take away from my Pangea retreat with the fabulous and lifestyle photography experts, Lisa Homsy and Tracy Komlos: don't forget the feet. Point those toes, get on your tippy toes and move! 

3. But Watch Out For Low Light

It's no surprise to hear the iPhone struggles in low light. 

Jenna explains that "to compensate, the phone's camera has a longer exposure (to let in more light) oftening resulting in blurry or fuzzy images due to what's coined "camera shake" - where you can't humanly hold the camera still enough to allow the light in and keep the shot crisp"

You might think the obvious solution is to get a mini-tripod or holder for your iPhone and although that's a great option to consider, there are some tips and tricks that might reduce the camera shake enough to get that crisp shot from anywhere.

Jenna suggests these photography tricks to help you get that perfect shot even when the light is low:

  • Use the self-timer so you don't have to move to press the shutter button on the screen.
  • Hold the phone with both hands and hold your elbows against your body - it sounds basic but you'll be surprised at what a difference this makes.
  • Even better, brace your body by putting your weight up against a nearby wall.
  • Use what's around you - grab a book, prop up the phone against a table or take your shoe off to steady your shot.

 

4. Focus On Focal Length

The focal length of an iPhone is 34mm - in layman's terms that means it's really wide! 

"The trick to change the focal length on an iPhone is to move your feet!", says Jenna. "Whatever you do, don't risk the image quality by using the zoom. Instead, just move your body to get the shot".

This will give you a variety of depth, and no doubt, a better shot selection. If you're wanting even more variety, Jenna recommends the OLO Clip  , a snazzy piece of kit that gives you a 4 lens set in one (fish eye, wide angle and two macro lenses).

I've certainly gone a bit over the top with camera kit recently but this could definitely be a one for the elusive Christmas list to Santa! 

For those of us lucky enough to have the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 or even the iPhone X (?!), the portrait mode is your new best friend. In this incredible shooting mode, you're creating an artificial depth of field which blurs both the background and foreground, like that of an DSLR. There's various extra lighting options too and the end result is a truly world class shot. 

The portrait mode is best used for people and objects within 4-6 feet (adjust your stance to get the best shot). If you'd like to learn more on how to nail the portrait mode feature, check out this helpful iMore write up here.  

 

5. Don't Be Afraid To Edit

"Apps can be so helpful in so many ways - fine tuning a shot that didn't come out just right, adding a filter to match your brand colours or cutting out an ugly drain or gutter that shouldn't make the shot!", says Jenna. 

Many people have mixed feelings towards apps. Although the use of apps can be really overdone, with a delicate touch it really can make all the difference.

There's no denying that some people get carried away on apps and we're certainly not encouraging this! 

Instagram can be a dangerous mix of over edited photos with warped bodies and overly perfect skin. Sure everyone is entitled to zap out a zit here and there but remember authenticity is key, and is so much better than a heavy hand on an editing app, any day! 

If you do nothing else today, just download these top apps for everything you need:

  • Snapseed - for enhancing brightness, contrast, shadow levels and saturation of a photo. 
  • VSCO and/or Lightroom - for filters to apply a cohesive colour scheme to your photography and social media layout. 
  • Touch ReTouch - for removing unwanted objects/trash/strangers in your photos. *Warning - don't get carried away!
  • Superimpose - for adding layers of photos if the perfect shot is across two photos. 

 

A QUICK Working Example

As you know I am all about sharing, caring and transparency so I thought I'd share a before and after to show you what you can do with these apps all from your phone!

This photo was taken with an iPhone 8 on a really rainy day in Tulum, Mexico last month. Prior to learning these tips, I probably wouldn't have even tried to take a picture but I persevered and snapped away.

Once in the van on the way home (seriously!) I altered the lighting to brighten the hues, warm the tones and boost the saturation using the Lightroom app. (I did end up using Lightroom on the computer afterwards to add a preset and boost the skyline - there's such better use on a computer when you have the time!). I also layered two photos over each other using the Superimpose app to introduce the bird which flew over a second later in a shot I didn't love as much. I then followed with some soft editing using Snapseed and Instagram itself and voila!

A lesson in absolute perseverance. Sometimes even a 'write-off' day or an average shot can turn out beautifully with a bit of patience, love and some curated editing!   

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I hope you found that helpful and I hope you put these ideas to good use! I'd love to see your photography - please feel free to tag @lusticlife on social media or email me at sophie@lusticlife.com.

If you'd like to learn more about social media photography and blogging, stayed tuned for more and be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter (see below)!

A huge thank you to Jenna Leigh for sharing her wisdom with all of you who support Lustic Life! If you are looking for a personable, friendly and professional photographer, I would highly recommend working with Jenna! She took the photography for the launch of my consultancy business (view here) and she was an absolute joy to work with!

So much love, 

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ABOUT JENNA Leigh ARNOLD TIBBETTS

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Jenna was raised in Cayman before studying photography and fine arts at York University and the University of Toronto. She has had work exhibited in various galleries across Canada and Europe. She truly loves what she does and has even hiked up mountains at 5am just for the perfect shot!

Jenna has previous experience in landscape and high fashion photography. Since 2016, she has brought together this powerful combination to create stunning wedding photography here in the Cayman Islands. 

Please visit www.jenna-leighphotography.com for more information.