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The Ultimate Guide: How to take quality photos on your phone




So how many of you ran to the Apple Store after the iPhone X came out because of this 'AMAZING' new camera with portrait mode? Admit it, you were probably one of those people. Suddenly Photographers were getting messages like, "its fine we don't need to hire a Photographer anyways we will just take photos on our iPhone". Um...What?! Okay, sure, you can have Susie with her iPhone X take your wedding photos than, I'm sure they will look fantastic. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Mom so I am constantly taking photos of my children on my phone. I too have the iPhone X though it’s only because my Husband was insistent on getting them when we changed service providers. And yet I can't help but cringe when I hear someone say "we will just take photos on our phone" instead of hiring a Professional Photographer. YOU GUYS literally a majority of people are primarily taken back by the bokeh from the portrait mode. I get it, its cool, you can blur the background.


I laughed so hard the first time I saw this commercial, well played Apple. It is known that humor appeals make consumers laugh and create an emotional link with the product. Humorous ads work best with established and commonly purchased products, i.e. cell phones. One thing I bet you guys didn't know about me, I graduated with BS degree in Marketing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In fact, one of my favorite classes that I took was called 'Consumer Behavior'. I would hardly consider myself a Marketing Guru being out of the game for a few years busying myself with having children & spending my days keeping little humans alive #boymomlife. However, I could still recognize a good marketing tactic when I see one having studied and practiced marketing for a number of years. So was it the good marketing that drew you in to the Apple iPhone X or was it the bokeh commercial that had you laughing and wishing you could also bokeh your friends kids?


Some of these tips are specific to iPhone users, others can be applied across the board. Alright here we go....


1. TURN OFF YOUR FLASH

Although through the generations of models of iPhone there has been some improvement with the flash feature but at the end of the day, its simply an LED light. With True Tone technology it still can leave an odd hue on your images, it's just not powerful enough of a light source.


2. SEARCH FOR BETTER LIGHTING BEFORE TAKING THE PHOTO

As we just learned, we simply can not rely on the flash to fill the image with proper lighting. Instead, search for natural light from the sun but avoid being in direct sun. For instance, setup next to a window and utilize the light flares that are created from this. Light changes depending on the time of day.  As light changes, so does the color of light. This directly affects the white balance (WB) of the image which can only be corrected if shooting in RAW which is not available with your camera phone. So be mindful of what direction the sun is coming from and use this to setup your subject(s).


See example below taken with my iPhoneX of my adorable son in the same spot a month apart. Same phone, same subject, and same mode & depth of field. Key difference between these two photos (which I used sidelight from the window) in his nursery was the time of day brought in different light. See what a big difference light can truly make on your photo?!



Sidelight with the window: Here the subject is parallel or at a slight angle, to the window.


Front lit by the window: Here the subject is directly facing the window, you are between the window and your subject. This type of lighting position produces the most even light of all the three.

**You can also do backlit by the window but this can result in a blown out over exposed image that would require post editing to remove highlighting, adjusting curves, and reducing exposure. Backlit lighting is used to create cool silhouette images but much harder to achieve this look with a camera phone.**


3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHOOTING MODE

This is one thing #Apple does offer with the new model. Panorama, square, photo, and #portrait mode are among those that are now offered with the iPhone X model. So shoot in the mode that you plan to publish the image for. For instance, if you are shooting an image for #Instagram, utilize the square mode for the camera as this will crop the image to the appropriate size and will save you time in cropping the image later.


4. FOLLOW THE RULE OF THIRDS

I learned this rule when taking a beginner Photography class my first year after receiving my DSLR camera. And this rule can carry over when taking photos with your camera phone. What is the rule of thirds? Imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts (i.e Grid).



The ‘rule of thirds’ now identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image using a grid (red + shown above). It also gives you four ‘lines’ that are also useful positions for elements in your photo. Using this method helps to create points of interest and make the image more visually appealing. You can turn this option on by visiting Settings > Photos & Camera and enabling the Grid switch.


5. USE BURST MODE FOR ACTION SHOTS OR TAKING PHOTOS OF YOUR KIDS

You guys, this is one of my favorite modes to shoot in with my iPhone. As you know, I am a #Momtog so I am constantly chasing my toddler trying to take great photos. Burst mode (available for the iPhone 5s and up) might be just the option you're looking for to capture the best images. Apple included burst mode originally for snapping clear pictures of moving subjects, but I find it works well when your camera is moving, too — by snapping images in quick succession, you're more likely to get a clear shot and you have more options to choose from.


To shoot in Burst mode, just tap and hold down the shutter button (or volume up button) when you want to begin. While holding down the shutter button, you'll see a counter appear at the bottom of the screen, letting you know how many shots you've snapped. To stop shooting, just lift up your finger and the burst will be saved to your Camera Roll. For whatever reason, this is the mode my almost 3yr old somehow finds from my locked phone when he picks it up if I left it out somewhere at his reach. Next thing I know, I look back at my photo library and I have 50 images of the floor. Haha!


6. TURN ON HDR AUTO/"LIVE" FEATURE

Your iPhone comes with a software feature called High Dynamic Range (HDR). This lets you snap photos that may have high contrast light sources and still capture a nice image without distorting either the light or the dark area of the picture. Your iPhone does this by snapping several pictures in quick succession at different exposures, then merging them together to create a unified image. You can check to make sure this feature is turned on by going to Settings>Camera>HDR>Smart HDR(turn on with slider button).


iOS 8's HDR Auto (available for the iPhone 5s and up) — it uses information from your iPhone's sensor as you point your device at a subject to determine when an image might need HDR correction, and only then does it turn on HDR mode. (You'll know HDR is enabled by the little yellow "HDR" box that appears at the bottom of the screen.) This can save a little bit of extra storage space on your device, and prevents you from shooting HDR unnecessarily.


7. TAKE PHOTOS WITH THE VOLUME BUTTON

You can use the volume up button when in the Camera app to snap a photo — and avoid camera shake. This is very helpful too when you don't have a selfie stick and are trying to strategically take good angle shots. You're welcome.


8. LOCK FOCUS THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER

If you want to prevent your iPhone's #camera from attempting to grab a different subject in the frame you can lock in your focus point. You can do this by tapping and holding on the subject in question until you see the yellow AE/AF Lock alert. This means that the automatic exposure metering and automatic focus metering have been locked on your subject; to remove the lock, just tap anywhere else on the frame. Here is a really impressive example of my kitchen chair. Just wanted to show what the screen looks like when you have AE/AF Lock selected.


9. ADJUST EXPOSURE BEFORE EVEN TAKING THE PHOTO

If an image is too blown out (bright) or underexposed (dark), you can fix it before snapping the picture by adjusting the yellow #exposure slider next to the focus square. Just tap once on the focus square and exposure slider, then use the sun icon to increase your exposure by sliding upward, or decrease exposure by sliding downward. This is especially helpful if you are outside in full sun during the day and do not want a "blown out" image that is too bright and has a sun haze effect. Or if you are inside and do not have good natural light from a window source (since you should avoid using flash), you can adjust the exposure slider to help lessen the dark contrast of your image. This photo below was taken of my Son outside at the park during the middle of a sunny afternoon using Portrait mode and AE/AF lock and I had to adjust the exposure.




10. DOWNLOAD A PHOTO EDITING APP

While the new #iPhoneX does come with the ability to #EDIT your image using preset filters and light/color adjustments, you can do so much more with other apps.


I like to use Lightroom mobile app on my phone. Already being familiar with the desktop Adobe #Lightroom CC program, it makes #editing more seamless since I can sync my mobile app while using the desktop version. Adobe Lightroom CC is a FREE photo editor app that offers advanced features.



Some of the FREE features include presets, profiles, curves, color mix, clarity, dehaze, exposure, aperture, and more. You can easily create & organize folders. There are just so many features offered to edit your photos right from your photo library on your phone. There is also a Premium Lightroom App you can upgrade to. With the upgrade you would have access to easy-to-use tools like healing brush, selective adjustments, geometry, cloud storage, Adobe sensei, and more!



Well, if you stuck with me this long, thanks for reading. I hope you found this list of 10 tips to take better photographs on your phone helpful. Feel free to share and leave feedback below.




Amber Marie Photography | McHenry, IL

Studio located in McHenry, IL 

Family Photographer | Newborn Photographer | Child Photographer | Maternity Photographer | Lifestyle Photographer

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