Lighting, Lighting, Lighting. Ask any photographer what the first thing they look for when photographing a subject and they will say good lighting 99% of the time. Good lighting is a make or break situation. Tip #1 for phone photography is finding even lighting (ie. not a lot of contrast between shadows and highlights). This means avoiding direct sun that creates shadows under eyes. Also, be aware of blotchy shade created from trees as your camera will pick up the patchy shade across your subject’s face (what you see as light and dark created by shade, a camera will pick up 100X more). If it is cloudy outside, that is dispersed lighting, and perfect for photography. But, in most situations, you are going to want to look for a block of even shade.
Focus on your subject. A phone doesn’t always know where you want the focus of your image to be, but you always want your subject to be tack sharp. To set the focus on your iPhone, simply tap the screen where you want the focus to be. A small yellow square will appear to confirm your focus point.
Expose for your subject. If you are taking a picture of a person you want to make sure that you are always exposing the picture for the person’s face – not the background, not the tree next to them, but their gorgeous face. You can manually adjust the exposure on your iPhone. When you tap the screen to set your focus point, a small sun icon will appear. Hold your finger on the sun icon and swipe up and down to adjust the exposure.
If you can’t find shade, face your subject away from the sun. If you can’t find an evenly lit, shaded area and your only option is the direct sun, have your subject face away from the sun to avoid shadows under their eyes. But, be sure to tap the screen where their face is to expose for your subject!
Don’t use the zoom. Most smart phones have a digital zoom feature and not an actual camera zoom. This means that your image is cropped as you zoom in which results in noticeable quality loss. Use your own two feet to walk you closer to the subject and you’ll get a much better quality image.
Rule of thirds. The rule of thirds helps you develop better composition for your picture. Instead of lining your subject up with the exact center of the screen, pretend your screen is broken into thirds with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines like below. You then line up the important elements of your photo along the lines or at their intersecting points.
Using these lines, align your subject up on one of the vertical lines. In the above picture you can see that I aligned my subjects body with the left vertical line and placed her face at the intersection of the top horizontal and left vertical lines.
When photographing landscapes, do not put the horizon directly in the middle of the screen, rather line the horizon up with the top or bottom third. In the below image, I lined up the horizon of the mountain peaks with the top horizontal line. You will also notice that the blurred tree on the right side of the image takes up roughly one third of the image horizontally and two thirds of the image vertically.
Now that you know my top tips for taking better pictures on your phone, go out, enjoy the moment and snap a few pics for me. But, when you are done with the picture, be sure to put down your phone and just be present in that exact moment. Because no picture ever compares to the feelings you experienced right then. Happy summer!