Ok, so you don’t own a DSLR… or, maybe you do… but it’s collecting dust in your closet? So what!? 😉 iPhones have really great cameras with a lot of fun capabilities. But, not everyone is aware of all the cool things they can actually do with their smartphone camera. I want to share a few iPhone photography tips to help you take better images.
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iPhone Photography Tips
I once heard that the best camera is the one you have with you. For a lot of us, that’s our smartphone camera. I always tell people that you don’t have to buy the most expensive equipment on the market to take great images. It’s really not about what camera you use at all. It’s about knowing how to use your camera that really matters.
As a professional photographer, I don’t use my iPhone for client work. I own the Nikon D750 and the FujiFilm XT3. And, when I need to shoot with something different, I can easily rent different gear through Lensrentals.com.
But, just because I don’t use my iPhone for my client work, doesn’t mean I’m not taking a sh*t ton of pictures with it. I want those pictures to be beautiful too and I’ve learned quite a few tricks that you may find interesting. So, let’s dive in!
Tip 1: Make sure the lens is clean & clear
This may sound like a no-brainer, but your smartphone lens is constantly exposed and can easily pick up dust, finger smudges or other particles without you knowing it. Be sure to wipe it off and make sure nothing is interfering with you capturing a nice and clear image. I have used the sleeve of my shirt to do this, but also have these wipes on hand that come with microfiber cloths.
Tip 2: Use the grid to guide the composition
There are tools within the smartphone camera that will help you take better pictures. The grid is a great tool to use, because it will help you compose your shot. It divides the screen into 9 squares and will help you see if your subject is centered or intersecting in a certain area of the image that could create a unique composition. The grid lines are subtle, so they won’t be distracting. To turn the grid on, go to your Settings / Camera / Grid and make sure that it’s activated (green).
See example grid image below.
Tip 3: Use manual focus
Your camera won’t always focus in the right spot. To ensure that you’re focusing on the part of the subject you want, you can tap the screen and a yellow box will appear indicating where the phone is focusing. You’ll also see a sunshine icon next to the box. If you move that sunshine icon up, you’ll make your image exposure brighter. If you move that sunshine icon down, you’ll make the image exposure darker.
See example manual focus box and exposure sun icon image below.
Tip 4: Lock your focus point
Manual focus is great, but if you’re trying to capture pictures of a moving subject (maybe you’re at a sporting event), you can lock your focus to help you take several sharp images of that action without having to tap to focus every time.
To do this, tap and hold the your finger on the screen. You’ll see a yellow notice called “AE/AF Lock” appear at the top, which means your focus will be locked in that spot of the screen while you take pictures. To undo it, just tap the screen again.
See example focus lock image below.
Tip 5: Use the volume buttons
The volume buttons aren’t just for adjusting your volume. And, depending on how you’re holding your smartphone, sometimes tapping the circle on the screen isn’t as convenient. You also have the option to press the volume button on the side of your phone to take a picture.
See example volume up location image below.
Tip 6: Play With Portrait Mode
Portrait mode is pretty fun to play with because it creates that dreamy, blurry background behind your subject. The coolest thing is that you don’t need a special lens to get this effect with your iPhone. There are a lot of very expensive DSLR lenses out there that do this, so it’s pretty cool that the iPhone can now do it too.
To adjust the amount of blur you see in the background, select Portrait mode. Then, click the “f ” in the circle in the upper right corner. You can use the slider beneath the image to adjust how strong you want the blur to be. Sometimes it blurs the background too much, causing important details to get lost. Be careful not to blur something that you might want to be more sharp.
The iPhone has a range of f1.8 to f16. The lower the number, the more background blur you get. The higher the number, the sharper the background will be. Pretty cool, right!? See my examples below and notice the setting within the red circle.
See the portrait mode images below. The phone on the far left is set to f1.4 and has a significant amount of blur in the background (too much blur, if you ask me). The phone in the middle is set to f5.6 and has a more subtle blur to the background. The phone on the far right is set to f16 and has a much sharper background.
Tip 7: Use Editing Apps
Editing is a big part of photography. I see a lot of people take pictures with their smartphone and not do any editing to the images. Your smartphone camera has a standard editing app you can easily access right from the camera.
Open the image you want to edit, click Edit and you’ll get three icons sitting beneath your image.
The first icon on the left looks like a circle with dots around it. This is your ADJUST option which lets you adjust the exposure, brightness, saturation, etc.
The second icon in the middle looks like three intersecting circles. This is your FILTERS option which lets you scroll through a variety of filters for your image.
The third icon looks like a square with arrows. This is your crop option which lets you crop, straighten or rotate your image.
Have some fun with these, because there’s a lot of ways to adjust your images using these three simple features.
See examples from the standard editing app below.
Some other editing apps that I absolutely love are:
Tip 8: Get some accessories
iPhone accessories will definitely help you take your images to the next level. I’m listing some fun options to consider.
Diffusers and Foam Boards
If you’re using your iPhone camera, you’re most likely relying on natural light. You will want to consider getting some light modifiers including a large diffuser and foam boards. I use these all the time as a professional photographer and they work just as well for shooting with your iPhone. They’re affordable and incredibly effective for controlling the light.
Diffusors will help soften harsh sunlight and will spread the light more evenly over your subject.
Foam boards are great for directing and shaping the light. White foam boards can bounce light back to your subject if one area of your image is getting too dark and black foam boards can bring out the shadows and contrast for a more moody, dramatic look.
Manfrotto Tripod with a Super Clamp
Stabilizing your smartphone can really help you improve your images. Holding the smartphone is convenient, but isn’t always the best option depending on the type of images you’re trying to capture.
This is my favorite setup if I’m using my iPhone to take pictures of food. You can use any tripod with a center column and ball head.
You’ll also need a super clamp. You simply attach the tripod plate to the super clamp and attach the super clamp to the tripod ball head. Then, you can secure your iPhone for straight on, angled or overhead images and it works beautifully!
This is a more affordable and flexible option for stabilizing your iPhone. This gooseneck mount will allow you to position and stabilize your camera to whatever angle you need. The drawback is that it’s definitely not as secure as an actual tripod and the clip may cover part of the screen making it difficult to see your image and take the picture.
When you’re using a tripod or flexible mount with your iPhone camera, you may want to avoid having to touch your phone to take the picture or maybe it’s partially covered making it difficult to press the screen. This is when a wireless remote shutter will come in handy. I have this bluetooth remote shutter and it’s compatible with most smartphones on the market. It’s small and convenient to carry with you and has been really reliable for me.
If you’re going to be taking more pictures with your iPhone on the go, you may want to consider having a portable charger with you. Smartphone batteries can be unpredictable with how fast they run out of juice, especially when your bluetooth is on to connect with your remote shutter. This is a nice backup plan if you need it.
Did you know you can use different lenses with your smartphone now? Having a couple of lenses to play with is a great idea if you want to take your images to the next level.
As a photographer, I’m not going to lead you towards cheap lenses. The truth is, the better the glass, the more pricey the lens will be. I’ve tried a variety of the cheaper smartphone lenses on the market and have not been impressed with any of them. I can, however, recommend the Moment lenses for smartphones.
The one thing you’ll want to know is that you have to buy a separate phone case (compatible with your camera model) in order to secure the Moment lenses to your smartphone. It’s an extra thing you need and a little more of an investment, but I think it works much better than the clip-on lenses.
The clip-on lenses are hard to position perfectly over your smartphone lens so you’re not capturing part of the clip in your image. The Moment lenses simply twist right into the iPhone case. It’s super easy to put them on and take them off and there’s no chance of the lens interfering with your camera.
I like having a wide angle lens and a macro lens on hand for my smartphone.
The camera on your smartphone is already a wide angle lens, so when it comes to getting a separate wide angle lens, you’ll want one that actually shows you a wider image range without getting the overly distorted fisheye effect. The Moment Wide Lens is a great option.
Macro lenses are pretty amazing for capturing those up-close, dramatic details. I love using a macro lens for capturing details of food, flowers or anything else that looks artistic close up. If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with the details of your subject, this Moment Macro Lens is a good one to check out.
Tip 9: Take an online iPhone photography workshop
There are a lot of iPhone photography workshops online and Skillshare and CreativeLive have a bunch of great options.
I highly recommend checking them out to see what they have to offer, especially if you’re looking to take your iPhone images to the next level.
I’m just scratching the surface on the capabilities you have with your iPhone. But, I hope this post shows that you don’t really need a fancy DSLR to take great pictures. Remember, it’s not about what camera you use… it’s about knowing how to use it.
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support.
All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.