They say that the best camera is the one you have with you. For a lot of us, that’s our iPhone camera. This post dives into iPhone photography tips that will help you improve your iPhone images.
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iPhone Photography Tips
As a professional photographer who has experienced a variety of cameras, the iPhone cameras continue to impress me. I actually started taking pictures with my iPhone and natural light from my apartment window when I first became interested in food photography.
As I developed a more serious interest in food photography, my curiosity about learning about other cameras and equipment developed naturally. My cameras include the Nikon D750, the FujiFilm XT3 and the FujiFilm XT4.
And, while I don’t use my iPhone for client work, I still take a sh*t ton of pictures with it. 😉 And, the truth is, the iPhone camera is pretty damn good! Let’s discuss some iPhone photography hacks so you can start improving your images!
Tip 1: Clean Off The Lens
This may sound like a no-brainer, but we don’t always realize how dirty the iPhone lens can get. It’s constantly exposed and it can easily pick up dust, smudges or other particles. Be sure to wipe it off so nothing is interfering with you capturing a clear image. I have used my shirt sleeve to do this, but I also have these wipes on hand that come with microfiber cloths (not to mention, they work way better than my sleeve). These wipes also work well with other sensitive surfaces that you don’t want to get scratched.
Tip 2: Use The Grid
The grid is a great guide to help you practice different compositions. Image composition is really important in photography and refers to how you arrange elements or subjects within the frame.
When you turn the grid on, it will be a subtle overlay on your screen and won’t show up in your images. The grid will display two vertical lines and two horizontal lines creating nine squares. Where the grid lines intersect is where you could consider placing your subject. This is known as the Rule of Thirds and is a great starting point for practicing different ways to frame your subject.
To turn the grid on, go to your Settings / Camera / Grid and make sure that it’s activated (green).
See example grid image below.
READ MORE ABOUT: FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION TIPS
Tip 3: Adjust Your Focus & Exposure
Have you ever taken a picture to later realize it’s not in focus? That’s the worst (and we’ve all been there)! To ensure that your image is in focus, tap the screen. A yellow box will appear indicating where the phone is focusing. I call this the focus box.
You’ll also see a sunshine icon next to the focus box. This helps you adjust your exposure. If you move the sunshine icon up, you’ll make your image brighter. If you move the sunshine icon down, you’ll make the image darker. This is a great way to start experimenting with the exposure of your images.
See the focus box and exposure sun icon image below.
Tip 4: Lock Your Focus & Exposure
Manually focusing (tapping) and adjusting your exposure is easy and convenient, but if you don’t want to do this each time you take a picture, you can lock your focus and exposure.
To do this, tap and hold your finger on the screen. You’ll see a yellow block called “AE/AF Lock” at the top of the screen, which means your focus will be locked while you take pictures. It will also hold the exposure as well, unless you want to adjust it a bit by moving the sunshine icon up or down. To undo the locked focus, just tap the screen again and it will ‘unlock.’
See example image below.
Tip 5: Use The Volume Buttons
Did you know that the volume buttons aren’t just for adjusting your iPhone volume? When the camera app is open, the volume buttons turn into your shutter button. Use them to take a picture if tapping the circle isn’t as convenient.
See example image below.
Tip 6: Portrait Mode
Portrait mode is a fun option to play with because it creates that dreamy “blurry” background behind your subject. This is also known as your depth of field.
The cool thing is you don’t need a separate lens to get this effect with your iPhone. There are a lot of very expensive DSLR lenses that create this effect in professional photography, so it’s pretty awesome that the iPhone can get this effect without you having to invest in a separate lens.
HOW TO ADJUST PORTRAIT MODE
To adjust the amount of blur you see, follow these steps:
- Select Portrait mode.
- Click the “f ” in the circle in the upper right corner.
- Use the slider beneath the image to adjust how strong you want the blur to be.
The iPhone lens has a portrait mode range of f1.8 to f16. The lower the number, the more background blur you’ll see. 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.
The phone on the far left is set to f1.4 (the lowest number) and it has a significant amount of blur in the background… a little too much, 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: Edit Your Images
Editing is an important part of the photography process. I see a lot of people take pictures with their smartphone and not edit any of them. No matter what camera you use, your images will appear flat without some editing.
You can start experimenting with editing using the standard camera app in your iPhone. It has some basic editing features that will introduce you to the power of editing.
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, shadows, contrast, saturation, etc. There are a lot of options to play with in the Adjust option, so take some time to make different adjustments and watch how it affects your image.
The second icon in the middle looks like three intersecting circles. This is your default FILTERS option which lets you scroll through a variety of filters that you can apply to 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 each of these, because there’s a lot of ways to edit your images using these three simple features built right into your smartphone camera.
See examples from the standard editing app below.
If you want to go beyond the standard iPhone camera app, check out these awesome editing apps below.
iPhone Photography Tools
Now that we’ve covered some iPhone camera tips, let’s dive into some tools that will come in handy while you practice improving your iPhone photography skills.
Tip 8: Get Diffusers and Foam Boards
When taking pictures with your iPhone camera, you are probably using natural light. Natural light is beautiful, but it’s constantly changing which can make it tricky to control without some basic tools to help you.
I recommend looking into light modifiers. Light modifiers include things like diffusers and black and white foam boards. They come in a variety of sizes and you can find quite a variety on Amazon.
Diffusors will help you soften strong sunlight and by spreading it out more evenly over your subject. You simply place the diffusor between your subject and your light source. For example, I often place diffusers over my window when shooting food with natural light. It doesn’t block the light, it simply softens it.
Foam boards are great for bouncing light back and shaping light.
White foam boards bounce light back to your subject if one side of your image is getting too dark. For example, if you have a plate of food next to the window, it’s possible the side furthest from the window could appear darker. If you set up a piece of white foam board opposite the window (and next to your food), it will bounce light back from the window and make that darker side appear brighter. It’s a very cool trick that can make a big difference in how well your images are lit.
Black foam boards can help you add more contrast and shadows to your image. You can place these near your subject and move them around to see how different placements can direct and affect the shadows in your image.
Tip 9: Stabilize Your iPhone
Holding the smartphone is a very convenient way to shoot, but I want to push you to try something different. One of the biggest gamer-changers for iPhone photography is being able to stabilize your iPhone on a tripod.
The best tripod setup for your iPhone includes:
The tripod with a center column, allows you to position your iPhone at any angle, including overhead shots. You’d be amazed how many iPhone tripods do NOT support an overhead angle, so this is a solid option for all angles.
MANFROTTO 055 TRIPOD WITH CENTER COLUMN & BALL HEAD
The super clamp or the metal iPhone tripod mount help secure your iPhone to the tripod. You don’t need to get both of these. Pick one. My recommendation is the metal iPhone tripod mount, because it’s made of metal and very secure and allows you to position the iPhone camera for a vertical or horizontal shot.
Check out the post below for more details about my go-to tripod setup for iPhone photography.
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST TRIPOD FOR IPHONE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
METAL IPHONE TRIPOD MOUNT
Now that we’ve covered getting a tripod for your iPhone, the next tool I always recommend getting is a remote camera shutter release. This tool comes in handy for two reasons:
- Pressing the shutter button on your iPhone could cause the camera to shake a little, resulting in blurry images.
- You may not be near your iPhone to take the picture.
I have this bluetooth remote shutter and it’s compatible with most smartphones on the market. It’s really small and convenient to carry with you and has been super reliable for me.
Tip 11: iPhone Portable Charger
Smartphone batteries can be unpredictable and some run out of juice really fast. Having a powerful portable charger with you comes in handy, especially if you need to recharge quickly.
Tip 12: Smartphone Lenses
Did you know you can use different lenses with your smartphone? Not only are the cameras improving significantly, but now you can use different lenses to capture a variety of different perspectives.
I’ve tested a variety of smartphone lenses on the market and haven’t been impressed with most of them. The “clip-on” lenses are really hard to position perfectly over your smartphone lens and will interfere with the lens if it’s not juuuuuuust right. They also don’t feel very secure and could fall off easily.
Clip-on lenses may be more affordable, but trust me when I say, cheaper is not better when it comes to photography lenses.
The lenses that I confidently recommend for smartphone cameras are the Moment Lenses.
In order to attach the Moment Lenses to your smartphone, you will also need to buy a separate phone case. It’s an extra accessory to buy, but they look great and are super easy to use. The Moment Lenses twist right into the case so the lens is in the right place and totally secure. To remove it, you simply untwist it. Not to mention, the glass on these lenses is top-notch helping you create beautifully sharp images from afar or up close.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, ultra wide angle lens for your iPhone without too much distortion, this Moment Wide Lens is a really great option. It’s great for travel, landscapes and interior spaces.
Macro lenses let you get suuuuuuuper close to your subject to help you capture every little detail. If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with the details of your subject, this Moment Macro Lens is a really good one to check out. Keep in mind, you have to be about an inch away from your subject to capture a sharp, up close image. It’s really stunning what it can do, but it won’t work well if you can’t get that close to your subject.
iPhone photography tips and tools galore, right? I’m really just scratching the surface with this post, but I hope you’ve found them helpful! Remember, photography is not about what camera you have – it’s about knowing how to use the camera you have. So, take the time to experiment and learn more about your iPhone camera. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with 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.