They say that the best camera is the one you have with you. For a lot of us, that’s our iPhone camera. I’m a professional photographer and I can confidently say that you don’t have to buy a fancy DSLR to improve your images. The truth is, photography isn’t about what camera you have – it’s about knowing how to use the camera you have. So, let’s dive into some iPhone photography tips that will help you improve your 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 before developing a career-changing passion for food photography.
As I grew into becoming a professional photographer, my interest in learning about other cameras and equipment developed naturally. If you’re curious what other cameras I have, I own the Nikon D750, the FujiFilm XT3 and the FujiFilm XT4.
While I don’t use my iPhone for client work, I still take a sh*t ton of pictures with it. 😉 It is very possible to take a scroll-stopping picture and no one will know whether it was shot with an iPhone camera or a $3,000 camera.
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 it’s really easy to grab your iPhone for a picture and not realize how dirty the lens has become. Your smartphone lens is constantly exposed and it 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 clear image. I have definitely used my sleeve to do this, but I also have these wipes on hand that come with microfiber cloths (they work way better than my sleeve).
Tip 2: Turn On The Grid
The grid is a really great guide to help you get better at composing your shots. Image composition is really important in photography. This refers to the elements inside the frame and how they work together to guide people’s eye.
Have you heard of the Rule of Thirds in photography? It basically means you should place your point of interest where the grid lines intersect. It’s a good place to start as a guide for improving the composition of your images.
When you turn the grid on, it will display an overlay of 9 squares that helps you see if your subject is centered or intersecting in a certain area of the image. The lines are subtle, so they will guide, but not distract. The grid will also help you see if your horizon line is straight.
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
There’s nothing worse than taking what you think is a great picture and then later realizing your image isn’t in focus. We’ve ALL been there. To ensure that you’re actually focusing on the part of the subject you want, you can simply 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. It’s a great way to take a little more control of your images so your iPhone doesn’t make the wrong choice on the focus point and exposure.
See example manual focus box and exposure sun icon image below.
Tip 4: Lock Your Focus & Exposure
Manually focusing (tapping) and adjusting your exposure is awesome, but if you don’t want to refocus and readjust the exposure each time you take a picture, you can lock focus and the exposure to take a variety of iPhone photos without having to readjust each time.
To do this, tap and hold 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 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.
See example image below.
Tip 5: Use The Volume Buttons
Did you know that the volume buttons aren’t just for adjusting your volume? Depending on how you’re holding your iPhone, tapping the circle on the screen isn’t always convenient. When the camera app is open, the volume button turns into your shutter button and are another way to take a picture.
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. The coolest thing is that you don’t need a separate lens to get this effect with your iPhone. You can do it right from the standard camera app. 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 do it too.
To adjust the amount of blur you see, select Portrait mode. Then, click the “f ” in the circle in the upper right corner. Next, use the slider beneath the image to adjust how strong you want the blur to be. Be careful not to use too much blur. A little can go a long way and too much can cause you to lose parts of the image that you may want to be in focus.
The iPhone lens has a portrait mode range (also known as aperture) 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.
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.
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.
READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE
Tip 7: Edit Your Images
Editing is a big part of photography (it might be my favorite part). I see a lot of people take pictures with their smartphone and not edit any of them. No matter what camera you use, images will appear flat without at least a little editing. Learning different ways to edit your images (beyond just adding a preset) is one of the best iPhone photography tips I can share with you.
Some images need more editing than others. And, sometimes the smallest adjustment can make the biggest difference. Experimenting is the best pay to practice finding your editing styles that you love. I guarantee you probably have images in your camera roll that might just a little editing to turn them into something you might want to frame and hang on your wall.
You can get started with the standard camera app in your iPhone. It has some basic editing features that will help get you familiar with what different editing tools will do to your images.
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.
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 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 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.
Some other editing apps for the iPhone that I absolutely love are:
iPhone Photography Accessories
Tip 8: Get Diffusers and Foam Boards
Now that we’ve covered some simple iPhone photography tips that you can start practicing with your smartphone, let’s dive into some tools to help you.
If you’re using your iPhone camera, you’re probably relying on natural light most of the time when taking your pictures. Natural light is beautiful, but it’s constantly changing which can make it tricky to control with your smartphone alone. A pro tip is to get some light modifiers to help you.
Light modifiers are tools like diffusers and foam boards. They come in a variety of different sizes and range in price depending on the size. They are really great tools to help you control and shape your lighting. I use them all the time as a professional photographer and they work just as well for shooting with your iPhone. We all know light is incredibly important in photography and the more control you have over it, the more creative you can get with your images.
Diffusors will help you soften harsh sunlight and will spread light more evenly over your subject. You simply place the diffusor between your subject and your light source to avoid any overexposed spots. For example, I often place these over my window when shooting food in natural light, so the light is nice and soft.
Foam boards are great for directing and shaping the light that hits your subject.
White foam boards can bounce light back to your subject if one side of your image is getting too dark. You place the white board on the opposite side of your light source so the light can bounce back to your subject.
Black foam boards can help you bring out the shadows and contrast for a more moody, dramatic look. You can place these near your subject and move them around to see how different placements can affect the shadows in your image.
Tip 9: Stabilize Your iPhone
Holding the smartphone is a very convenient way to shoot. However, being able to stabilize your iPhone is a big game-changer to improving your images. Below are some different options that you can check out to stabilize your iPhone.
Manfrotto with Ball Head & Super Clamp
Using a good tripod is a great option for stabilizing your iPhone. However, a lot of good tripods are made for DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras. So, if you go this route, you’ll need to buy a super clamp as well.
While a tripod could seem like more equipment than you might be interested in, there are a lot of pros to this setup.
- A good tripod is a very secure option for stabilizing your iPhone camera.
- Having a tripod with a center column allows you the flexibility to position your iPhone at any angle, including overhead for flat lay shots. Without a center column, you’ll be limited to straight on and angled shots.
- A good tripod also has a lot of height flexibility.
- The ball head is an easy-to-move, round head allowing you to quickly position your camera in any direction you need.
- A super clamp is solid and will hold your iPhone securely and safely.
When thinking about how to set this up, follow these steps. I also have links below to the exact products I use and pictures below to demonstrate what it looks like.
- Attach the ball head to the tripod.
- Attach your tripod plate to your super clamp.
- Snap the tripod plate with the super clamp attached onto the ball head and tighten the clamp around your iPhone.
- Position accoringly.
You don’t have to get the exact tripod I have, however. Here are some additional tripods with a center column and ball head that range in price. Super clamps will attach to any tripod.
There are a couple of cons to this setup as well.
- It is a couple extra pieces of equipment to manage.
- Getting a good tripod with a center column and ball head can add up quick. Be sure to stay true to your budget.
I recently bought this mini tripod to test as another option to stabilize your smartphone.
- It comes with a smartphone clamp that easily attaches to the mini tripod.
- It’s smaller and less equipment to manage.
- It’s more affordable.
There are some cons to this little tripod.
- You can only take straight on and angled shots with it.
- Overhead or flat lay shots would still be handheld.
- Very limited height options.
This is another decent tripod option for your iPhone and I’m sharing some pros and cons below.
- Small and convenient to carry with you.
- Flexible legs that can wrap and attach to anything for multiple angles.
- May not be as easy to position securely to the exact angle you want.
- Limited height flexibility unless attached to something tall.
When it comes to iPhone photography tips, getting a small, easy to use remote camera shutter is definitely a must-have. A remote shutter comes in handy for three reasons:
- The slightest press/touch on your iPhone could cause camera shake and blurry images.
- The camera button may be covered up.
- You may not be near your iPhone to press the camera button.
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 with how fast they run out of juice. You may want to consider having a portable charger with you. I never leave home without mine.
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 images.
As a professional photographer, I can confidently say that investing in good lenses is the only way to go. The better the glass, the more pricey the lens will be, though. I’ve tested a variety of the cheaper smartphone lenses on the market and have not been impressed with any of them. The clip-on lenses that I tested are hard to position perfectly over your smartphone lens so you’re not capturing part of the clip in your image. They’re also not very secure and fall off the phone pretty easily. You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to lenses.
The lenses that I confidently recommend for smartphone cameras are the Moment Lenses.
There is one catch to using the Moment Lenses, however. You will also need to buy a separate phone case in order to secure the Moment lenses to your smartphone. Yes, it’s an extra accessory to buy, but the Moment Lenses twist right into the case so the lens is secure. To remove it, you simply untwist it. It really couldn’t be any easier. They have options for all different smartphones too, so take a look and see what you think.
The camera on your smartphone is already a wide angle lens, so when it comes to getting a separate wide angle lens to use with your smartphone, you’ll want one that will show you a wider image range without getting the overly distorted fisheye effect. If you’re looking for a beautiful wide angle lens without too much distortion, this Moment Wide Lens is a really great option and would be great for travel and landscape photography.
Macro lenses are pretty amazing lenses. Macro lenses let you get up suuuuuuuper close to your subject to capture every little detail. I love using a macro lens for getting close-up details of food, flowers or anything else where the details look incredibly 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 really good one to check out.
The thing to keep in mind is that you have to get really close to the subject before this lens will focus in on the details. Like, you’ll practically be touching your subject. It’s pretty awesome how sharp the details are and I have some examples below.
I’m just scratching the surface with these iPhone photography tips and accessories, but I hope it has demonstrated that you don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to take great pictures. There are a lot of cool tips and tricks to try with your iPhone. Remember, it’s not about what camera you have – it’s knowing how to use the camera you have. Reach out with questions anytime!
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.