They say 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 photography 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 the camera you have. I want to share some iPhone photography tips and accessories that will help you take better images with your smartphone.
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iPhone Photography Tips
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 for certain shoots, 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 explored some different ways to create beautiful images using my iPhone. So, let’s dive into the iPhone photography tips to improve your images!
iPhone Tip 1: Make sure the lens is clean
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.
iPhone 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.
iPhone Tip 3: Use manual focus
Taking a clear image is important and our smartphone cameras 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 focused in the spot you tapped. 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.
iPhone 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.
iPhone 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.
iPhone 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.
iPhone Tip 7: Use Editing Apps
Editing is a big part of photography no matter what kind of camera you use. I see a lot of people take pictures with their smartphone and not edit any of the images. This is a huge mistake in my opinion, because even with DSLR’s, if you don’t edit your images, they can appear somewhat flat. Learning different ways to edit your images is one of the best iphone photography tips I can share.
To get started, your smartphone camera actually 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:
iPhone Tip 8: Diffusers and Foam Boards
If you’re using your iPhone camera, you’re probably relying on natural light to capture your images. Natural light is beautiful, but it can be tricky to control. One of the best iPhone photography tips is to get some light modifiers such as a large diffuser and some foam boards to help you modify and control your lighting. I use these all the time as a professional photographer and they work just as well for shooting with your iPhone. Photography is all about light and the more control you have, the better your images will be.
Diffusors will help you soften harsh sunlight and will spread the light more evenly over your subject. You place these handy modifiers between your light source and the subject.
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 area of your image is getting too dark. You place them on the opposite side of where your light source is coming from to 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 the shadows will affect your image.
iPhone Tip 9: Tripod with a Super Clamp
Holding the smartphone is a convenient way to shoot and most people use take their pictures that way. But, if you want to improve your images, having a tripod to stabilize your iPhone is going to come in handy, especially for shooting things like food, still life, landscapes and sunsets. I use a tripod with a center column and a super clamp when I’m shooting food with my iPhone.
TRIPOD WITH A CENTER COLUMN
Using a tripod with a center column and ball head is a very secure option for stabilizing your iPhone. I also use this tripod with my DSLR, so it’s incredibly versatile no matter what kind of camera you have.
SUPER CLAMP TO HOLD THE SMARTPHONE
In order to secure your smartphone to the tripod, you’ll also need a super clamp to hold it in place. You simply attach the tripod plate to the super clamp and attach the super clamp to the ball head on the tripod. Then, you can secure your iPhone to the super clamp for straight on, angled or overhead images and it works really well.
iPhone Tip 10: iPhone Gooseneck Mount
If you’re not ready to invest in a tripod and super clamp, a flexible mount is another more affordable option for stabilizing your iPhone. I have this gooseneck mount which allows you to position and stabilize your camera to whatever angle you need.
The drawbacks to this flexible mount are that 1) it’s not as secure as an actual tripod and 2) the clip covers part of the screen making it hard to touch the screen if you need to take a picture. But, I have a solution for these issues listed next.
iPhone Tip 11: Bluetooth Remote Camera Shutter for iPhone
When you’re using a tripod or flexible mount with your iPhone camera, you may not be able to touch the screen to take a picture as easily. 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 really small and convenient to carry with you and has been super reliable for me.
iPhone Tip 12: iPhone Portable Charger
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 connection is on. This is a nice backup plan if you need it.
iPhone Tip 13: Smartphone Lenses
Did you know you can use different lenses with your smartphone now? I think this is pretty cool. Not only are the cameras improving, but now you can use different lenses to capture different types of images.
As a professional photographer, I can confidently say that investing in good lenses is the way to go. I’m not going to lead you towards the 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. You really do 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 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 simply twist right into the case. It’s a lot easier to deal with than the clip-on lenses.
The cheaper, clip-on lenses 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.
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 will show you a wider image range without getting the overly distorted fisheye effect. If you’re looking for a wide angle lens without too much distortion, this Moment Wide Lens is a really great option.
Macro lenses are pretty amazing lenses. 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 really good one to check out.
To demonstrate how great this macro lens really is (and in case you’re wondering how close up you can get), I’m including an image I shot of a cherry tomato below. I literally placed my lens right up next to those pretty water droplets on the tomato. Can you believe I took that image with my iPhone? It just goes to show how important great lenses are for photography.
iPhone Tip 14: Take An Online Workshop
Skillshare and CreativeLive are two very informative online resources full of educational tutorials about photography. 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 found some great workshops listed below that you might find interesting.
IPHONE WORKSHOPS FROM SKILLSHARE:
IPHONE WORKSHOPS FROM CREATIVELIVE:
I’m just scratching the surface with these iPhone photography tips. But, I hope it has shown you that you don’t need a fancy camera to take great pictures. Remember, it’s not about what camera you use… it’s about knowing how to use the camera you have that matters.
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.