10 Tips to Improve Phone Photos

I occasionally run into people who ask me what kind of camera I use, how much it costs (yes, they actually ask that), or comment on how they could take amazing photos if they had a camera as nice as mine! I usually laugh, because it’s not the camera that takes the photo, it’s the person using it. And although my images taken with my Canon 5d Mark iii are much better than when I used a point and shoot camera, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take fabulous photos with something you already own!

Since I can’t follow you around every day, capturing those special moments that may happen (and you can’t afford to hire a photographer on a daily basis) I wanted to draw your attention to a piece of equipment that most of you have already. This device that has become somewhat of a permanent attachment to most of our hands, can actually take some pretty awesome photos as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. Of course you all know what I’m talking about…your smart phone! I currently have the iPhone 6S, and though I will be sharing a few tips that are specific to the iPhone, all smart phones can do just about the same thing (you just need to modify).

#1 Lighting is key! Lighting is very important no matter what equipment you are using. It’s vital that your subject is well lit so the focus is on them. When using a camera on your phone, try to make sure that your subject isn’t back-lit. This means that the sun/source of light should not come from behind your subject. If you want to take a picture of someone in front of the sunset, even if you turn the flash on, your subject will be too dark. Instead, angle your subject so that the light is coming from behind your head-or at least from the side (if it’s a selfie, the light should be in front of you). These pictures show exactly what I mean. The first one, you can see the sunset, but not me. The 2nd is turned just slightly so that the light shows on our faces (excuse our day at the pool attire).

#2 Keep your hand steady! Sadly, a lot of the photos I see on Social Media are blurry. The most common reason for this is that the camera was moved during the process of taking the photo. Try to keep your hand steady when you push that button. Get a kickstand and use the timer if you’re just too heavy handed. The 2nd most common reason for picture blur is that your subject is moving. This is hard to prevent using a phone, but you can try to lessen blur by following your subject with the phone and snapping your picture in the process. It won’t always help it, so chances are, moving kiddos will be blurry. This is an example of what happens when your subject and your camera are moving! 🙂

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#3 Flash is not always your friend! Most of us have cases on our phones which actually makes the flash bounce off of the case and pretty much ruins your image. Other times the flash makes your subject have yellow skin (or very pale skin) and red eyes. As a rule, I tend to not use the flash on my phone unless I’m doing a selfie after dark. Some phones do not have this option, but the iPhone 6 & up do-and it’s fantastic for most dark situations. This was taken on vacation after dinner and it brightened our faces and even showed the lighting around the pool in the background.

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#4 Get close to your subject! Using the zoom feature on your phone camera will not always produce the best results. In fact, just don’t do it unless absolutely necessary! It’s almost always better to crop after taking the photo then using the zoom. If you want a photo of an actual person or animal, get up close to them-fill that viewfinder! If you use the zoom feature, chances are high that your image will be grainy and you just won’t like the results. Trust me on this.

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#5 Edit, don’t filter! The big fad lately is using filters on photos…Don’t do it! A filter is obvious and changes the look of the entire photo. Instead, go into the editing tool and bump up the shadows (if too dark), lower the highlights (if too bright), and play with the saturation and hue of an image until you get it just right. Your image will look great and no one will know that you edited it. If you use a filter, like I did on these, they will know. HAHA!

#6 Angle matters! The angle of your vantage point is important. Do not shoot from the ground up unless you are doing so in an artistic way. Women especially, will not like photos of themselves from this angle. If at all possible, raise yourself slightly above your subject for the most flattering shot. Most young ladies have perfected this angle with the selfie. They have figured out that when you hold the camera up, it gives a more flattering viewpoint. But take care not to hold the phone up too high, as this just makes the subject look awkward. I’ve seen this with selfies the most. Trust me, we don’t want to see the top of your head-we prefer to see your eyes and lovely smile!

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#7 Keep your lens clean! Because we take our phones everywhere (yes, even there), it’s important to keep them clean. This is especially true for the lens of your camera. It’s very easy to get food or dirt on the lens, so I clean mine every few days (when on vacation, I needed to clean it almost daily). You don’t want to find out after it’s too late that a crumb or a fingerprint ruined the photo of your Aunt Betsy doing a hand stand!

#8 Focus on the subject! Your subject is the person or thing that you are photographing. Sometimes your subject is a baby, your pet, or even a mountain. Regardless of your subject, you want it to be the most interesting point of the photo (you want the eyes to go directly to your subject)-so it’s important to make sure that your focus is clear. Some phones are different, but for the iPhone you just need to touch the screen in order to make it focus on a certain part of the image. This also brings up a tool to brighten the image before capturing it. Using Depth of Field in my camera can give that blurry background effect, which puts focus on your subject. The iPhone 7 portrait mode can actually help create this effect-but be careful, as it’s not 100% accurate and can blur out things you want to be clear. But it’s a fun new feature. And your subject does not have to be centered-in fact it’s often best not to center your subject. Can you tell the subject in these images?

 

#9 Be creative! Although there are many rules in photography, it is artwork, so those rules can be broken. Making sure your subject is in focus shouldn’t be a rule that you break, but  changing your perspective to look from the ground up to capture something artistic can rock! Look for repetitive patterns in things, don’t be afraid of empty space, use symmetry, capture small details, play with reflections, and most importantly, have fun!

#10 Put your phone away! This is the best tip I can give you. Though pictures are important, I mean come on, I’m a photographer; living and enjoying life is much more valuable than anything on your phone. That food tastes much better than it looks, so put the phone down, eat the food, and chat with your friend/spouse/child! Enjoy life, my friends. It’s fleeting. With that being said, get off your phone…this blog post is toast! 🙂

Then and Now!

There are only a few friends in my world that I’m so close to that I consider family, and this post is about one of those people! My friend Cheryl and I met when we worked together umteen years ago when her now 15 year old son Justin was just a wee boy! We instantly hit it off! I often refer to her as my sister from another mister! We have so much in common and just love each other beyond words! Over 13 years ago, her family lost their home to the “old fire” in the hills of San Bernardino, and I was devastated along with her. But they rebuilt, and although those physical things are gone, the  memories live on. And their little mountain community is so much stronger & closer through it all.

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Over the years we lost touch for a while-not for any reason, other than lives get busy. But when we reconnected about 5 years ago we just picked up where we left off (except that I now had a new last name & a fun hubby) and it was seriously as if no time had gone by. We are just as close as ever and I was thrilled when she finally said “We need to update our family photos!”. It had been about 13 1/2 years since they had done professional family photos-I’ll say it’s about time for an update. That once little man who I loved coloring with is all grown up with facial hair and a deeper voice! Sheesh, I feel old!  This photo, which sits on my shelf in a little frame, was their last professional family portraits done.

I was beyond excited to be able to capture these images of this family that I truly adore! We met up at Oak Glen, which is gorgeous this time of year with the fall colors (we don’t get a lot of that around here). Of course, it’s always busy in Oak Glen when the leaves change, because there’s apple picking, live music, pumpkins, and of course amazing food! Parking is always packed & it’s tough to get photos without random people in your background. But it’s well worth the effort!

Portraits are not usually a favorite activity for men of any age-that includes teens. So, as we walked around to different spots, I’m sure that the guys were thinking “Aren’t we done yet?” However, as I was heading to a little pond area, Justin pointed out this great brick wall which was a perfect location for their photos! He has a great eye and it was awesome to have something different from the rustic leaves and bridge images.  Thanks buddy! Overall, we had a lovely day-topped off by a lunch at Apple Annie’s where a beautiful peacock greeted us at the window.

Cheryl was so much in love with her final images that she placed a large print order which included this beautiful 30 x 40 mounted print for her stairwell. This is actually the largest print that I’ve sold as most people are afraid that something this big would be overkill in their home. That couldn’t be further from the truth! My husband and I have a pretty small home with mostly small walls, and even I am planning on ordering a big canvas of our recent photo session for our dining room wall. Pictures are very important for families. Surrounding yourselves with family portraits is actually proven to promote self esteem and feelings of worth in your children. It’s so important to print your images-which is why I really encourage my clients to print & to go big!

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I’m so excited for Cheryl’s new collection of personalized wall art for her home, and I hope she doesn’t wait another 13 years before they have their portraits done again! Nah-I wouldn’t let her! Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy this wonderful time of year with the ones you love! God bless!