Photography tips

Use the Self-Timer for Sharper Photos

Most people know that the self-timer function on the iPhone is useful for taking a group photo or selfie – simply prop your iPhone up somewhere stable, tap the self-timer button, then run in front of the camera with your friends to be a part of the photo. However, you can also use the self-timer as a kind of remote trigger for an iPhone photo. This is really useful for when you’ve forgotten your earphones, and can’t trigger the shutter of your phone without having to resort to tapping the on screen shutter button. So next time you need to get a perfectly steady shot, set your iPhone up somewhere sturdy, compose the shot, then hit self-timer and stand back so as not to disturb the phone with your movements. Pro Tip: The iPhone has the additional benefit of having zero moving parts, in contrast to a DSLR for example. This means that when the photo is taken, there is absolutely zero movement within the iPhone itself, which in theory means the sharpest possible image capture. Pretty neat!

Look for leading lines

This isn’t really a specific smartphone photography tip, but I thought it was important to include it anyway. The use of leading lines in your iPhone photos is a powerful way to create a better composition. If you start noticing them once you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by them all the time. They’re literally everywhere! You can use them to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject. Leading lines could be rails, paths, streets, buildings, tunnels or even trees. With this method you can get really creative and explore countless possibilities to make your images stand out. It also creates depth in the photo as it can connect the foreground with the background.

Enhance your photography experience with accessories

Buying new accessories for your iPhone might not spring to mind when researching how to take good pictures with a Phone. However, if you intend to shoot with your smartphone frequently, it’s worth investing in some basic accessories. Some of them I consider essential, while others are simply fun to have, or useful in the right situations:

  • An iPhone tripod – these can be acquired for less than $10, but really help when the light starts to drop, to achieve those gorgeous slow shutter speed photos. Check our Mobile by Peak Design review to see a great option.
  • A portable battery charger – in general, you get what you pay for. The more expensive ones charge your phone quicker and offer more charges before they run out.
  • A mini LED light – this can help when shooting after dark  -a light shone from an angle is much more flattering than any smartphone’s flash, which shoots at the same angle as the lens is facing. This is a good one.
  • A simple backup device – paying for an iCloud subscription when your phone gets full of photos isn’t necessary with the SanDisk iXpand Base – a smart, affordable gadget that backs up whenever you charge your iPhone.
  • Clip on lenses – definitely not essential, but can really extend the possibilities of your standard lens. I recommend the Moment ones.
  • A good case – shooting frequently with your phone will greatly increase the chances of you dropping it! Invest in a good case.

Lock your focus for sharper subjects

Now you know how to set your focus point manually using the above iPhone photography tip, but there are some instances where this won’t work. For example, if there’s movement in the scene, the camera might be constantly readjusting the focus point to compensate for the subject’s new position. To overcome this, did you know you can ‘lock’ your focus? Next time, just tap on your subject on the camera screen, and hold your finger down for a couple of seconds – you’ll see ‘AE/AF Lock’ appear. You can either swipe your finger up/down the screen to adjust exposure, or simple tap the shutter button to take the shot. The focus lock will remain until you exit the camera app, or turn off your phone.

Get perfect focus with manual override

Even if you make sure that your lens is clean in advance and there’s no camera shake, the photo might still look a bit off. One possible reason for that could be that your phone didn’t focus on the right place. To prevent this from happening, did you know you can actually select your focus point manually? Just tap on the screen where you want it to appear. You’ll be able to see the outlines of a yellow square when you tap, to show you that you’ve set the focus on the right place. Pro Tip: the above video is by the guys behind the excellent iPhone Photo Academy – I highly recommend you check out their video courses here.

Turn on the grid for better composition

Mastering iphone photography is a lot like mastering any other kind of photography. It’s all about the person behind the lens and about great compositions that catch the eye. The rule of thirds is a powerful method which applies to composing not only photographs but also paintings, posters and all kinds of images. According to this rule each picture should be divided into nine equal parts by two vertical and two horizontal lines. The significant elements in the photo should be placed at the intersections of those lines or along them. It’s much easier to imagine the lines and the sections if you have a grid to help you see them. In order to turn the grid on, you need to go to your phone’s Settings, then scroll down to find the camera icon and make sure the Grid option is activated.

Keep a clean lens for clearer photos

Most smartphones spend a very significant time of their lives in the hands of their owners and that means they’re covered in fingerprints. Very often those fingerprints are found on the place where you want them the least: your lens! A useful habit to develop is to get used to quickly cleaning your lens before taking a photo – that can ensure there will be no smudges, dust spots or blurry areas on your image. It may sound like a really simple tip, but this one thing alone can have the biggest impact on getting a clear photos… and most people never bother wiping their phone’s lens (they usually wipe the screen!) This tip is especially important if you’re using any of those clip on lenses for your iPhone, such as these macro ones.

Get a candid shot with your earphones

Following on from the previous tip, have you ever considered using your smartphone’s ear phones to shoot without being noticed? This doesn’t have to be as creepy as it sounds! You may want to take a candid shot of your kids, without them staring and doing one of those fake smiles into the camera, for example…! Next time, try holding your camera towards your subject, and holding the earphones in your other hand, use the volume up button on the earphones to take some candid photos. Also, if you have the earphones actually in your ears, no one will suspect you’re taking a picture ;-)

Use the volume button to take sharper photos

Camera shake is the main enemy of getting a sharp. If it happens, it’s bound to cause blurriness, and that’s an effect you won’t be happy to see in your photo… unless it’s intentional, of course! When taking a selfie, it’s really hard to tap the camera shutter button, especially with your hand outstretched. The easy way is to simply squeeze the volume up button on the side of your iPhone to snap the picture. Obviously, this is most convenient when the phone is help in landscape orientation (i.e. sideways) – we have a guide on landscape vs portrait orientation if you’d like to learn more on which to use. Pro Tip: You can even use the volume button on your earphones – it’s worth carrying the white ones that come free with your phone for this very reason.

Blur the background on the cheap

If you don’t have one of the newer models of iPhone, like the XS, XR, X, 8 or 7 Plus, did you know you can still blur the background in your photo? This tip applies to any kind of photography, but it’s not so apparent when using a smartphone to take a shot. Simply get closer to your subject, and try tapping your finger on the screen to set the focus point. You’ll see that the closer you are, the blurrier the background will become. Another option is to use a clip-on 3rd party tele-photo lens, since ‘zooming in’ on a subject can help produce a blurred background too – check out the best iphone camera accessories for some options. Pro Tip: blurring the foreground is another way to create interest in a photo. Simply move close to your subject, then override the phone’s automatic focus (see tip below), and tap on the background element. This will throw the foreground out of focus.