25 More Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography

In my first set of twenty-five tips (OK, twenty-six, but who’s counting) to help you improve your iPhone photography, I urged you to consider that in order to make a compelling photograph – one that makes your viewer pause to soak it in a bit more – you need a basic understanding of the photographic principles apropos of composition, exposure, and lighting.

Let’s face it, while the iPhone’s tiny, cramped camera is an engineering marvel, it nevertheless often suffers – photographically speaking – because of its physical limitations. By learning to use some of the incredible photo apps available to you, you are able to overcome those limitations through software image processing, enhancing and manipulation. It also never hurts to occasionally absorb a handful of great iPhone Photography tips and tricks.

And so, let’s continue with these tips, as I offer you my second set of twenty-five to help you master your iPhone Photography:

27. No amount of editing can turn a “bad” image into a “good” one. Learn to capture your image properly in-camera, rather than relying on fixes later.

28. There is nothing wrong with shooting into strong light, such as a bright sky. However, some decisions need to be made on what part of the scene to base proper exposure on. If your goal is to shoot silhouettes, where backlight overwhelms a foreground subject, expose for the lighted area to drop the subject into deep shadow and de-emphasize unneeded details.

An iPhone Lock Screen

Quickly access the camera from the Lock Screen by flicking the camera icon upward

29. Always be at the ready for that special shot. Don’t forget that you have a quick way to bring up the iPhone Camera app right from the Lock Screen. See the little camera icon on the bottom-right? Flick it up to quickly get you to the camera.

30. Do you really need to apply watermarks to your image? While many iPhone photo apps give you this capability, why do it? If you must, consider that they may be ugly, tacky and distracting, plus, seriously… who’s going to steal your photos anyway? OK, before sending emails, don’t do as I do, do as I say!

A photo of a lady eating pizza

If you do decide to use a watermark, is it intrusive? Is it tacky? Is it in Comic Sans font?

31. Keep your iPhone camera lens clean. Look, we know that our wonderful devices smudge-up easily. If you have grease and other dirt on the lens, your images will lack sharpness. I carry a small micro-fiber cloth to keep not just the lens, but the whole device clean.

32. iPhones don’t come with a lens hood. On traditional cameras, these help keep stray light from bouncing around inside the lens assembly. This problem results in hazy shots and lens flare. If you notice that strong sunlight is shining directly on the lens, simply use your hand or other object to block the light.

33. The classic “rules” of composition can certainly be broken. But in order to do so, you first need to familiarize yourself and be comfortable with those same rules of composition. Do a Google search on “photography composition.” Learn the basics of good composition. Go out and shoot a whole bunch of photos utilizing those rules. Study your results.

34. When shooting photos using your iPhone camera’s on-screen shutter button, be sure to tap it very, very gently, while holding the iPhone firmly with your other hand – arms and elbows tucked in against your body. Jabbing at the shutter button will introduce “camera shake,” and blurry images will result.

The side of an iPhone with volume up/down buttons

Use either volume button to trip the shutter with minimal camera shake

35. Get into the habit of using the volume-up or -down buttons to shoot your photo instead of the on-screen shutter button. This helps tremendously to ensure nice, sharp images with little or no camera shake. This method of releasing the shutter also works wonders for “selfies.”

36. You can use just about any set of earphones that has inline volume control buttons, to trip your iPhone camera’s shutter. This gives you the benefit that the old-time remote cable releases provided. For those tricky low-light shots that require the use of a sturdy support for the iPhone – like a tripod – use the earphone volume-up and -down buttons as well to trip the shutter. This will go a long way towards ensuring perfect shots with no camera shake. By the way, any bluetooth headset with volume controls also works as a wireless remote shutter release.

37. I’m addicted to photo apps. You, on the other hand, should avoid becoming a photoappaddict. Read reviews and articles about specific apps. Download and really learn to use a handful of the best ones.

A detail from the App Store showing a selection of Photo apps

If you are a photo app fan, you can knock yourself out shopping on the App Store

38. Look at and study other people’s iPhone Photography on social photo sites like flickr.com. There are many online communities there that specialize in this wonderful category of photography. Follow a photographer whose work you admire. You can get lots of inspiration – and ideas.

39. When setting up your shot, ask yourself what your main subject or theme is. What is it you are trying to accomplish? What do you want your viewer to take-away by studying your photo? Are you doing all you can to simplify and manipulate your composition in order to aid in accomplishing your objective and making a compelling image?

40. Good photographs are composed in such a way that the main subject is emphasized through various techniques. Examples include incorporating objects that act as lines that lead the viewer’s eye to the subject, using other objects in the scene to frame the subject, and the placement of the subject in the scene.

Photo of a boy sitting at a dinner table

Something as simple as a plant can be used to frame the subject and guide the viewer’s eye to it.
Same goes here for the tablecloth pattern forming lines leading to my little cousin.

41. What do you suppose is the first thing people try to save when fleeing from a burning home? That’s right… their family photographs. Are you keeping your backups up-to-date?

42. Shoot lots and lots of photos. Shoot many photos of the same subject, but from different angles, different camera orientation, different times of day/season. Digital storage is inexpensive, but discard your bad and unwanted shots with impunity.

43. Shoot from the hip. A fun way to find new perspective is to shoot without looking at the display. You’ll get unexpected results and unusual angles that can create the feeling of something captured on the fly. Images shot this way are often blurred, skewed and unpredictable, but oh so interesting.

44. Give yourself photo assignments. These are meant to help you stay focused and maintain your level of interest. You learn from what you do and how you do it. Keep working at your iPhone photography beyond mundane shots of the kids, the pets, and your dinner plate. Giving yourself small, but clear-cut assignments is a great way to practice using the “photographer’s eye” that you are developing.

Photo of a red sign under a window

Give yourself assignments or projects to keep your interest flourishing.
My lifelong project – to capture images where the color red is the main compositional element.

45. Set your images’ “moods” by exploiting your photo apps. One major advantage of your iPhone over traditional cameras is that it allows you to explore many apps, either individually or in combination, to achieve a particular effect. When you approach your apps with more purpose in order to achieve a certain mood or style in a picture, you’ll enjoy the creative process even more. 

The iPhone apps are very forgiving. If you don’t like an effect you just applied, simply undo it. Move the image to another app, apply an effect, take it through more apps. Along the way, save your interim edits to your Camera Roll if unsure of the final result. With your apps, you’ll make images that are both personal and full of feeling – all accomplished on the same device that captured the image in the first place!

46. Many photo apps now offer the option to save edited images in different resolutions. You should always go for the best resolution possible. You’ll be glad you did when you need to apply further processing to the images, or when wanting a good, large print of the image. You can always down-res copies of your images at a later time in order to repurpose them for low-resolution applications such as for posting to websites or for email.

47. iPhone Photography can be very spontaneous. Explore it. Arguably, the iPhone produces images of somewhat lesser technical quality than traditional digital cameras. Don’t bog yourself down in an attempt to achieve technical perfection. Instead, direct your attention to exploiting the “imperfection” of your images. This will help you to see beyond the technical shortcomings – you’ll focus more carefully on your shooting. A photo taken with an iPhone feels more spontaneous, more genuine. The iPhone camera is perfect for capturing the realism in the mundane and unromantic.

An iPhone screen capture from the Camera app

My iPhone flash is always set to OFF. Never on AUTO as I don’t want it deciding when to use flash. When I do want flash, I force it ON.

48. I hate on-camera flash photography. It’s harsh and unflattering. However, using it as a “fill flash” can be quite useful. This is a technique used in outdoor photography where a burst of flash will fill-in shadow areas where there is a bright background or strong backlight. A typical example is to force the flash ON when taking a photo of someone who is outdoors but in the shadows and with a bright background. The flash will fill-in the person’s face while the camera still exposes for the bright background. Remember though, your subject has to be within about 6 feet for iPhone’s flash to be effective.

49. See the light. Begin paying attention to how light changes over the hours of the day and seasons of the year. Weather plays a big factor, of course. Dramatic side-lighting can turn a mundane scene into a spectacular one. Remember that photography is about developing your “Photographer’s Eye.” This means seeing opportunities around you for capturing exciting images in the conditions you happen to find yourself. Adjust your shooting to each situation in the best way possible.

50. You’ve got to have fun taking pictures. Too many iPhone photographers obsess about whether or not family and friends are going to like their pictures. This removes the fun part. The only thing that matters with your iPhone photography is that you take pictures for yourself and your own enjoyment, not for anyone else. If others enjoy your images, that’s an added bonus. The more you shoot, the more you develop your “Eye” for photography. Do you want to take a picture? Don’t hesitate. Take that shot! And… shoot more pictures! Don’t worry what others think. Get out there and above all, have fun with your iPhone photography!

So there you have it. OK, so I only did 24 tips this time around… but all told, you now have fifty great iPhone Photography tips. Stay tuned for even more tips for mastering your iPhone photography.

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