From time to time on Instagram, I get a message from a friend or follower asking me what camera equipment I use. My slightly embarrassed reply is that 99% of my photographs are taken using my iPhone. I have a nice Canon digital camera that I like to dangle around my neck to look professional. However, I often find that I have more luck getting the kind of shots I want on my phone.
I thought that I would share some of the things that I have learnt since I started taking photographs on a daily basis. I hope that much of it will apply whatever camera phone, or just camera you are using.
Let there be light
My number one piece of advice? Take your pictures in natural daylight. I’m assuming that you don’t have a professionally lit photographers studio, so any other kind of artificial lighting will play tricks on you. Different light bulbs cast different colours across your image and create funny shadows too. In the picture at the top of this post, I am standing next to a window. At home, where I take most of my photos, I drag whatever I am trying to shoot close to a source of natural light. Not direct sunlight though. That bleaches out detail.
Use your grid
Taking time to compose your pictures can make the difference between something that is meh or magnificent. I use what’s known as the Rule of Thirds to judge where to place things within the frame. The principle is that if you split your image into nine boxes, as shown below, and place whatever you are photographing on one of those lines (particularly the vertical lines) you will get a nicer looking more dynamic picture.
If it is not switched on already, using the visible grid on your iPhone camera is easy peasy.
Tap tap tap
Another useful function on the iPhone is the screen tap focus. Once you have lined up your shot, tap the screen with your finger right on the subject that you want to focus on. You’ll get a super clear and more interesting image.
Don’t be afraid of Negative Space
If the main subject of a shot is positive space then the background, with nothing in it, is the negative space. If you give the negative space some….space, then it makes the thing you are trying to photograph really stand out.
This can be particularly important to remember with Instagram photographs, which are viewed next to each other on a grid. Plenty of negative space in each picture makes them sit more pleasingly together.
Photo Editing Apps
I think it’s generally accepted that the editing options available on your iPhone or in Instagram, are not the best out there. Personally, I get on really well with an App called VSCO. I just use the free version. Here are some examples of before and after editing.
Generally, I will increase the exposure, contrast, and saturation on each photograph by several points. Then I use the sharpen tool. I use VSCO’s M5 filter, at a low setting, but there are dozens to choose from.
All of this totally depends on what kind of finish you would like. If you want a muted or monochrome image you might choose to dull the saturation or exposure. Have a play around.
If you find that VSCO is not for you this is an up to date list of the other Apps you could try by iPhone Photography School.
Work your angles darling
My friend Caroline, who is a proper qualified photographer, is big on this one. Get creative with your angles, take pictures from above or below or to the side, just keep trying new things. You can crop and chop too, you don’t need to feature all of anything. I love this technique for avoiding showing my face too often!
If you are a photography geek then you could spend a fortune on equipment. I have bought just a couple of things. A cheap tripod (I’m not going to link to the one I have because I don’t think it’s that great) search ‘smart phone tripod’ on Amazon or Google. This came with a phone fixing and blue tooth remote control (you can buy them seperately on Amazon if you already have a conventional tripod).
Bits and pieces
I’ve invested a small amount of money in props that I use to try and make my pictures a little more interesting. I have different coloured card mount boards (WH Smith or Hobbycraft) and different fabrics and tissue papers that can be used to add interest, layers and texture, especially in flat lay style pictures.
Introduce things that are special to you. I like to feature brooches, but keep losing them! A favourite book maybe? I notice lots of content creators have beautiful pairs of scissors, I must get some.
My last bit of advice is to look, look and look some more at the photographers that you love. Take tips and try and create your own images inspired by what they do. If I feel that I am in the territory of having copied someone (especially for an Instagram picture) then I credit them with the idea clearly and honestly.
I recommend that you use Pinterest for ideas, and follow the Instagram mothership account, but other than that I’ll leave to you. You know what you like. Good luck!
If you have found this post useful it would make my day if you shared it on Pinterest, just click on this picture.
Please let me know if there is anything that I have not covered here, or if you have any useful tips of your own to share. I love to read your comments.