In the beginning of smartphone world domination, we all still held our digital cameras close, not really trusting the tiny lens on the back of the phone to do photos justice. But now, the cameras in phones have become so high quality, with such high resolution that professional photographers are using their phones along with their more expensive equipment to get the best shot. Major magazines have published iPhone pics taken by professionals. And even National Geographic offers tips from their photographers for taking great shots with your phone. If you've been looking for a new hobby, phoneograhy (as it's become known in certain circles) may be it.
Do you have to know Photoshop or buy an expensive app that mimics the software of serious photographers? Nope. You don't even have to sift through the endless photo editing and enhancing apps out there, wasting precious download time (unless you want to). There are tips you can utilize today to use your iPhone camera like you mean it. All you need is your phone, a bit of know-how and the basic editing software on your computer.
Clean the Lens
This may sound obvious, but when was the last time you did it? If you're going around without a back cover, the lens is getting dirtied in your purse, by your hands and wherever else you're storing it. Keep a microfiber cloth handy to wipe the lens down before your photo shoot begins.
Turn On The Grid
Okay, this is the one piece of technical know-how I'll throw at you because it matters. For iOS7, turning the grid on your phone is a matter of going into your settings, going to "Photos & Camera," then turning the slider by "Grid" to the on position. When you open the camera app, you'll see grid lines that separate your phone's screen into nine neat little squares. This will help you keep the shot straight and help you pay attention to your angles as you practice, but it has another purpose too…
Focus On the Points
A rule of thumb to keep your composition pleasing to the eye is to put the subject of your photo directly on any of the intersecting grid points. Notice there's not one point directly in the center. Your subject, if you're taking a wide shot, will make for a more interesting photo if it's centered on a grid point. Some iPhone photogs warn against ever putting a subject smack dab in the middle of the screen.
Pay Close Attention to the Light
In iPhone world, the darker the scene, the grittier and less focused it becomes. As you experiment you may find some photos look cool that way and you want to keep them as is. But if you're going for a clear shot that emphasizes a face or an entire person, it's best to do it when the light is coming from behind. This is one reason why photographers love twilight to take outdoor shots. As the sun sets it goes from being directly overhead to behind the subject.
Try the Square Image Technique
If you're an avid Instagram user, you know that your photos need to fit in a small, square frame. And since Instagram photos usually come from a phone camera, it helps to know your Instagram shots will appear more interesting if the subject is left to the outside edges of the shot. This is called using the empty or "negative" space to great advantage for today's use and technology.
Focus on Fragments for Artistic Pics
Want to get artsy? Before you apply that gauze-like filter, try to take an interesting photo first. The iPhone is great for up close shots, really up close. And while the zoom function can ruin a photo by making it too grainy, you can get up close and personal to inanimate objects for a pic that's all about shape, light and form—no zoom required. Experiment. Spill colored paperclips on a table and take fragment shots up close. What about raindrops? Spray-painted cement? Part of a neon sign? Get creative!
Get Down Low
Almost anyone who likes to use their iPhone for creative photography will suggest shooting from a variety of angles. After all, such a light, small device allows you to shoot from the hip, laying down on your belly, and on your knees with ease. Getting the shot from a low angle will give your backdrop a long distance perspective that looks positively professional.
Fake a Call to Slip In Unnoticed
How many times have you wanted to take a picture of a passerby but not wanted to disturb them or are afraid they won't like it? Take out your phone and pretend to be looking for something on it, a number or an app. Use the time to position your frame. Discreetly take the shot, then put the phone to your ear and say confusedly "Hello!?" Maybe give it a shake like it's not working. No one will be the wiser.
Keep it Simple
If you're just starting out, one subject per shot will provide you with the best photos. Keep the shots simple. The fragments simple. You'd be surprised how cool raindrops look falling into a puddle. Simplicity lends a sense of elegance to your composition that makes people think you took the pic from a sexy, expensive DSLR.
Shoot Multiple Times—Try to Process Before You Delete
Finally, take more than one shot, take as many as you like or your phone can hold. That's one of its advantages. You'll be tempted to delete the shots you're not into right away, don't. Take them home. Load them on your computer and play around with its editing software. You can lighten, darken, fix red eye and crop to your heart's content. You might make an awesome photo out of a former "dud."