David Pasillas, a professional photographer, was in between DSLR’s when he decided to get creative with his smartphone. Since then, he has shot gorgeous landscapes, vacation photos and wedding pictures simply using his iPhone.
I believe good composition is going to take you from snapshots to good shots. You have to start using the rule of thirds grid in your camera app of choice. Be sure to keep your horizon on either the top or bottom third line and put your subject or points of interest at or near the four points where the grid lines intersect. To turn your grid on, open your camera app, touch the options button and tap the grid slider from off to on.
2. Level horizons
Some people really like to shoot with a diagonal horizon, but let me give you some great advice: Don’t do it! Use your rule of thirds grid to make sure the horizon is level. Some camera apps, like Camera+, even have a level horizon tool that you can turn on.
3. Treat your phone like a camera
When taking photos, don’t hold your iPhone like a phone, hold it with both hands like you would a camera. Brace yourself like you would if you were holding an expensive camera as well. You’ll find that your images will turn out sharper.
4. Shoot a lot
Don’t stop at one shot of that beautiful landscape or family portrait. Take 10 or more. Professional photographers take hundreds, if not thousands, of photos during weddings and portrait sessions to get that killer image. The more you shoot, the better the odds are you’ll have a good photo to work with. Make sure you have plenty of free space on your iPhone so you can take more than one photo of something you’re interested in.
5. Move around
This is mobile photography, so be mobile. Move in closer to your subject, get down low. Try different perspectives. Shoot at eye level for people and animals. Try crawling on the ground, or if you don’t like getting dirty, set your camera on the ground.
6. Frame your subject
Use objects to create a frame for your photo. Trees make a nice frame for many photos. In this example, the dark foreground, the tree, and the large bush create a frame for my pelican on the rock.
7. Focus manually
Don’t trust your phone to autofocus on your main subject every time. Touch the screen and choose where to focus. When shooting a portrait, tap your screen to tell your iPhone to focus on the face.
8. Better lighting
The best lighting for portraits with your iPhone is overcast, foggy or shade because the light is even. If you have to shoot in the sun, you can have your subject with their back to the sun. This will provide even lighting on their face. You will need an app, such as Camera+ or 645 Pro, that allows you to tell the iPhone what to expose for. In the case of portraits, you’ll want to expose for the skin by tapping the subject’s skin on the screen. The downside to having the sun behind the subject is the sky will be overexposed and come out white. If you want blue skies, and you’re OK with possible shadows on the face, you can have your subject facing the sun for their portrait.
9. Edit your awesome photos
All digital photos need to be edited. Try not to overdo it, though! Sometimes all you need is a little bit of contrast and/or sharpening to make a photo pop. There are great photo editors, like Snapseed, that are available for free. The amazing thing about the iPhone is the wide variety of apps available to make your photos look grungy, vintage, black and white, like a watercolor — you name it and there’s an app for it. Grab some apps that look interesting and experiment until you figure out your own style.
Do you find that your photos have a normal foreground with white skies, or blue skies and very dark foreground? Try turning HDR on in your camera app, or use an HDR app like TrueHDR, orProHDR. HDR apps will take two photos of the same scene at different exposures so you get a better exposure for the land and sky. Be sure to hold very steady, set your iPhone on something, or use a tripod so the apps can merge the photos cleanly.
All rules are made to be broken. Think of these as suggestions to help build a solid foundation. Once you have that foundation, feel free to experiment and play with whatever you think would make for an interesting shot… even if it involves crooked horizons.