While most of us carry phones with professional-quality cameras, not everyone knows how to take professional-quality photos. Learning to take great photos with your iPhone can have numerous benefits beyond improving your self-expression. Eye-catching photos can help you stand out on social media, as both people and social media algorithms appreciate visually exciting content. These 18 iPhone photography tricks can take your photography skills to the next level.
iPhone photography: Composition tips
Composition is the arrangement of visual elements within a photograph. Learning tips and techniques to improve your composition skills is essential to take professional-quality photos with your iPhone. By mastering the art of composition, you can create more visually appealing and engaging images.
1. Shift your perspective
When we first start taking photos, it’s common to take them from the same position we see the world. However, this can result in less exciting photos. Try taking photos from different angles and positions to improve your photography skills. Experiment with shooting your subject from high or low angles to add a new perspective to your images. Low-angle shots can be particularly effective for iPhone product photography, as they can help capture a single subject too large to fit in the frame when shot up close.
2. Look for detail in close-up shots
Good photography is about capturing and presenting the world in a unique and interesting manner. By taking close-up shots, even the most mundane objects can be transformed into something unexpected and intriguing. When taking these close-up shots, attention to the details that might go unnoticed from a distance is essential. Look for interesting colours, textures, or patterns in your subject that can add depth and interest to your photographs.
3. Turn on the grid to follow the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a simple yet effective technique for taking visually compelling photographs using your iPhone. This technique involves dividing the field of view into a three-by-three grid with two horizontal and two vertical lines.
By positioning the main subjects of your photo along these lines or at their intersections, you can create a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing composition. To activate the grid lines on your iPhone, go to the Camera section of your iPhone’s settings and toggle the Grid switch to on.
4. Find leading lines
Incorporating long, straight lines into your photographs can provide viewers with a visual guide that helps them navigate and make sense of the image. These lines are leading lines because they draw the eye around the picture and can add depth and visual interest to your composition.
Leading lines can also divide your photo into distinct sections, creating a more dynamic and engaging image. When leading lines run from the edge of the frame towards the centre of focus, they can give your photo greater depth and perspective.
5. Create a sense of depth
When composing a photograph, it’s essential to consider not only the two-dimensional frame but also the depth of the image. Our eyes are naturally drawn to images that appear to have depth, even when flat. You can use several techniques to create a sense of depth in your photographs. One way is to use leading lines, as we discussed earlier.
Another way is to place a close-up subject against an out-of-focus background or to frame the main subject behind a slightly out-of-focus object in the foreground. Including distinct visual elements at different depths can also create a multi-levelled sense of depth, which works particularly well in outdoor or landscape photography.
6. Play around with symmetry
Our brains are naturally drawn to symmetry, but too much symmetry can make a photograph appear predictable and uninteresting. To create a visually compelling composition, it’s essential to strike a balance by including unequal elements on opposite sides of the frame. This technique gives your photo a sense of organization without being too predictable.
For example, in the above photo, leading lines connect a group of whiskey bottles on one side of the frame to a single glass on the other. This creates visual contrast and connects opposite parts of the frame in an exciting and engaging way.
7. Keep it simple
When taking iPhone photos for social media platforms like Instagram, it’s essential to keep in mind that most people will view your work on small mobile screens. A complex composition that looks great when printed in a large format and displayed on a wall can appear busy and confusing when viewed on a small screen. To ensure that your photos are easy to understand and visually appealing on a mobile device, it’s a good idea to simplify your compositions and focus on a few key elements.
8. Pick the right orientation for your subject
Just as you wouldn’t use a recipe for a cake for baking a loaf of bread, the techniques for taking a great landscape photo are different from those for capturing an action shot. When deciding between portrait orientation (a frame that is taller than it is wide) and landscape orientation (a frame that is wider than it is tall), there are several factors to consider.
As the name suggests, portrait orientation is typically used for portrait photography and is also appropriate when shooting a single subject. This orientation helps to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject and is often used in full-body and fashion photography. On the other hand, landscape orientation is best suited for larger subjects, such as landscapes.
This orientation provides more room to compose visual elements horizontally and allows viewers to easily move their attention between equally important elements in the same photo. It’s also important to keep in mind that different social media platforms and formats have different requirements for image orientation. For example, vertical images work well for Instagram Stories, while horizontal photos are better suited for Twitter.
9. Use portrait mode for portraits
In iPhone photography, the term “portrait” can have two meanings. One meaning refers to the orientation of the frame, as we discussed in the previous tip. The other meaning refers to a specific setting in the iPhone camera app. You can make your portraits more striking by selecting portrait mode, which can be found next to photo mode above the shutter button. This setting adds blur to the background of the photo, helping the subject stand out even more.
10. Stage your shot
The subject of your photograph will determine which visual elements you have direct control over, and therefore the best way to compose your photo will depend on what you are shooting. If your subject is small or moveable, don’t be afraid to rearrange things to achieve the best lighting and composition.
For larger subjects that cannot be moved, try moving around the scene to find the best angle and composition. Changing your position can alter the composition of your photo, even if all the elements in the scene are fixed in place.
11. Use the camera timer for steady shots
While we no longer have to hold still for long periods of time to take a photograph, a camera shake can still ruin a perfect shot. Tapping the shutter button on your phone’s screen with your thumb can cause the camera to shake at the wrong moment, but there is a solution. The camera timer can be used for hands-free selfies and any shot where you want to keep both hands on the camera when the shutter opens.
This method works best when photographing stationary objects, as there is no guarantee that a moving subject will remain in the same position when the timer goes off. Another option is to use the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone to take photos. While this method is not as stable as the timer, it can help you keep a steady hand when photographing more dynamic subjects.
12. Adjust focus and exposure settings
While the automatic camera settings on your iPhone can make taking photos easier, there are times when you may want to adjust the settings manually. Two settings that are easy to adjust are exposure (the amount of light the camera lets in) and focus. The iPhone will attempt to guess the subject of your photo and focus on it, but it doesn’t always get it right.
To override the phone’s guess and focus on a different part of the image, simply tap the screen where you want to focus. You can adjust the exposure by tapping where you want to focus and swiping up or down to create a brighter or darker exposure. The iPhone camera will default back to its automatic settings when it detects changes in the frame, such as when you move, or something in front of the camera moves.
To lock your current focus and exposure settings, tap and hold your finger on the screen for a few seconds until AE/AF LOCK appears in a yellow box at the top of your screen. This feature is particularly useful when taking multiple shots of the same scene, such as in product photography or portrait photography.
13. Avoid overexposure
Lighting is a crucial element in taking great photographs. In general, it’s better to have an image that is slightly underexposed than one that is overexposed. While editing software can brighten a dark image, fixing a photo washed out by too much light is much more difficult. To prevent overexposure, you can adjust the light your iPhone camera lets in by tapping on the brightest part of the image. This will change the camera’s settings and help you achieve better exposure.
14. Use soft lighting
When it comes to lighting in photography, both the quantity and quality of light are important. Most subjects look best when photographed in soft light. Soft light is created when light is diffused as it travels from its source, such as when a lampshade covers a bare lightbulb. When shooting indoors, look for areas where the light is diffuse and avoid placing your subject too close to any direct light sources.
If you’re shooting outdoors, try to avoid taking photos during the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. In general, it’s a good idea to turn off your flash when taking photos, as its light can be harsh and unflattering.
15. Use HDR for photos with a wide range of light levels
HDR (high-dynamic-range) photography is a technique that combines multiple shots taken simultaneously to produce a composite image with a greater level of detail than a standard photo. This technique is particularly useful when taking photos in dark and bright areas. The resulting HDR image will have more detail and a better balance of light and shadow than a standard photo. On your iPhone, you can set HDR to be On, Off, or Automatic by tapping the HDR icon on the camera app’s top of your screen.
16. Know the recommended image sizes for different social media platforms
When sharing photos on social media platforms, it’s important to ensure that your images meet the technical requirements of the platform. Most social media platforms will automatically crop or resize your photos if they don’t have the correct size or aspect ratio. To ensure that your photos look their best, it’s a good idea to make these adjustments yourself rather than relying on the platform’s algorithm. You can find information on each platform’s size and quality requirements in our guide to social media image sizes.
If you don’t want to memorize all the technical requirements, you can use an app like the Hootsuite photo editor, which has built-in settings for each platform to help you get it right every time.