Improve your Phone Photos
I am not a photographer, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I love to take photographs, I’ve always had an artistic streak, I did my art A level, but I never could do justice to my photos. When I was with the ex, I just left all photography duties to him whilst on holiday. When we split, as everything had been taken digitally, he took the entire database of photos. He also took the very expensive DSLR (don’t you love exes?).
Since Esra and I have been together, and more-so, since I have been blogging, I have had to get to grips with photography. I needed to put my big girl pants on and improve my phone photos. My early blog attempts weren’t bad, but they had plenty of room for improvement. Like every skill, photography is a practised one. The more you do, the better you get. The more you look at other peoples photos that you like, the more you experiment yourself. I still haven’t found my ‘style’, but I’m getting there.
I still use a phone. The iPhone is portable, easy to use and takes a relatively good photo.
So, if you want to get better for your instagram account, your own blog, or just taking those holiday snaps, here are some quick pointers to help you improve your phone photos.
The Golden Hour
As beautiful as a bright summer day is, from a photographers point of view, it causes a lot of problems.
Bright sunlight casts heavy shadows and your photos will appear uneven. If you focus on the shadow the light will wash out. Focus on the light areas and shadows are so black you lose any detail. This is where the golden hour comes into it’s own.
When the sun is nearer the horizon, either at sunrise, or sunset, there is more atmosphere for the light to travel through. This creates a softer, redder light, much more amenable to lovely photos. The shadows are soft and the light colour is flattering. Whenever you can, take photos early in the day or late in the day to take advantage of this light.
There are of course alternatives, and that is to take advantage of cloudy days and dappled light, such as woodland light.
Have you ever looked at a landscape and it’s absolutely beautiful, taken the photo and it comes out flat and uninteresting? This problem is best remidied with foreground interest. What you want from a photo is to invite the viewer in. You want them to not only glance at the photo but to spend time looking at it. By adding foreground interest you are giving the viewer perspective. So instead of a huge flat expanse of pretty sky and sea, you are showing depth of perception and drawing the viewer in.
This can be done in a few ways.
- Bottom interest – creating a band along the bottom of your photo. Taking the photo over a hedge or fence will give you this interest and perspective element
- Frame – use a foreground frame to display the landscape beyond. This could be a break between trees, or something more man-made. One of my favourite photos is taken through a left over piece of machinery on a beach in Dorset. The contrast between a man made object and the nature beyond creates interest.
- Anchor – using one imposing object in the foreground corner of your picture. Again it aids in perspective and gives the photo depth.
Do you have the same photo of the Eiffel Tower as everyone else? or the Taj Mahal? it’s very easy to stand in front of such iconic and impressive pieces of architecture and snap the architypal photo. You may want a few like this, but they won’t generate the same interest as looking at it differently.
Most photos are taken from about 5ft 6inches from the floor. Why? because that’s where you are holding your phone.
Try something different. Get down on the ground. Take a photo from above. Take an extreme close-up. Start to look at things differently, create interesting and different angles.
One of the most under utilised but effective ways in which to lead your viewer into your photo. A leading line is just that, a line which leads the eye from the foreground to the background. It can be difficult as a new photographer to remember all the ways in which to take better photos, but if you remember one, I would suggest it’s this one.
At first, seeing leading lines can be difficult. Your eye sees but doesn’t see. You need to train yourself to start looking at things differently. Leading lines can be obvious, such as railway tracks leading into the distance, or a receding path. They can also be more subtle such as a grove of trees, or a rotting log.
They create a visual journey from one part of your photograph to the other. You can use them to point to the main subject of the photo such as the footpath below. Or use them as the interest itself. As you get more practised you can start to use the lines to tell a story, direct the viewer and create circular interest where the eye never leaves the photo.
Rule of Thirds
You have more than likely heard this banded about. You possibly already know what it is. For those of you who don’t, the rule of thirds refers to separating your photo into thirds both vertically and horizontally. If you have an iPhone I would encourage you to set up the grid on your screen, this will help you place your photos in such a manner as to fit this rule.
The idea is that you place points of interest at the intersections between the vertical and horizontal lines. Studies have shown that people naturally don’t immediately look at the centre of a photograph, so, by using this rule you are tapping into natural human behaviour.
The photos below demonstrate the rule of thirds, see how each topic is not central to the photo, how the horizon on the sea is a third from the top with the sea using two thirds?
There are so many different ways in which you can improve your phone photos and skills. I personally subscribed to the iPhone Photography School. The course itself costs money, but Emil does provide a lot of free and very informative videos if you’re not feeling flush. There are of course YouTube videos and Websites where you can pick up all of this information and more.
I wanted to give you a quick taster and a few pointers to help you improve your phone photo skills. As I said, I’m no expert, but there are a few tactics even we can employ which will pay ten fold in the photos you show your friends on social media.