How to Take Better iPhone Photos

While we’re all stuck at home due to COVID-19 and photographers not legally allowed to work in many states (including my own home state of Michigan), I wanted to share how to take better iPhone photos so that y’all can keep capturing your moments, even with the COVID-19 crisis we’re in.

For many families, you’re spending a lot of time together. What better time than to document your littles doing every day things in your home! 

If you’re expecting a newborn in your home soon, first congratulations! Second, a lot of these same rules apply! I know it can be devastating to not have a professional in your home during this time, but I promise you can still take great photos!

Though you won’t ever find me saying that your iPhone can replace a professional photographer, for times like these, you can produce pretty good photos of your family on your phone with some professional tricks. If you happen to have a DSLR laying around, these tips can help you too! They’re basic photography principles that I use when I go into clients’ homes for lifestyle sessions and these are tips that I use for how to take better iPhone photos.

Take these tips into consideration for how to take better iPhone photos during COVID-19.

1. Try to shoot during day time.

For anyone with little photography training, shooting during the day time will make it so much easier on you! The best time to take photos in your home is mid-day, when the light is the brightest. If there is a room in your home that has more light than others, it will probably work better, but you can still take photos in darker rooms. Paying attention to which rooms are brightest and at what time of day can help you know where to position yourself. You can’t always dictate where your kids are playing, so if you gotta go full documentary, do it!

how to take better iphone photos
Blinds all open, front door open. My living room has 3 light sources in this photo so that’s why I’m shooting into a window here.

2. Open the blinds and shut off the lights.

For many, it seems counterintuitive, but yes, turn off lights and open the blinds. Using the natural light in your home will be easiest with an iPhone. Avoiding that terrible flash is best for most scenarios at home. 

Photographers don’t like to mix light sources. Turning off lamps and overhead lights (especially if they are yellow colored) helps with keep colors true to life, which is always what you want! 

For ideas, check out this newborn lifestyle session which was shot in a darker home.

How to Take Better iphone Photos
The window is behind me here, which makes Nora’s face have a nice soft light on it!
How to Take Better iphone Photos
Though I really like this image of my sister and Nora, see how the yellow light behind her is kind of turning her skin red? This is why we try to shoot indoors during daytime and why professionals use flash.

3. Try to position yourself with your back to the window or with the window to your side.

For the best photos, try not to backlight your subjects. This means, try not to shoot into the window (this blows out your subject and isn’t pretty for editing). You want the light to illuminate your subject, so positioning yourself with the window behind you or at your side makes sure the light hits them but doesn’t wash out the scene. 

This is a good example of shooting into the window and what it does to your photos. See how Josh’s hair is a little blown out and you can’t really see the detail on it? That’s why you don’t shoot into the window with an iPhone.

4. If you have portrait mode, use it!

A major thing to remember with how to take better iPhone photos, is that there’s nothing wrong with letting Apple give you a little help. If you have a portrait mode on your phone, go ahead and put it in portrait mode if you are shooting portraits (do not use it for landscape scenes or large group photos). Portrait mode blurs the background of your photo, much like a smaller aperture would do on a professional DSLR, and makes the subject pop out. Basically, the subject is isolated from the background. 

Portrait mode photos usually look the closest to professional portraits because of this magic hoo-doo software Apple has created. I would not recommend blowing them up for huge images but it gets the job done!

How to Take Better iphone Photos
This was shot using portrait mode at sunset. You can see how the focus is on Nora’s body and the background is blurred. This makes us focus more on her rather than any other part of the photo.

5. Do not try to zoom. Zoom with your feet.

For the love of all things, do not try to zoom on your iPhone. It is my biggest pet peeve of phone photos. Use your feet to zoom. It will look so much better if you don’t try to test the phone’s ability to zoom. It just doesn’t look good and turns out pixelated. No thank you!

See how bad this zoom is? Josh took this photo. PIXELATED ICK!

6. Don’t be afraid to flip your phone and take some landscape shots.

Though it’s easy to take portrait oriented shots on an iPhone (and it feels most natural to do so), try flipping your phone to take some landscape oriented shots. It’ll feel a little weird, but those photos usually work better for documentary photos. You can create more of a scene instead of just trying a straight-up portrait.

7. Get on their level.

Ever had someone shoot a photo right up at you? Like full on chin and nose? It’s not flattering. Before you start getting creative, try to get on the same level as your subject. This may mean crouching down or even laying on the floor. If you must, take photos from above, not below, your subject!

If you want to get really fancy, learn about the rule of thirds in this article!

How to Take Better iphone Photos
Here I got down and the phone was just above Nora’s head. I also used portrait mood to really get the details on her face. The window is behind me here.

8. Think about scene and not just subject.

I think in the home and with documentary photos, it’s not just always about the subject. It’s also about the scene of the home. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and just observe everything. Not everything has to be a portrait with perfect rule of thirds and centered subjects. Some photos can be interesting and good because of the story they tell. And right now I know you have some stories to tell. 

How to Take Better iphone Photos
Taking a step back here to get the whole scene instead of just Nora. This is one of my favorite photos of her on patrol.

9. Try not to direct or pose.

Some may disagree, but I think what is best about shooting in your home is the documentary aspect to it. Try to blend into the background and just capture your kids when they aren’t paying attention. You don’t need to tell them what you’re doing (they’ve probably seen your phone in your hand, right). Watch them and take images when you think the time is right.

How to Take Better iphone Photos
If you have a pet, bribe them with treats.

10. Overall, have fun!

I could teach you a million photography tricks and how to take better iPhone photos, but in 10 years, it won’t really matter if all your photos are perfect. When I look back at the photos my parents took of us when we were kids, they aren’t perfect. But I love them because it brings me back to those moments. That’s what’s important. Don’t stop photographing, have fun with it and maybe you’ll just be a little more practiced when all of this is over!

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