Anyone can pick up an iPhone and take a photo, but it takes a more skilled photographer to create a truly great image. Taking incredible photos with an iPhone is actually very easy, as long as you follow some important guidelines on focus, exposure, composition and photo editing. In this article, you’ll discover essential techniques that every serious mobile photographer should know.

It’s All About the Light

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That’s what will help make a good image a great image. Check out the shadows that the sun makes on subjects. Notice the reflective light off buildings. Practice during the ‘golden hour,’ the period of time shortly after sunrise or just prior to sunset. Watch how the light from a window falls inside a room at different moments.

The smart phone is not the greatest in low light situations. It’s best to capitalize on lighting conditions your device functions under best.

Avoid Zooming

Do not ever use the zoom on your smart phone. I think this is the first step towards taking a bad smartphone picture. If you want to zoom in on something, use your legs and move! There is technical mumbo jumbo but all you need to know is that the zoom on mobile devices is never good.

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Stop Shaking

Camera shake when taking pictures is very overlooked even on the large cameras. The key to fixing this is to practice how you hold your phone.

  • Hold it horizontal at all times instead of vertical. This gives you a wider frame.
  • Try burst mode when snapping pictures of moving objects.
  • Know what you will use for your shutter (either the button assigned, a software shutter button, a tripod and timer, or the volume on your headphones). The idea is to get you to a place where you take clear images with no camera shake. You’ll be happy with the result.
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Try Different Angles

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Change your perspective on things. I recently had a student whose friend told her that changing angles on a shot is not the best practice for getting a great shot. I beg to differ. I think changing your angles and your perspective not only gets you a better shot, it also shows how you see the subject. So get down on the ground, climb up on a high vantage point, move to the side and change your point of view. Try as many different angles on your subject as possible.

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Mobile photography is awesome because of the thousands of apps that are dedicated to the camera on smart phones. These apps are incredibly helpful in editing your work. While you can’t correct problems like bad lighting, you can improve other details to make a subject look acne-free, sharpen specific aspects of an image or let you add interesting text or other effects over the photo. Find your favorite, learn to use it well, and you can take your already awesome image onto the next level.

Clean Your Lens

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It’s a simple rule of thumb. Clean the glass on your lens. Much like when you have a dirty windshield, cleaning it can give you sharper view and improve results. A shot with a clean lens is always going to be better than a shot with your greasy thumb print.

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Quality AND Quantity

Don’t be afraid to take another shot. Snap away at anything and everything that suits your fancy. The important thing here is that the more photos you shoot, the more comfortable you will get and the more you will determine the direction you’d like to take your mobile photography. The only thing holding you back is how much storage is on your phone and how long your battery can last.

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Mirror, Mirror… Who’s the Fairest?

Here’s one of my favorite tips: Mirrors, glasses, puddles and bodies of water, smooth and shiny surfaces…all make for awesome reflections. Push yourself to look for reflective surfaces and place your subjects at angles or in direct comparison to the reflection. Even simple shades of light can make amazing reflections.

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Set The Focus

The most important thing to look out for when taking a photo is to make sure that your subject is in sharp focus. To set the focus on the iPhone camera you simply tap the screen where your subject is in the frame. A small yellow square will appear to confirm the focus point. If your subject is moving around, make sure you tap the screen just before you take the shot to ensure that they are in focus.

Once you’re happy that you have gotten a sharp photo of your subject, you can draw more attention to them if you wish by using one of the many apps available to blur the background as part of your editing process.

Adjust Exposure Manually

When you tap on the subject to focus on them, the camera will also use the focus point to set the exposure in the shot. Exposure simply refers to how bright or dark the image is. Allowing the camera to set exposure on the focus point isn’t always ideal. For example, if the subject is in a dark area of the frame, this could lead to the overall image being over-exposed (too bright) or vice versa.

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In iOS 8, Apple introduced a new manual exposure tool. When you set the focus by tapping the screen, a small sun icon appears on the side of the focus square. When you see the sun icon, simply swipe up or down on the screen to adjust the exposure slider. Swiping up will brighten the overall image, and swiping down will darken it. When you’re happy with the exposure/brightness of the image, release your finger from the screen. This manual exposure slider allows for much greater control over the look of the final image.