June 21, 2018

How to take great photos with your iPhone

The good news is you don’t need to have a great camera to take great photos! Last year I visited Nepal and only had my iPhone to take all my pictures, including video and my scenic shots flying over Mt Everest. I was really pleased with them because I basically took my time and got my eye in.

That’s the key: to take a great photo you need to get your eye in.

iPhone pic of mt everest

I took this panorama from the cockpit of the plane on my iPhone. That’s Mt Everest in the far right.

A friend once told me I must have a good camera because my photos were so good. I was a bit offended tbh. She meant well by the comment, but the reality is you wouldn’t tell your dinner host they must have a good oven because the meal was great, would you?

I have always loved photography. My great-grandfather was a professional photographer in New Zealand in the 1900s-40s and our family has some beautiful sepia photos of my grandmother and her siblings as little ones and lots of beautiful images of Hamilton and Piha, places he loved. He would try clever tricks in his dark room with holes in the film to create a sun and had an eye for beautiful composition. His work was exhibited in NZ and London.

Here are 6 simple tricks to help you take beautiful photos (smartphone or not)

1 Declutter: don’t try and capture too many things in your photo. Simple is best.

decluttering photo

By standing close to the cistern I was able to declutter this pic and make it about the girls

2 Close up: kind of the same as above, but zoom in to crop out the excess clutter.

zoom in photo tips

This is a typical power pole in Nepal and I wanted it against the sky so zoomed to cut out the buildings

3 Focus: tap the specific item in the frame that you want the image to focus on (see below for more focus and exposure tips).

4 Take your time. You might get lucky just pointing and shooting, but if you’re taking a scenery photo, for example, take your time to move the camera slowly and studying what you are capturing in the photo.

Being patient when taking photos

New Zealand is called Aotearoa in Maori. It means Land of the Long White Cloud. When our plane came down the North Island the whole island was covered in this white cloud so I waited until the plane wing underlined it.

5 Try different angles. Sure you can stand right in front of the flower and click, but try tilting the camera above or below it and see what results you get. Or put the subject to one side.

Pashupatinath cremations

Watching the cremations at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, I put the Sadhu in the lower right

6 Make eye contact. Take the time for your subject, whether it be human or animal, to look at you. Do whatever it takes to get their eyes looking down the lens. I was on an outback tour in Australia once and we found a koala asleep up a gum tree. We all stood under it and took photos, which were very boring. There’s no shouting at a eucalyptus-drunk koala to wake it up, but when our guide told us the trick was to break a twig, it worked! Apparently the thing that wakes them is the threat they might fall.

How much better would this photo have been if the baby was looking at me too.

Use eye contact when taking photos

Making eye contact makes wonderful people shots

5 iPhone camera tricks you might not know

I learned a few new tricks and shortcuts on this site iPhonePhotographySchool >>

1 Turn on your camera three ways: unlock your phone and hit the icon, swipe up and hit the icon OR THIS TRICK: when your phone is locked, just swipe from right to left and the camera is open. A great tip for averting the panic of needing to take a quick snap but not having the time to click through the other steps.

2 Use your headphones to take the photo. I did not know this! I just found it on a great iPhone tutorial video which you can watch in the link above, but you just open the camera app and let’s say you want to take a discrete photo or you are taking a low light photo at night time, you can put your iPhone down on the table or on a tripod (so you don’t shake it) and line up your shot, then using your volume + or – buttons, with the iPhone headphones plugged in, you take the pic.

3 Burst mode feature. This is great for action shots. Just hold your finger on the shutter button and it will rip off several in a few seconds and you can just delete the ones you don’t like that. Note: it bursts quickly! I held my finger down about 3 seconds and it took 24 frames.

Burst mode on iPhone

I love the light and silhouette in this lakeside park in Pokhara. Use burst mode to capture sports pics like this one with the ball in the air

4 Manual focus. You say whaat? Yes you can manually focus in your iPhone. Just tap the part of the screen you want to be in full focus and voila. This is great for a food shot or a close up object when there is a busy background and you want that to be blurred out a little. If you don’t do this the iPhone will choose what to focus on itself and you may end up with a fuzzy flower and a sharp leaf.

5 Increase or decrease the exposure. Yep you can play with exposure on your trusty iPhone and I do this all the time. Just tilting your phone will cause it to change exposure so you might be able to find the brightness you want that way. Otherwise the same technique you use for focus also alters exposure. Just tap the area you want to be bright (or darker) and as well as the focus square you’ll see a little vertical yellow line with a sunshine. Just move your finger up or down and what the image get brighter or darker.

If you want the focus AND exposure to jump back to the default setting after you’ve take one photo (cos you spent a bit of time getting it just so!), just hold your finger on the screen for a couple of seconds and AE/AF Lock will appear in a yellow block meaning you are good to take a whole lot of images with that setting.

Now it’s your turn. Get out there and have fun 😀

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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