How to take pictures with your iPhone camera: 13 tips

Hi! This is Jon, and today I’ve got an epic post about how you can take better pictures with your mobile phone camera.

iPhones and other smart mobile phones all come with fairly good quality cameras, considering the size of the lenses available to these small hand-held units. Also considering that a phone is first and foremost a means of communication rather than an image capturing device, the mobile phone camera designers have done quite an amazing job.

But how can you get the most out of your iPhone or other smartphone camera?

Here are 13 tips to help you take stunning, interesting, and amazing photographs with your phone.

How to take amazing images with your iPhone camera: 13 tips

1: Clean the lens

near and far
Your mobile phone probably spends a lot of time in environments filled with microscopic dust and dirt particles such as your pocket or a bag. This is why lenses of mobile phone cameras tend to have a much harder life than lenses on normal point-and-click digital cameras or SLR’s.

Before taking any photos, wipe down the lens of your mobile camera with a soft cloth. If you’re out and about, a clean cotton t-shirt will normally do the trick.

2: Check HDR settings

light settings

This is the same photograph taken with HDR off and HDR on. Look at the differences in brightness and contrast. (You may need to scroll up and down, depending on your computer screen.)

As you can see, the top image (HDR on) is much brighter whilst the bottom image (HDR off) has richer yellows and reds.

When using HDR mode, make sure you give the camera some extra time, as it will in fact take 2 images, one after the other. Any movement of the camera during the photo capturing process will result in a blurred second image.

3: Lighting

iphone camera

An iPhone camera – or any mobile phone camera for that matter – works best in daylight environments, with the sun behind you, or at the side. Having the sun directly in front of you can create interesting silhouette images, if that is the effect that you are after (see further down).

If you do want to take pictures at night time or in other low light areas, make sure you keep very still, as aperture time increases as light levels decrease. Another option is to use a mobile phone camera tripod.

4: Experiment with textures

textures

Often we try to take a photo of a particular subject: A person, a building, an animal etc. But when you’re out and about, your mobile phone camera can take some surprisingly interesting texture images too. This one is from a stony beach in Ventimiglia in Italy.

Maybe there are some interesting textures right under your nose (or feet!) near where you live?

Grab your iPhone and go texture hunting!

5: Take pictures of your local area

house local image iphone

forest iphone image

mobile phone photo

We often think that we have to travel to exotic lands in order to find the perfect shot. Not true. Have a closer look at the area where you live. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or so the expression goes.

Maybe there are some amazing photos just waiting to be captured by your mobile phone camera near where you live?

These three images above are taken in three different parts of Gothenburg: Örgryte, Delsjön and Långedrag.

6: Macro photography with your mobile phone camera

extreme close up

iPhone cameras – especially those in the iPhone 4, 4S, or 5 series, are surprisingly good at macro photography. Although very slightly fuzzy here (the image has been compressed for the internet) the above image is actually crystal clear in its original format.

For good macro photography with your phone, daylight is best, with high contrast between subject and background.

7: Go out on rainy days to take photos

dramatic skies

This dramatic image was taken on a stormy Summer’s day. The sun crept through cloud behind me just long enough to light up oranges and browns, against the greys of the dramatic sky.

Sunny days and bright outdoor lighting tend to work best with mobile phone cameras, but, I think the image above proves that there are exceptions.

8: Experiment with silhouettes

silhouette

Low light subjects tend to become very dark with iPhone cameras – especially when there is brightness present in the frame. However, you can use this to your advantage and experiment with some silhouette images. This one was taken behind an old boat house on a sunny day.

9: Contrast and filters

contrast and filters

Pärlan the cat is one of the most difficult photograhic subjects I’ve come across because she is absolutely pitch black. If she lies down on a black rug and closes her eyes, she vanishes. You can see her vanishing act in the top image, taken in bright daylight.

In the second image, she is much easier to see, with the high contrast of the off-white rug. However, the colour balance here really doesn’t do justice to her beautiful yellow eyes.

By applying a simple filter in Instagram in the bottom image, her yellow eyes become accenteuated, and her body doesn’t disappear as a shapeless, black blob.

10: Greyscale filters

no filter

greyscale filter

A simple way of creating a classy print is by turning an already beautiful image into greyscale by using an instagram filter. Greyscale vs. colour is a matter of taste, and personally I think both of the above images have their merits.

11: Make collages

instacollage

Instacollage is a free app which you can use to quickly and easily make fun collages of your favourite photos. Here is Brorsan, doing his thing with a paper bag :)

collage

And here is another collage, this time with variations on a nautical theme.

12: Pictures of flowers: Close up details

closeup red

The image to the right is boring and non-descript. The image to the left, of the same plant, is interesting and rich in detail.

flowers closeup

Fiery tulips – up close and personal.

påsklilja

Flowers contain so much detail that is easily missed, even at relatively close distances. Make sure you get as close as you can without the image becoming out of focus. With an iPhone camera in good lighting, you can get within a few centimetres of your subject, just like this image of a mini daffodil flower.

13: Sunsets and your iPhone camera

sunset 1

Sunsets can be tricky to capture with an iPhone or other mobile phone camera. The reason being that the camera decreases the shutter time when the light sensor registers a bright object like the sun. This is why many colourful sunsets become almost black and white in an iPhone camera.

The sunset image above has the sun pointing directly at the camera, however it is somewhat hidden behind the bridge, to make an interesting silhouette sunset photograph.

sunset 2

Believe it or not, the above image is also a sunset photograph. The sun in this case is slightly to the left of the photo, which allows for clearer and more vivid foreground colour. However, the sky appears white, which is not ideal.

sunset3

This is more like it. In the image above, the sun is partially masked behind high cloud. I was lucky enough to catch a seagull in mid-flight here, giving an interesting silhoutte motif.

sunset iphone

And finally, this amazing sunset image was taken in the Summer time on the island of Styrsö, in Gothenburg, Sweden. The sun is just off to the right of the image, and setting behind the hill. The image has been processed through a filter on instagram to bring out the blues, purples, and reds.

Bonus tip 1: Got time on your hands? Try sketching your photos.

sketch 1

sketch 2

sketch 3

sketch 4

These were some of my first attempts at sketching for over 20 years. They were made with a simple sketching block, HB and 3B pencil, and an eraser. Each sketch took about 2 – 3 hours. Make some time and give it a try for yourself. It’s a a great way to relax and give your brain a rest during a vacation period.

Bonus tip 2: Always have a camera or mobile phone camera with you

höst wallpaper

höstbild

These are two of my favourite images that I’ve taken with my iPhone. I took these photos (and several others) just recently. My intention was simply to go out for a walk in the forest to relax, but I am glad I had my phone with me!

I will probably enlarge both of these images (and others) and make them into prints to be sold online.

What did you think of my iPhone camera tips?

Have a great day!

/Jon

Photography: Jon Gorrie
Camera: iPhone 4S
Apps: Camera, Instagram, Instacollage
(Images compressed and optimized for web viewing.)



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10 Responses to How to take pictures with your iPhone camera: 13 tips

  1. Connie* Friday, November 1, 2013 at 02:59 #

    Hey Jon. Thanks for the great advice. Clean your camera lens. I like that one.

    • Jon Friday, November 1, 2013 at 17:37 #

      Hi Connie!

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s easy to forget actually. We were getting some 1980s soap opera soft focus pics on Maria’s iPhone and couldn’t figure out why…until we cleaned the lens :)

  2. Lilli Friday, November 1, 2013 at 14:44 #

    Wow Jon, your tips are really good! To not say how much wonderful your photos are! I’m stunned! Also the sketches are truly beautiful. I love to take photos with my phone and iPad mini, I always have them so I enjoy your tips so much. Wish you and Maria a very happy weekend, kisses! xo

    • Jon Friday, November 1, 2013 at 17:39 #

      Thanks, Lilli!

      Glad you like the tips and photos! Have a great weekend! :)

  3. Alessandra Friday, November 1, 2013 at 15:29 #

    Great tips!!
    Alessandra
    http://www.alessandrastyle.com

    • Jon Friday, November 1, 2013 at 17:39 #

      Thanks! :)

  4. Inna Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 09:31 #

    Thanks for so helpful tips

    • Jon Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 14:32 #

      Glad you liked them! :)

  5. Jen Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 17:25 #

    Nice tips!

    • Jon Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 18:58 #

      Thanks! :)

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