As a Dunwoody Newborn Photographer I know how important it is for moms to take lots and LOTS of photos of their new babies and little ones. They change and grow so fast! For most of us that means our camera phones are going to get some pretty heavy use.
Yet we all know from experience with our camera phones that sometimes you may get a great photo – but many times, you don’t.
Often your camera images come out grainy or blurry and out of focus, or just don’t look all that interesting. I’m here to help! Camera phones do have their limitations but there are some ways that we can work within those limitations to create better photos. Below are three tips that will drastically improve your iPhone photos (be sure to check out the video tutorial at the end of this post!):
Be aware of the light in which you are taking photos.
Avoid low light: Camera phones are not equipped to deal well with low light. Whenever possible, make sure you have plenty of light to work with when taking photos with your camera phone. Low light can tend to lead to blurry photos because the camera is using a low shutter speed in order to get enough light to take the photo. It can also lead to grainy images.
Look for even light: Make sure the light in which you are taking photos is falling evenly on your subject. Look out for dappled light or bright spots of light on the skin. If the light on your subject isn’t even change your camera angle or look for some open shade where the light is more even.
Turn off the overhead lights: Make sure there is only one source of light. When you are indoors this means turning off the overhead lights so that you are using only the natural light coming through your windows. This is helpful because it won’t confuse the camera as to which light source it should give priority to and you won’t have the unnatural looking orange colors that tend to result from indoor lighting.
Be artistic with your use of light: Look for interesting light, such as light coming from behind your subject (back light) or light coming from the side (directional light). There are no great photos without great light and interesting light makes for a beautiful photo. Without interesting light even photos taken with a “real” camera can look boring. This is where your artistic eye comes into play, no matter the camera you are holding in your hand!
Choose your focal point.
This is the one thing you can do when taking the photo that will drastically improve your chances of getting the photo in focus and properly exposed (not to bright or too dark). Using your camera’s native camera app, hold your finger on the phone’s screen and keep it down until you see the message “AE/AF lock.” This means that your focal point is locked where you want it. This is also the point that the camera will use to determine the exposure of the photo. If you are photographing a person, this should be on their face. It should be wherever you want the focal point of the photo to be. Be sure not to move after you lock the focal point but go ahead and take the photo.
In this photo you can see that I placed my focal point on the pony’s eye and that is the most in-focus point in the image (anyone else have a lot of these around their house??):
This is more easily accomplished with a relatively still subject, so it may not always be possible to use this feature of your camera phone. Whenever possible, though, I recommend choosing your focal point to get sharper photos.
A helpful app:
For those interested in a greater degree of control while taking photos with your phone you may want to check out Camera +. Camera + is an app that allows you to choose not only your focal point but your exposure point. It also allows you to change your shutter speed and ISO independently and you can adjust the white balance before taking the photo (make the image warmer or cooler). You can make it as “manual” or as “auto” as you wish – Camera + can do both.
Camera + has a lot of great capabilities, but it can be overly complicated for the photos most of us want to take – photos of our moving children. But for those who want more artistic control by all means have a play!
Camera + can be helpful in a situation where you have an image with light and dark areas because you can separate the focal point from the exposure point. If there isn’t much light on your subject you can move the exposure point to a darker area of the image. That will result in lightening up your subject. If you want your subject to appear darker you can move the exposure point to a brighter area of the image. You can play with it for different effects.
Use photo editing software to make up for what your camera phone can’t do.
Camera phones have a fixed aperture, which means that it’s hard, if not impossible, to get the blurry backgrounds that separate the subject from the background and really make a photo pop. It’s not possible to control this while taking photos with your phone, but it is possible to add blur and to adjust your photos in other ways that will make them look much more polished.
My favorite editing app is called Snapseed. It’s free! With Snapseed you can:
•add background blur
•make global adjustments
•make selective adjustments
•correct blemishes and lots more
all from your phone! It’s a really powerful tool for improving your camera phone photos. Here are some before and after photos edited with Snapseed (video tutorial below!):
One word of caution about photos made with camera phones. As you will see it’s possible to do a lot to improve them. It’s a wonderful thing to have beautiful everyday memories. But please be aware that your camera photos are not going to enlarge well. I’m a huge advocate of printing your memories (check out this great info on printing your camera photos here) but there is a level of quality that can only be achieved with better equipment and the know how to make high quality images. They may look good on a small screen but in many cases won’t print well much larger than 4×6, maybe 5×7. By all means do print your memories, but also manage your expectations of what your device can do and make sure you occasionally get some higher quality photos with a “big” camera, too.
How to use Snapseed to improve your camera phone photos:
If you found this video helpful, please share it on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook Share icon at the bottom of this post. We would love to have you join us in Atlanta Moms with Cameras, a private Facebook group for local Atlanta moms where you can learn more and improve your camera skills!