Photograph by Audrey Breheney.
Thanks to our smartphones, we’re all equipped to take a high-quality photo at any moment—if only we knew the techniques required to create a truly Instagram-worthy image. To help those of us who tend produce slightly blurry or off-center pics reach our full potential, we reached out to Audrey Breheney, a Northern New Jersey-based photographer who also teaches photography workshops, for tips and tricks for nailing an iPhone shot. Here, she breaks down how to take a smartphone photo like a pro:
Hold the phone in a horizontal position rather than vertically. If you’re holding your phone vertically while you tap to take the photo, the phone tends to move, causing a blur. When you hold the phone like you would a camera—horizontally with both hands—you are in a steadier position, which will allow you to create a sharper image.
Tap to focus. Many people look to the camera to know where to focus, but when shooting in automatic, as we do with a phone, you need to direct the lens by tapping where you want the focus to remain. On iPhones, tapping on the screen also lets you raise or lower the exposure—you can do this by sliding your finger up or down the sun icon that appears (brighter is up, darker is down).
Turn the grid option on. Use the grid function, which can be enabled under settings – camera, so you can see if your subject and horizon line are straight when you take the photo. The grid also allows you to use the rule of thirds more easily; this means placing your subject out of the center and instead centered to the third line, which will produce a more artistic image. If after using the grid option your image still isn’t straight, make sure to straighten it using an app (see below) before you share it with the world. No one likes a crooked ocean!
Watch out for distractions. Garbage cans, cars, or even photo bombers can ruin an otherwise wonderful shot. Instead of photographing your subject somewhere busy, find a cool wall nearby and use that as a backdrop. Be sure to place your subject about three feet in front of the wall so that you can add some depth of field to the image, which is another technique for creating a more artistic look.
Take the time to do a little processing before posting. One of the things everyone loves about the iPhone is the instant gratification—the fact that we can snap and share an image within seconds. That said, if you take a minute to retouch an image and add a cool filter it can make all the difference. The number one app I use is VSCO, a photo editing app that allows you to straighten, crop, and add filters (my favorite filter is M6, lowered to about 6). I also recommend Snapseed, which allows you to select a specific region of an image and brighten or darken it by using the “selective adjust” tool. Both apps have helpful tutorials on YouTube that will show you how to use them quickly and easily.
TSG Tip 224 and featured image from Audrey Blake Breheney of Audrey Blake Photography.