With the advent of iPhones, everyday photography is new and here to stay! It seems crazy to look back to when I was a lot younger and would carry my little film camera with me all the time. I wanted it with me just in case I saw something interesting and doing this made me feel like a renegade - it was a unique thing to do!
Today, that is something we ALL do! Each of us (my husband with the “dumb phone” is an odd exception) always carries a camera with us. We become prolific photographers without even thinking about it! This is especially wonderful as parents, to digitize any little moment with our kids. I love it!
However, as great as iPhones are – the technology is sort-of failing us. All too often iPhone photos are blurry, dark, busy, and just forgettable. And it’s not entirely the photographer’s fault. Your iPhone camera – though miraculous and small - is very automatic and chooses for you how to take the photo. But there are a few simple things you can do as the photographer to enhance your photos. Henceforth, follow these tips and you are sure to see an improvement in your photos and will find yourself printing and framing more of your own work!
1) Use the Focus/ Exposure Button
Maybe you knew this, but I must admit I did not until recently. You have a focus button on your iPhone. It is your finger! When you are ready to take your photo, tap the area that is your subject. This will bring up a little blue box. This little box is where your image will be most focused and properly exposed. Notice the blue focus/ exposure box in this iPhone screen shot. (The green box is face recognition.) If you hold your finger on the blue box for about 3 seconds, it will flash and then you have “locked” the exposure and focus. If you are prepping to photograph an image with a lot of contrast with bright/ dark areas, be sure to use this - such as if your child is in front of a bright window. Notice in the image above I focused on his eye which is always a good idea. In-focus eyes are key!
Sun flare (when the sun hits the camera lens) is “hot” in photography these days. People really respond to the dreamy, washed-out look of a person bathed in soft directional light. It can make our kids look wistful and soft, not to mention angelic! I’ve noticed that iPhones do as good (if not better) a job at capturing sun flare than professional lenses. With iPhones, it comes across evenly with the subject in focus - something many photographers struggle to achieve. So use it with your iPhone! To do this, the easiest result will be early morning after sunrise and/ or late evening before sunset. But it is fun to use anytime. Just shoot into the sun and enjoy the results. It’s interesting to play with different angles to see how the sun’s rays will shape the effects of your image.
3) Use "The Grid" (and rule of thirds)
Your phone has a grid like a tic-tac-toe game. It can help you make sure your image is level with the horizon/ straight, but its real purpose is to help you compose the photo. This is all about the “rule of thirds”. Interesting composition is placing your subject in the first third or the last third of the photo. You will have four of these guides – top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right. Choose one of these intersections and put your child’s eye at this point such as with my daughter in this image. Try it and compare to photos with your child in the center of the image. Quite an interesting difference! To make the grid appear on your screen, go to “options” and turn grid on!
4) For Action, Use Light!
This tip is all about capturing sharper, non-blurry images. Kids are QUICK! (If your child is less than one, enjoy! …And revisit this tip in a few months.) I am often frustrated with the blur of my iPhone images when my kids are in motion. Maybe you are too. And this is due to the iPhone’s automatic choice to slow the shutter speed if the available light isn’t super bright. So here is what you can do. Photograph a quickly moving child in bright light only - outdoors, in the sun, or in a VERY bright room. If you expect most indoor shots to be sharp, you will be disappointed. You could try using flash indoors – this might help, but the best bet for sharp photos is outdoor sunlight. Also, make sure you are holding your phone very still when you “click”. This will eliminate the possibility that your photos are blurry because you’re moving your phone as the shutter clicks!
5) Please... No More Cheese
No matter what technicals you achieve with your iPhone, if your child is not cooperative, well, where does that get us? In some cases, telling your child to say “cheese” is better than having them cry, pout, or run away when trying to take their picture. (But not always better!)
I chuckle knowing that somehow, every kid picks up this habit of saying “cheese” when a camera is pointed at them. My own daughter contracted a case of “frozen cheese”. You know – CHEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSE. She did not learn to do this from me.
The problem with “cheese” is they stop being natural, and kids are just so awesome when they’re natural, not to mention fun to photograph! Whenever possible, try being a stealthy photographer - don’t announce you are taking a photo. As a result, you will end up with candid moments that speak more about them, their personality, what sparked their interest, and what in that crazy young mind they might be thinking. These details are what make photos stand out and can be precious for a parent. When first trying this, you will end up with some awkward photos, but keep at it. In the meantime, they will see that you’re not making a big deal out of taking their photo, and their resistance (if any to begin with) will stop. And so will that awful “cheeeeese” face! Hurray!
Well I thank my twins for being fun models to help this article come together, and I sincerely hope this makes you want to pick up your camera (er, I mean phone) and create some memories of your kids today! If you enjoyed this writing, please “like” me on Facebook HERE for more articles like this and installments of my own photography work. Happy kid-tographing!
© Meghan McLaughlin-Polaniecki / Mom of Three Photography 2013