“Okay, how the heck do you take good photos with just an iPhone?” We get asked this question all the time, and we totally get it! For me, it took years to save up enough money to buy my professional camera equipment, and even now, I don’t always carry it with me. Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll see something that inspires me and I’ll want to quickly snap a photo… but my camera equipment is all the way at home. I’ve also had times where I am traveling and don’t want to bring all of my expensive gear with me. No matter your circumstances, smart phones are coming out with better and better cameras every year– there’s no reason you can’t take incredible photos with your iPhone!

Here are my top tips for the iPhone photos of your dreams: 

Know Your iPhone Camera Operations

This seems like a no- brainer, but adjusting the focus and exposure on your iPhone before you take a pic is one of the most important things you can do when taking a photo. 

Focus

Make sure your image comes out sharp and clear by locking in your focus. If you’re taking a photo of someone else (or yourself,) tap the individual’s face in the shot to set your focus there. A yellow square will appear around your focus point. If you want to take multiple shots of the same individual, you can hold down your focus point to lock it in. This way, if you switch angles, the focus will stay in place. 

Exposure

Once you’ve set your focus, drag your thumb up or down on the screen to set your exposure. Exposure is the amount of light that is let into the photo. If a photo is overexposed, the lighter colors in an image will be “blown- out,” or mainly white. If it is underexposed, it will be too dark. I typically like to keep my exposure slightly lower than I want the desired photo to be- this always gives me more room to work in editing.

Composition

Let’s talk about your photo composition– this is everything within the shot. It’s really easy to see something beautiful and take a quick pic of it, but thinking deeper about your composition will turn an average iPhone photo into an “omg, I can’t believe you shot that on an iPhone” photo. 

Rule of Thirds

This is a rule you can find in any photography textbook, and it was one of the first things I was taught in my media production classrooms in college. The idea is that if you take a photo and divide it into thirds (horizontally and vertically) into 9 squares, a viewer’s eye is more likely to be drawn towards the intersections of those squares, rather than the middles. Take a look at the example below.

The shoe in this photo is situated right in the middle of the center section, whereas the intersections of the 9 squares are not situated on anything of importance– the floor, the wall, a portion of the leg.


In this example, the logo of the shoe is situated at the intersection of the bottom right and middle squares. The eye is naturally drawn to this place in a photograph, and the viewer automatically notices the subject of the image first.

Open Space

When taking a photo, I often think of the space surrounding the subject more than the subject itself. Oftentimes I find that utilizing open space in an image helps create intrigue, and draw the viewer’s eye towards the subject. Utilizing open space also helps when you’re posting photos to Instagram, because it allows your feed to breathe, and makes photos look less busy.  

This photo by @sorelleamore and @leonthealchemist is an amazing example of using open space in a photo. PS- Sorelle is an incredible Instagram + YouTube influencer and her photo composition is ALWAYS perfection. 👌 Check her out for some major inspo.

Foreground vs. Background

When most people compose a shot, they naturally think of what is in the background. You’ve seen this before at a party or event, when the photographer has everyone stand in front of a plain wall, a unique location, or a scenic background. What most people don’t think of is what is in the foreground. Having items in the foreground of a shot can be a positive addition to the shot, as it can add interest. However, it can also be a negative addition to the shot, as it can distract. Take a look at the following photos to see how utilizing foreground can impact a photo.

This photo is from my personal IG feed, taken by @brielynnphotography. In this photo, I am clearly the subject, but I cropped the photo so that the forest leaves stay in the foreground. This conveys to the viewer that we are deep within the forest, and evokes the feeling of being small within the majesty of nature. If I had framed the photo closer, with little in the foreground, the photo may not have had the same effect.
This is a photo taken of me by @brivera_photography for Organic Skin Co. They sent me their face oil, and I was creating content about it (ps- it is actually SO good, and I’m not paid to say it.) I utilized the foreground by placing the subject of the photo (the product) there and keeping the foreground in focus. I then put myself in the background, out of focus. I love this shot because it conveys a feeling of rest and relaxation, without making me the primary focus of the shot. 

It’s All About The Angle!

When most people take a photo with their iPhone, they take it from about chest- high. This makes sense– it’s where our hands naturally fall when holding an iPhone, and it is easier to see the screen when taking the photo. One thing that will set your photos apart is if you choose different angles. Crouch low towards the ground, looking up at your subject. Go from above, or slightly skewed towards the right. Playing with your angles can make all the difference when it comes to getting that perfect shot. 

This is a photo I took of the poet and author, @morganhoog. I got this shot by *literally* laying in the street. Playing with those angles gets more unique perspectives!

Movement

Movement is one of my favorite things to include in photos; it creates a story within the shot, and adds a life-like quality that photos often lack. To capture movement on your iPhone, utilize the “burst mode” and hold down the shutter as your subject moves. Yes, you’ll have quite a few photos that don’t quite work, but you’ll also have a few gems! Take a look at a few of my faves below.

Editing

Truthfully, editing is the real MVP when it comes to photography. Yes, you should put effort into your original shot, and editing can’t fix bad composition. However, when you’ve got a decent shot, a good edit can make it incredible. To edit my photos, my main ride- or- dies are Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Afterlight

I mainly use photoshop for editing backgrounds, textures, or specific items in the photo, and I use Lightroom to adjust light, colors, and tones. If you’re new to the world of Lightroom, you can download editing presets to make your life a bit easier. At the beginning, this was one of my favorite ways to learn how to manipulate a photo to achieve a certain look. (Ps- there maaaaay be a few Lightroom presets coming your way from The Salt Influence! To stay updated, subscribe to our newsletter here on our website.)

For those of you who don’t feel ready to jump into the adobe game, Afterlight is an incredible app that accomplishes a lot of the same things as the Adobe tools. I also like Afterlight because you can add light leaks and dust textures to your photos.

Check out this before and after! This baby was taken AND edited completely on an iPhone! 👇👇👇👇

BEFORE
AFTER

If you’re interested in a more in-depth tutorial on editing photos, let me know in the comments below or via Instagram!

Add- On Lenses

If you’re doing everything above and still not achieving the look you want, it may be time to invest in an attachable iPhone lens. These guys are cheaper than buying a full camera setup, but they’ll have your iPhone photos looking a step- up. One of the best brands to buy is Moment, and they’ve got some incredible bundle deals to get started!

I hope this blog helps you feel inspired and ready to take some AMAZING iPhone photos. We would love to see your work, so don’t forget to tag us @thesaltinfluence on Instagram!