Smile! iPhones have become the new point and shoot that fits in your pocket. But in the hustle and bustle of “getting the shot,” are we using our camera phones to their highest capabilities? Probably not! Tap into your inner-Annie Leibovitz, or just become a selfie master with these 15 photography tips that any iPhone user can apply to their daily shots—no equipment or extra training required.

photo: Jordan Donaldson | @jordi.d on Unsplash

1. Use burst mode. Whenever you’re taking any kind of action shot (think soccer games or bounce house fun), you can simply tap and hold your finger on the shutter button, and your iPhone will automatically activate the burst mode. Essentially, your phone takes a bunch of photos at one time, so that you can go back through them to pick the best in-motion shot and discard the others.

2. Take cool silhouette pics. Trust us, they’re easier than you might think. All you need is an interesting subject (shouldn’t be hard), then just shoot towards the light, which you’ll need to do when the sun is at the horizon. Your subject will appear dark and cool.

3. Phone a friend. When your photo needs extra light (but you know the flash will ruin the pic), grab a friend. Have her turn on the phone’s flashlight as your source of light. She can hold it towards one side of your subject to naturally mimic the sun as you take the shot. So. Pretty.

photo: Amber Guetebier


4. Change the way you hold the phone.
Most of us hold the phone upright and snap a picture of our kids, but changing the position of your phone can make a subtle-but-big difference. For example, flip the phone upside down—you can create angles this way and still easily reach the photo button to take your shot. Try holding the photo low to the ground and taking a pic of your kiddo from a different angle—you’ll get sky or pretty leaves in the background and add a sense of whimsy to the photo that screams #lifewithkids.

5. You don’t have to unlock your phone. You probably know this already but just in case … if your phone is locked, you can just swipe left to pull your camera up. No passcode or touch ID required (that’s how those selfies of your bestie got on your phone!).

6. It’s easier to lighten a dark photo than darken a photo that is too bright. If you’re faced with a situation where the lighting is too low, but adding a big overhead light or flash will ruin the photo, opt for darker. You can take a dark photo and lighten it (with photo editing apps for iPhone), but if your photo is too light, it’s hard to darken enough to make it worth keeping.

photo: Santi Verdi via Unsplash

7. Your phone comes with focus. When you have your camera open, just tap the screen where you want your focus to be (a yellow box will indicate). Tap it again and it will allow you to adjust the exposure.

8. Use your apps wisely. Inexpensive apps like ProCamera ($4.99) cost a couple of bucks in the app store, but they can offer you a wide range of editing tools and filters beyond what comes on your phone. They also allow you to mess around with things like focus, set exposure based on your location and more. (Hello, high-school photography class skills, we knew you’d be handy one day!)

photo: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

9. Protect your phone. If worrying you’re going to drop your phone or get it wet is holding you back from being more adventurous with your photos, invest in a good case like an Otter Box, and get playful! Setting the camera on a timer and putting it in a tree, for example, might give you cool shadows and capture the authentic movement of children at play. Letting the kids take some shots once in a while can round out your collection, too.

10. Use your earbuds to click the shutter. Did you know that you can actually use the + volume button on your headphones to take a photo, which means you can move further away when taking shots … and if you have wireless earbuds you basically can take a timed photo without having to set the timer!

photo: Insung Yoon via Unsplash

11. Consider composition before you click. Remember the rule of three: a good photo has three main focus points. That doesn’t mean it has to be three of the same thing in a row. Think of your photo as being divided into thirds, with each section having one thing of interest to the eye.

12. Move around. Word on the iPhone street is that the standard zoom on the camera is not so great. Instead of trying to get closer with the zoom function, just get closer. When you move closer to your subject you’ll also be able to snap the shot at whatever angle you’d like.

13. Don’t go overboard on filters, and put your filter on your phone BEFORE you take the photo. If you want to use a filter, try editing your photos in the Instagram app, where a double-tap on any filter allows you to adjust the amount. Also, if you don’t edit anything else, go into Instagram editing tools and mess with the contrast or structure. A little enhancing can create sharper lines and a better quality photo. You can also put a filter on before you take a photo to get a better idea of what it will do to the image. Just click on the little filter icon (3 circles, upper right-hand corner), and select before you snap.

photo: Jessica To’oto’o on Unsplash

14. Record and snap pics simultaneously. Sometimes (er, most of the time) you just can’t get your subject to sit still for a photo. That’s okay! While you are in video mode, you can also take photos. Here’s how: Switch to video mode and start filming. Simply tap the white shutter button to capture a photo while recording. Bonus: You can tell your subject you are recording (’cause you are!), and they’ll be less posey-posey for the shot.

15. Take a better (and easier) selfie. News flash: You can use your + volume button on the side of your phone to take a picture. Because how many hand cramps have you gotten from trying to wrap your fingers into a claw to press the screen button while holding the phone steady?

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—Ayren Jackson-Cannady & Amber Guetebier