When it comes to snapping photos, unless you’re a professional photographer, the odds are most of the time you’ll be using your phone. Which is why we’ve rounded up nine tips that any iPhone user can apply to their daily shots—no equipment or extra training required. Scroll down to find ideas you can experiment with before, during and after you take that postcard-worthy shot.

photo: Amber Guetebier

1) 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.

2) 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!)

photo: Santi Verdi via Unsplash

3) 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.

4) 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 in-app editing tools, such as the yellow box above)  but once if your photo is too light, it’s hard to darken enough to make it worth keeping.

5) 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!)

6) Don’t go overboard on filters, and put your filter on your phone BEFORE you take the photo. Don’t go overboard with filters! The biggest mistake most people make to existing photos is to get carried away with filters. 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…so you can do like 10% Clarendon instead of 100. 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: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

7) 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.

8) 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

9) 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.

Want more tips? Check out these! And share your own in the comments below. 

5 Easy Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Kids 

10 Tips for Photographing Your Child Authentically

—Amber Guetebier

featured image: Linda Xu via Unsplash