iPhoneography tips

Are you enjoying the CM birthday party this week?  The festivities are in full swing everywhere you can find us whether it be the forum, facebook, instagram, or here on the blog!  Do you follow CM on Instagram?  We’re having a party there as well with birthday related CMglimpse prompts and random drawings each day with prizes for those who tag their images with #cmis5!  Head on over and participate but first, read up on these great iPhoneography tips from CMpro Jo Clark!

iPhoneography tips and tricks

by Jo Clark

It was Chase Jarvis that stated, “­The best camera is the one that’s with you”. I don’t know about the rest of you but I surely don’t lug my giant DSLR or my clunky film camera around 24/7. My phone…now that’s another story. That thing is like an appendage to me. An extension of my right arm and I’m surprised I put it down long enough to shower. Ok, I  may be exaggerating a tad but it truly is the one thing besides my kids that is always by my side. The best part? It has a camera in it and a pretty good one too! I use an iPhone 4 to capture family memories on the go and love every minute of it. Of course I take a gazillion “mommy snaps” with it but I also like to challenge myself to create images I am proud of having taken with just a phone camera.  I’m often asked what my secrets are for creating images with my phone so I’ll share some of that with you today. I’ll be speaking specifically with regards to using an iPhone but I’m sure other smartphone brands have essentially the same capabilities. Remember when viewing this post that these images aren’t going to have the focus and clarity of a big camera as they were all taken on a phone. However, a slightly blurry or grainy memory is better than no memory at all and that’s part of our discussion here today.

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

Many people don’t know that you can set and lock your exposure by tapping on the area you want exposed. For instance, if I want to blow out the window behind my subject, I just tap on the area I want to receive correct or close to correct exposure. When using a phone camera, obviously you don’t have the control you do manually choosing all your settings on a DSLR or film camera so you will still have some underexposure on your subject if they are in heavily backlit situations. Just the opposite is true when tapping and locking exposure on the background. This will expose for the background and give your subject an underexposed, silhouette type look. Just experiment with choosing your exposure and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the control you have over your images.

iPhoneography tips photo

Me? I live life in the fast lane. To me that means clumsily chasing around a 2 year old and a 3 year old. They are never still, so most of my iPhone images are of them in motion. A little trick to help capture crisp movement is to press and hold the shutter button down and track your subject. When the moment strikes, quickly release your finger from the shutter which will trigger your iPhone to take the shot. The better the light is while trying to capture movement, the faster your shutter speed will be to freeze the moment.

iPhoneography tips photo

Let’s talk about light for a moment. Light is probably the most important factor in capturing good phone images. Look for ways light is falling on your subject whether it’s window light, a flashlight, a street lamp, light from a computer, TV, or ipad, etc. Strong light can also cast shadows, silhouettes, or reflections so be on the lookout for interesting light patterns. Remember though, single light sources in low light areas will force your phone camera to respond with a slower shutter speed and will introduce a lot more grain and motion blur into your images (which personally I covet).

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

Another important aspect of capturing striking phone camera images is to utilize negative space. Negative space assists in telling a story and adds a sense of vastness to your images. By simply placing your subject in the middle or corner of the frame, either utilizing the rule of thirds or creating your own rule for subject placement, you can take your images from blah to bam!

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

Varying your perspective always helps to create more interesting images as well. Hold your phone down low or get on your belly to lower your line of vision into what is happening with your subject. Shoot from below or above your subject to mix it up a bit.

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

Look for items to frame your subject. Just like you would with your DSLR or film camera, be aware of lines of symmetry or interesting shapes that draw attention to your subject matter.

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

Get an Olloclip! This little attachment is such a blast for breaking out of a rut and having fun on the go. It comes with a wide angle option, a fisheye, and a macro for unlimited creative possibilities! Best part? Yes, you have to take off your camera case in order to use it but it is soooo worth it.

iPhoneography tips photo

Finally, my favorite part of making an impact with iPhone images is the ability to use editing apps. My phone tends to have terrible white balance so that is always something I want to focus on fixing as well as adding some subtle filters to slightly change the tone and feeling of the image. As much as I love Instagram, I feel their filters are way too strong for my taste. I use VSCO and Afterglow editing apps for general light editing and Snapseed if I want to add something a little more extreme like depth of field blur. I tend to gravitate towards shooting with a black and white edit in mind and fiddling with the options in these apps helps me achieve my monochromatic vision. None of the images seen here or on my Instagram feed have been brought into an editing program on a computer. That’s part of the joy of this process for me. I can shoot, edit, and post an image from my phone in seconds all while sitting in the car or laying on the couch. Talk about fun stuff! Below are a few examples of before and afters using the aforementioned apps. Look how blue the white balance was in the original image of the first set!

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photo

When it comes down to creating memories, sometimes less “gear” is liberating and allows you to participate in the experience more easily. Of course we all love to have professional looking images of our families or pets but don’t let the fact that you left the camera at home stifle your creativity. To top it off, if you have a smartphone, you can participate in Instagram and connect with other CM friends as well by participating in the CMglimpse project by following the prompts and hash tagging your images with #cmglimpse. So, challenge yourself to leave your big camera at home for a few days and go out and shoot your life with just your phone. You will feel the freedom of being able to live in the moment with your family and capture killer shots along the way!

iPhoneography tips photo

iPhoneography tips photoJo Clark, California
website | blog | facebook | instagram
Jo Clark of BluElla Photography is a lifestyle and wedding documentarian based out of Sacramento, Ca. She shoots both film and digital and enjoys adventuring with her hubby and their 2 kids, drinking lots and lots of coffee, and singing too loud to her LP collection.


Read all photography tutorials by Jo Clark.

Would you like to join us in the Birthday Week festivities?  Head over to the photography forum now to participate in the games, contests, and perhaps grab a prize while doing so!  Not yet a member?  Use the code CMIS5 and get a trial membership for free here!  And to top it off, we’ll be choosing one random blog commenter a day to receive a surprise prize.  So make sure and leave some comments throughout the week and we’ll announce each days winner on Friday!


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128 Responses to “iPhoneography tips”

  1. Mar 21 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Gorgeous images! I love when you pop up in my IG feed. :)

  2. Mar 21 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks for all the tips! I use my iPhone camera all. the. time. I had no idea you could hold down the shutter button until you were ready to release it! I’m going to have to break down and get an Olloclip…

  3. Alice C.
    Mar 21 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Just gorgeous Jo!

  4. Sandy Thelen
    Mar 21 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Thanks for the great tips! I love the pictures you share on IG.

  5. Mar 21 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Those images are beautiful! Thanks for sharing your tips. :-)

  6. Nicole Israel
    Mar 21 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Awesome tips – thanks Jo!

  7. Mar 22 2013 at 8:08 am #

    These are amazing images, and even better tips :-)

  8. Mar 22 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Gorgeous Photos! Thanks for the tips!

  9. Mar 22 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Great tip! Beautiful images!

  10. Leanne
    Mar 22 2013 at 10:16 am #

    I really appreciate this post. I never want to lug my DSLR with me to the park or to Grandpa’s house for dinner on a random Wednesday night. Having my iphone camera has been so great. I love it so much more than a point and shoot!
    But I have always needed a little tutorial on some of the nifty tricks. Thank you for the exposure tip and also the holding the button down for the shutter! I did end up buying the VSCO app, so thank you for the tip!

  11. Annie
    Mar 22 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much for sharing. I really need to put these into practice!

  12. Angela Lavoie
    Mar 22 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Stunning photos! Thank you for this, it definitely will make me use my iPhone more than just thinking that I wish I had my DSLR with me.

  13. Mar 22 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Love reading these and looking at the pictures. There is never ending inspiration on here.

  14. Emily
    Mar 22 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Thank you, Jo! Your photos are amazing!

  15. Joanna Nimeck Satel
    Mar 22 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks so much for this article:) it was not only detailed and full of amazing images, but it has inspired me to go out and take more pics with my iphone and not just cute snaps but to really delve deeper into the image. Thank you also for the tracking tip as I couldn’t get a good SS with my speed demons.

  16. Tara Stallings
    Mar 22 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I take iPhone pics all the time- The best camera is the one you have on you!

  17. Azka
    Mar 22 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Awesome! Can’t wait to try some of the tips out!

  18. Mar 22 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    love love love your IG feed, and this makes me wish I had an iPhone!

  19. Mar 22 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    Very cool! TFS :)

  20. Amber
    Mar 22 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Great tips!

    I can’t wait to try some of these out on my iPhone!!

  21. Mar 26 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    These are awesome… I’ve tried Snapseed, but I’ll look into the others.


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