Did you ever look at a person’s Instagram pictures and think, “Wow, how come my pictures never turn out that good?” You mess around with your iPhone trying to figure out how to get the grid to work, how to not get a colored glow from your phone case, what the little lightning bolt means, and always wonder why your black and white pictures never look as good as the ones you see.
Well, luckily for you, I took an iPhoneography (yes, it’s a thing) course last semester at my college. Throughout the class I learned new techniques, tips I already knew, what certain settings do, and apps that help perfect your pictures.
I’m not saying that every picture I take or post on Instagram is perfect—because they’re definitely not—but being able to take decent pictures is a skill you need to have in this century.
There is literally nothing better than when you ask a stranger to take a picture for you, and they take the greatest picture of your life. There’s also nothing worse than asking a stranger to take a picture for you, and it being the worst picture ever (blurry, bad angle, dark, etc.). Don’t be that stranger that takes bad pictures.
Tip #1: Zoom with your feet.
If you’ve ever zoomed in to take a photo on your phone, you know how things can get blurry real fast. Instead, try moving as close as you can before taking the picture. You’d think this is common sense, but for some, it isn’t. Along with this, zoom in after you’ve taken the picture. What I mean by this is, take the picture, and then when you go to edit the picture, zoom in and crop it. You’ll get way better quality and you won’t have to waste time zooming in on your phone when you’re trying to take the picture.
Tip #2: Focus on your subject.
Tap the object you’re trying to focus on, on your screen before taking the picture. This focuses in on the subject and makes it clearer. I know most phones now have auto-focus, but sometimes auto-focus can focus on the wrong object, making your picture blurry. By tapping your subject on the phone before you take the picture, you also are adjusting the lighting too—and let me tell you, lighting can definitely make or break a picture.
Tip #3: Think about your lighting.
Unless you’re trying to create a silhouette or do something artistic, never have the lighting come from behind your subject. If you’re taking selfies, always try to use natural lighting (like by a window)—your skin looks smoother, your eyes look brighter, and your smile looks whiter. If you are having a difficult time trying to figure out where the best lighting is, flip your phone to the front facing camera (I call it selfie-mode) and move around until you look best. Having great lighting will make your picture crisp and will be easier to edit.
Tip #4: Take more than one picture.
This gives you more options to decide which one is best. If you’re taking a group picture, you should probably take like 10 pictures in a row (hello burst mode). I’ll admit, I take about 20 selfies before I take one I really life.
Tip #5: Straighten your photos.
Please, please straighten your photos. It will look 10 times better, I promise you. It takes an extra ten seconds. On my phone, the straighten option is under edit>crop>then a grid pops up and you twist and turn the picture until it’s straightened (there’s even auto-straighten).
Tip #6: Stay away from the auto-enhance.
Majority of the time auto-enhance doesn’t fix my photos how I want it to. Instead, I recommend manually adjusting the brightness, contrast, exposure, and color correction. iPhone has good photo editing tools, but I like to use apps like Afterlight, PicsArt, VSCO best.
Tip #7: Don’t use Instagram filters.
Sometimes the filters are fun to use, but filters in apps like Afterlight and VSCO are more tailored and almost always look better than the typical Instagram filters.
Tip #8: Your pictures don’t have to be a perfect square.
Usually there’s stuff you crop out of a picture to make it better and make the subject more prominent. If your picture is a rectangle, let it be a rectangle. Use an app like PicsArt or Squaready to add in a white border to make it “square.”
Tip #9: Don’t over-edit.
You don’t need to put 12 filters, 5 light leaks, and text on one photo—ever. It doesn’t look good. You don’t need all that. Photo editing apps are used to edit pictures, not completely change them. One key to not over-editing on a smartphone picture is if you don’t remember everything you did to the picture, then you’ve done too much. I edit simply: straighten, adjust brightness/contrast, sharpen (if needed), put a filter on (ONE FILTER), and then use that tool that makes your picture into a square.
Now, you can take or leave these tips, but when I look at my Instagram before and after my class, I notice a huge difference. The little things do matter. I’m not a photographer, nor do I pretend to be, but I do enjoy taking picture on my phone. I hope these tips have helped some of you! Get out there and start taking some beautiful pictures. If you feel inspired, hashtag “#humpsandpumps” or mention me (@tiffanymariegabriel) so I can see all your wonderful pictures!
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