8 Tips and Tricks for Taking Great iPhone Photos

At Thin Pig Media, we are constantly taking photos and doing other content creation to use for our clients’ social media. At times, carrying around a full DSLR camera just isn’t feasible. Luckily for us, phone cameras are now better than ever and virtually always at hand when we need them. Here are my top tips for capturing the best iPhone photos and making sure you’re using all the latest features to their fullest extent! 

1. Follow the “Rule of Thirds”

Good photo composition is key for any digital photography. Make sure you are using the grid on your iPhone camera to help frame your photos. You can turn on the grid by going to Settings > Camera and toggling the Grid switch. The Rule of Thirds suggests that placing your subjects at the intersections of these grid lines or along a line helps to create a more balanced, visually interesting photo, rather than placing a subject dead center. 

Lining up the horizon along the bottom or top third instead of at the center creates a more balanced image.

Lining up the horizon along the bottom or top third instead of at the center creates a more balanced image.

2. Set your focus by tapping the screen

Your phone will automatically focus using contrast measurement to tell how sharp an image is. But in low contrast or low light situations, tapping to focus and set the exposure is absolutely necessary. Just tap on the object or person you wish to focus on – a yellow square will appear where you’re focusing – and then snap your photo. You can also tap and hold down to lock the focus and exposure at a certain level so it will not change as you frame your photo. Tapping to focus is especially important when focusing on close up items or when focusing on something that is not in the center of the screen. 

3. Don’t be afraid to get closer 

Though the zoom function on our phones is getting better, digital zoom is really just the camera zooming in and cropping the same image, which can lead to lower quality and pixelation. For the highest quality photos, it is best to avoid using digital zoom when possible. On iPhones, digital zoom is achieved by “pinching” the image to zoom. 

Don’t be afraid to get physically closer to a subject if necessary to get a better shot. Many times when taking phone photos, the subject can appear smaller than you expect. 

If you do use the zoom feature, make sure you’re using the optical zoom, not digital zoom, if it is available to you (on the iPhone XS and XS Max). Optical zoom uses a moveable lens or secondary camera to achieve a different focal length, not just magnifying a digital image. On an iPhone, this means tapping the 1x icon at the bottom of the screen to switch over to the 2x telephoto lens instead of just pinching to zoom.

Get up close and personal with your subjects.

Get up close and personal with your subjects.

4. Use natural light

Most phone photos look best without the flash. You can also adjust exposure on your iPhone by swiping up or down on the sun icon that shows next to the tap-to-focus square. This lets you achieve the right level of brightness and saturation before you take the photo. It also allows you to purposefully under- or overexpose a photo, for example, to capture a silhouette against a bright background. 

You can also try using alternative light sources, like having someone hold a flashlight on your subject or allowing a bright screen to illuminate a portion of the photo. Creative lighting can achieve some really cool effects! 

5. Find a unique perspective

Shooting at a different perspective, either at a steep angle or from bird’s-eye view or worm’s-eye view, can create an interesting visual effect that viewers aren’t used to seeing. You can also use leading lines to create depth and draw your viewers eyes toward your subject.

Using leading lines can create interesting photos and draw eyes towards your subject.

Using leading lines can create interesting photos and draw eyes towards your subject.

6. Use portrait mode for close-up photos with depth

Using portrait mode allows you to get a great sharp foreground and a soft, out of focus background. Just swipe to select the portrait mode on your iPhone camera, frame your subject (iPhone will tell you if you are too close or too far), and snap your photos. 

Once you’ve taken the photo, you can hit “Edit” to adjust the depth of field by using the slider on the bottom of the image (on iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR). You can even revert to a “normal” photo by tapping “Portrait” at the top of the screen. 

You can also use portrait mode photos to create 3D photo posts on Facebook

7. Experiment with Panoramas

To capture broad landscapes or if something doesn’t fit in the frame, you can use panorama mode to get stunning, large photos that can be great for cover images! You can also use panoramas to create great interactive, VR-like 360 Photos on Facebook. Access the panorama feature by swiping between your photo options on your iPhone. Make sure to keep your phone level and avoid moving objects or people when taking panoramas! 

Fit more into your frame using Panoramas!

Fit more into your frame using Panoramas!

Pro-tip: You can also try creating vertical panoramas to capture tall buildings or other objects. 

Using a “vertical” panorama to capture the Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens.

Using a “vertical” panorama to capture the Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens.

8. Remember to clean your lens!

Our phones sit in our pockets and travel with us everywhere – which guarantees that our phone camera lenses will get dirty. Use a soft lens cleaner or glasses cloth to gently wipe away smudges. 

Looking for more photo tips? Check out this blog post about styling and shooting great food photos