The Best Camera is the One you have with You

Disclaimer: this guide focuses mostly on iPhone photography, but if you are an Android user, many of these principles can apply in a similar way.

Creating visually engaging images has always been the end goal of a photographer, and with the rise of social media platforms, it seems that engaging content is more important than ever. There are some ways to improve your images and make them stand out from the crowd, and perhaps give you the edge you need to grow your following as an influencer, or just simply create sharp, engaging content.

Here are 10 tips that we feel will help improve your content, and aid you in creating fun, engaging, and influential photos.

Setting up a Shot

Using grid lines allows you to properly utilize a photography fundamental, the rule of thirds. This concept is based on not always centering subjects in the middle of the photo, but perhaps placing them in the right or left of the image. This allows your images to have more “meaning”, and appear more visual. This can be a helpful things to remember if your content is going to be posted in a feed (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, etc.). If your subject is always centered, a viewer’s eyes will not move at all and they will most likely scroll over it. However, if they see your image and have to look left and right to take it all in they are more engaged. You can enable grid-lines by navigating to Settings > Camera

Utilizing your foreground, middle-ground and background is also a critical thing to keep in mind when looking to take quality photos. If you properly place elements in the these three different areas brings a new level of depth to your image that makes it much more engaging for a viewer to look at. There is a healthy balance, creating a visually stimulating image is essential to stop someone from scrolling past your image. Then with that time you have approx a few seconds at most to communicate your brand’s message and provide them with something that is worth liking to so you can develop accurate analytics. So, keep your image composition interesting yet simple. Do not provide a distracting canvas where someone is bothered by the fact that so much is going on.

 Notice the Deer in the foreground, Tree in the middle-ground, and blurred background of the rest of the landscape.
Notice the Deer in the foreground, Tree in the middle-ground, and blurred background of the rest of the landscape.

Properly setting an exposure on an iPhone

Believe it or not, Apple has built some really great tools into their camera app. There is more to it then pointing and taking an image, but you can set manual exposures, tap to focus and even lock your focus at a certain point.

The first thing to do is to tap and focus on your subject, by tapping the screen a square appears and sets your focus and exposure automatically. Now in a good scenario, Apple’s software nails it, and this alone will get you a well balanced image. However, we all know lighting can be off sometimes, and this ideally won’t happen too often.

Therefore, if you are thinking about exiting this guide now, think again, as there are no perfect scenarios in photography. Instead, let’s take variables into our own hands and set custom exposures within the Apple software

Instead of tapping the screen, tap and hold. This will lock the focus at a certain range. First, you will see an AE/AF lock notice pop up at the top of the camera view. Once it is locked, drag your finger from top to bottom next to the box. You will notice a slider will move and that is how you know you can begin adjusting exposure to the shot. And just like that, you have set perfect exposures for whatever scenario may come your way in the outdoors.

Choosing an Angle

Angle is also very critical to a shot. Sometimes an okay shot will go to a great shot just by shifting the angle. Therefore, try to get creative, and if you can, take a couple of shots to see what you are working with. If you shoot from more of a higher birds-eye angle, your subject may appear smaller, but you provide more information of your subjects surroundings. If you shoot from a lower worm’s-eye angle (also known as a hero angle) your subject appears much larger and more powerful. The point is, switch it up, don’t always shoot straight on. Photography is about showing moments that people would not usually see. Show something that someone is interested in seeing and hasn’t seen before.

HDR

Now this is something that can improve your images drastically, or very poorly. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range, and in english this basically means taking multiple images and layering them ontop of eachother to get a more balanced exposure. Dynamic range as is simplest just means the difference between the lightest and darkest part of an image. Now this is not a good mode to shoot action shots in, because the camera needs time to take multiple images and process them, but for a landscape shot this would be more appropriate.

You can enable HDR by navigating to Settings > Camera

Clean that Lens

Where is your phone most of the time? In your pocket. What else is in your pocket? Dirt, lint, and other gross stuff. Clean that lens. Unless you are going for dirt spots, fingerprints and other things in your image.

Snap Shots Fast

This is kind of a simple tip, however, many people overlook this assuming that they won’t get as high quality of photos. Snapping photos quickly could speed up the time it takes to capture a shot tenfold which allows you to select the perfect shot you were looking for. If you swipe right on the lock screen of your iPhone, it immediately opens the camera. Also, on older IOS versions you could swipe up on the lock screen to access the control center and click the camera icon.

 Burst Mode in Action
Burst Mode in Action

Leading Lines and Mergers

Leading lines are a great technique to capture someone’s attention, and allows them to draw their eyes across the image. Leading lines can add depth to your image, so look for man made objects such as roads, buildings and bridges. These features can add variation and direction to the image. Natural objects such as rivers and shorelines have the same effect as well.

You do need to pay attention to these elements though, as done improperly can create merging lines with your subjects and other unwanted side effects.

 Notice the cables behind his head, this is called a merger. It’s best to avoid things perspectively merging with subjects.
Notice the cables behind his head, this is called a merger. It’s best to avoid things perspectively merging with subjects.

The Right Lens for the Right Job

On newer iPhones, Apple implemented a dual camera system for sharper images for different photography scenarios. This allows you to switch between a wide angle or a telephoto lens, which can increase image quality depending on the shot. If you are shooting a wider shot, use the wide angle. What about when you are shooting a photo of something further away? Use the telephoto. To switch, above the shutter button within the camera app, there is a 1X button, tap it to change it to telephoto (labeled 2X) and then tap it again to return back to wide angle. Wide angle is set by default.

Now you may be wondering, why switch the lens at all when I can just pinch and zoom to get closer to my subject?

Well, the golden rule for smartphone photos is to never use the pinch to zoom feature, unless absolutely necessary (aka digital zoom). The best zoom is your feet, or getting closer to your subject physically.. When you digital zoom, computer software is zooming, not the lens, so you are losing a massive amount of image quality when doing so, which means that the image may not be as clear. Considering this guide is about taking better images, don’t shoot with two hands tied behind your back.

 1x & 2x Zoom in the IPhone 8 Plus
1x & 2x Zoom in the IPhone 8 Plus

Shortcuts

Apple has built a couple of tricks into the buttons of the app for alternative ways of taking photos and accessing different features. When in the camera, you can use the volume up and down buttons to capture an image. This is helpful if you cannot use the touchscreen if you are wearing gloves, your hands are dirty, etc. You can also use apple headphones and plug them in and use the volume buttons on the inline mic to do the same thing.

Capturing an action shot on the iPhone can be tricky to get clear photos and time them properly. There is a sneaky little trick to do this though. If you hold the shutter button down, the IPhone will enter burst mode, and shoot a ton of photos really fast. When you release your finger a window will open which will allow you to select what images you like, and delete the rest to conserve storage space.

 Swipe right on the lock screen to launch.
Swipe right on the lock screen to launch.

Lighting

Lighting is obviously an integral component of photography, and certain lighting conditions are much more preferable than others. Really bright and sunny conditions present a problem of harsh light and shadows, which unless necessary, should  be avoided. If you need to shoot midday, a good practice is to place the sun behind the subject and set your exposure and focus for the subject and overexpose the background. That way your subject is exposed correctly. If you can find some type of shadow as well, it’s good to use that as a diffuser to remove the harsh shadows from the subject.

Soft light is more often than not the preferred lighting situation. It is complementing on facial features for portraits and other subject photography/ It also makes it easier to properly expose your image, so you are at a consistent exposure rather then sections of the image blown out and other parts too dark. A cloudy day is a great example of this. Shooting in the shadows also achieves this effect, however, you must be careful of your background. The reason being is that if the background is brighter you will need to keep that in mind when setting your exposure.

Sunsets and Sunrises are a great time to shoot images, this is referred to as the “Golden Hour” for photography. You get really great colors and the lighting is really pleasing. The complications with shooting during this time is that depending on the type of year, you may have a much shorter window to shoot in.

If you are eventually going to be focusing on more product photography, you could also use this sweet DIY technique to making your product shots really pop and look professional. Especially if you are shooting indoors.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=DIY+softbox

Conclusion

Photography at the end of the day is an art form, and if you want to excel at it you need to practice. Keeping these tips in mind, however, will help create better quality images as you learn/advance in the craft. The next time you’re shooting photos, think about your image before you take it. Why am I shooting this angle? Why did I set the exposure this way? Everything has a reason in the image and if you provide reasoning for all your decisions behind your photo, you will be amazed at the images you capture. Then you can take these photos and start building your online presence on platforms like HuntWise. Check out our guide to becoming an outdoor influencer to show how to execute the posting and distribution of your media properly.

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