Every trip or family event I struggle with the decision on which memory capturing device to take. My heavy professional DSLR, my little entry level DSLR, my point n shoot, or my iPhone. I recently took a mini family vacation to Kings Island and once again found myself struggling with which device to bring. While I LOVE the results I get with my DSLRs, I decided to only take my iPhone for pictures this time. I wanted to travel light and be able to quickly take a picture and pocket my phone so I could enjoy time with my family.
Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years with using an iPhone to get great results and not just a snapshot of your family!
1) Treat it as you would a DSLR and set up the shot. This means looking for good lighting, background distractions and composing the image. If good lighting isn’t available in the spot you want to get a picture, check back later to see if the light is better!
Our first shot of the day in this spot (see end of the post) was taken early morning during bright sunlight. When we came back later in the evening, the lighting was a lot less harsh and I was able to get this image of my kids. There wasn’t a line of people when we came back, so I was able to pull my kids away from the designated spot so I could get the entire tower in the image AND have them be a larger part of the image too. The closer to your subject, the more space they’ll take up in the image.
2) Tap the screen over the subject to tell your iPhone where to focus + get exposure. If the image is still too dark, after tapping drag your finger up or down the screen to adjust the brightness.
Also, you can use the focus + exposure lock feature. If you hold your finger on the screen over the subject, the focus and exposure will lock, you can then move around the phone a little to compose the image how you’d like it to be without having to adjust the brightness again.
Left image: iPhone automatically selected the exposure
Right image: I adjusted the brightness by sliding my finger up after tapping the image to increase the brightness.
3) Use a technique called “panning” to get clear pictures of moving subjects. It’s a simple technique that relies heavily on timing, so it may take a few tries. All you need to do is follow along the movement of your subject with your camera while you take the picture.
When there’s a lot of light, you might not need to use panning as the shutter speed the camera selects will be enough to stop the motion. However, in low light, it can be a great asset! I didn’t need to use it while my kids were on the swing this time (left image). But, years ago I used panning to get a shot of my family on a similar ride that wasn’t a complete blur (right image).
4) Change your angle. You can completely change the feel of an image by changing your viewing angle. Taking pictures of multiple angles also helps tell the story of your adventures!
Don’t be afraid of trying new angles to get the shot. For the right Eiffel Tower image, I was basically on the ground, with my phone upside down, angled up so that I could get the top of the tower in the picture while my kids played around. I’m certain I looked a little crazy down there, but it was worth it.
5) Zoom in. When my kids rode this roller coaster, I positioned myself to where I could zoom in and out to capture the whole thing. This allowed me to get a variety of images to show their experience and capture their expressions as they got closer to me.
Side note: When you want to take a detail shot of something very up close, zoom in! This works great for pictures of flowers, bugs, jewelry, etc.
6) Turn off the flash. When it’s getting dark, use natural light to capture the emotion and avoid the “deer in headlights” look.
For the left image there was light from a ride to the left, helping illuminate my family while allowing the glow from the glow sticks to take precedence. The middle image I took during the fireworks show. I loved my daughters little hands holding her glow wand. For the right image I looked around for an area with a lot of light to get our family picture. The nearby carousel was the perfect light source! So we walked over and asked a stranger to take our picture with us facing the light.
7) Act natural and capture your surroundings. When taking pictures of your family or kids, do not ask them to look and smile for every picture. They will quickly tire of that. Instead, try capturing them in the moment. Or you could take a picture of your surroundings to capture what they saw. This will tell the story of your trip so much more than a “say cheese” picture.
8) Don’t be afraid to process iPhone images. When you get home and you’re a tiny bit disappointed that an image is a little dark, do not despair! Pull the image into the editing software of your choice (I LOVE Lightroom) and polish off the image a little as needed.
Ahhh, much better. Just had to increase the exposure a little and brighten the shadows. If you practice tip #2 then you wouldn’t need to do this!
I also loved the image of my kids in front of the eiffel tower so much, but there were a lot of distractions with people passing by. If you have kids, you might know that their patience has a limit when it comes to pictures. Thankfully I snapped a few and was able to merge some together to get a cleaner shot that is now a framer.
What was your favorite tip? Do you have any other tips you’ve learned? Sound off in the comments!