iPhone portrait tips

Top 7 iPhone Portrait Tips


“My mum is an iPhonographer,” said this little chap sitting in front of me. I pulled the camera to my eye and quietly sniggered, ‘iPhonographer! pah!’ I thought.

Photographers are snobs of the highest order. I know, I used to be one (a snob). Anyone parading as a photographer and not using the very best equipment was ignored as not a serious practitioner.

Thankfully those days have changed: digital photography is here and has been for a long time now. I look at some of my old transparencies of the Royals through a loupe and I am shocked at the poor quality we used to have to deal with in film photography.

I have spent years searching for the perfect pocketable camera, one that allows me to take pictures when I am out and about with the confidence of knowing that, if I get lucky and take a picture I want to use, I can play with the image in my usual stable of software -- mainly Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

I found that camera in a tiny Canon G9X: fast to switch on and fast to focus, shoots in the RAW format… what more could I possibly want?

Then they launched the iPhone X.

I bought one and have never used the Canon since…

7 iPhone Photo Tips

Here are a few helpful tips you may want to use the next time you are snapping away with your phone:

1. Snap a lot

A small sample of taking lots of pictures on a recent walk on Exmoor, then edit them.

A small sample of taking lots of pictures on a recent walk on Exmoor, then edit them.

When taking pictures, always ensure you take a good range of pictures. NEVER take just one picture of a given situation, but move around looking for the best angles. People faces, especially kids, will change in an instant, so you get the best shots when you take multiple snaps in one go and it helps you get more natural and candid photos.

Holding the button down on an iPhone will trigger the motor drive and take lots of pictures until you let go of the button.

When you are skipping through them, edit them on the fly, delete the ones that are no good so you don’t have hundreds to go through in one go at the end! (it is essential you are mercenary in your decisions, be harsh but fair, only keep the best)

2. Portrait for Portraits Doesn’t Matter

The old photographic tenet of portrait format for portraits and landscape format for landscapes no longer holds so feel free to shoot in whatever format suits the situation best!

3. Look for ‘Light’

Or rather, learn to look for ‘a nice drop of light’. Photographing children outdoors, such as on holiday, will benefit from putting them in a shady area; direct sunlight gives you squinty faces and harsh shadows. If you put someone in the shadow of a tree, the light becomes neutral and beautiful, think Botticelli!

4. Be Bossy!

Pointing a camera at someone in silence and expecting to just get a good photograph will not work: you must speak to them and try to draw out the expression that you’re seeking. When taking a group picture, be the director and be bossy! When photographing children, I have found blowing a raspberry from behind the camera invaluable -- and be sure to always blame them for making such a rude noise. ;-)

5. Stay Back

Best not to get too close to your subject. The lens on most camera phones is very wide, giving people very big noses if taken too close!

6. Steady on the Zoom

On my iPhone X, there is a small circle at the bottom of the screen with a 1x in it. Hold your finger on it and move it gently to the left or to the right to zoom in and out. A word of caution though, the zoom is not an optical zoom, which means it’s actually cropping the image on the screen. The more you zoom, the poorer the quality of the finished image. I wouldn't go above 3x unless I really had to.

7. Use Fill Flash

Turning the flash on in bright, sunny daylight situations can help. We call it a ‘fill flash’. Using it can get rid of those horrible shadows you get on bright sunny days.

My iPhone is with me at all times and, undoubtedly, so is yours. Make the most of it and look for pictures, don’t just wait for them to happen.

I guess I could now claim to be an iPhonographer too!