Haven’t you always wanted to take better pictures with your iPhone? If you’re like most iPhone users, the clear answer is yes. But how can you take photos that will not only impress your friends and family but also impress professional photographers? And where can you find the most practical and reliable information on digital photography? To answer your questions and more, here are some expert tips to improve your iPhone photography skills from Scott Kelby, the world’s best-selling author of photography technique books.
About Scott Kelby
SCOTT KELBY is the world’s No. 1 best-selling author of photography technique books, as well as Editor and Publisher of the highly acclaimed Photoshop User magazine. He is co-host of the influential weekly photography talk show The Grid and he teaches digital photography workshops and seminars around the world. Scott is an award-winning author of over 60 books, including How Do I Do That in Lightroom?, How Do I Do That in Photoshop?, The Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, The Digital Photography Book series, Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers, and Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It.
For more on Scott, visit his blog at scottkelby.com. (bio courtesy of Scott Kelby)
About Scott Kelby’s New iPhone Photography Book
Just released this month, The iPhone Photography Book: How to get Professional-Looking Images Using the Camera You Always Have with You is Scott Kelby’s long-awaited book fully dedicated to iPhone photography. For photographers of all levels as well as anyone with an iPhone in hand, The iPhone Photography Book will take your camera roll and Instagram grid to the next level! (excerpts courtesy of Scott Kelby)
Q&A With Scott Kelby
Is The iPhone Photography Book Practical for All iPhone Users?
At its heart, this is a photography book first—your camera just happens to be an iPhone—so it’s not so much about which iPhone model you have. That being said, there are some things that are specific to newer iPhones (anything from the iPhone X on up) included in the book, as well. But as long as you have an iPhone that was released within the past few years, and you’re using one of Apple’s recent iOS updates (which Apple’s stats show the vast majority of iPhone users are), you’ll be all set.
Are There Important Aspects of The iPhone Photography Book That You’d Like to Briefly Point Out?
A lot of what this book focuses on is teaching you the techniques pro photographers use to make their images look awesome. It’s not about a bunch of things you add to your iPhone. It’s more about composition, and lighting, and how to shoot in natural light or tricky lighting situations. And it’s about posing and things that really make a bigger difference than you’d think.
What Apps Do You Recommend for iPhone Photography Editing?
I love Lightroom for the iPhone. It’s what serious iPhoneographers use as their main tool. But in the book, I also uncover the surprising power of Apple’s own Photos app. Another app I would recommend is called Lens Distortions, which is a horrible name for an amazing app that lets you drag-and-drop special effects onto your images that will take the look of them up a big notch. It’s awesome and very inexpensive.
Can You Offer Any Tips on iPhone Photography for Use on Social Media?
Absolutely! Here are five tips to keep in mind when shooting images that you’ll share on social media:
- Super-Quick Lighting Fix
Getting your tone right—where your photo isn’t too dark or too bright—is a big thing when it comes to getting great photos with your iPhone. And it’s actually really easy to do (once you know the secret). After you tap once on the screen (right on what you want to be in focus), you can make the image brighter by holding your finger on the screen and dragging it up to make it brighter, or down to make it darker. This makes a bigger difference than you’d think.
- Making Your Photo Fill the Screen
Have you noticed that when you take a photo with the iPhone’s camera it doesn’t capture the entire screen? It leaves blank areas at the top and bottom (if you’re shooting vertically) or on the left and right (if you’re shooting horizontally). If you want an image that fills the entire screen, there’s a trick for that: switch your Camera app to shoot in Video mode.
You’ll notice two things: (1) the video fills the entire screen, and (2) once you hit the red record button, there’s now a little white shutter button that appears onscreen. When you tap that white shutter button, it takes a still photo, and like the video, it fills the entire screen.
When you shoot video, by default, it zooms in closer than the regular camera does, so your still image will be zoomed in a bit closer as well. But, it’s better than just cropping a still image because cropping your still image would make it smaller, and it wouldn’t fill the screen like this video trick does, so it’s definitely worth trying. I know a number of iPhone photography pros who only shoot in Video mode for that very reason.
- Keep the Flash on Your iPhone Turned Off
Here’s a pro tip: If you want better-looking shots, just leave your iPhone camera’s built-in flash turned off all the time. Having a flash that is physically located so close to your camera’s lens creates some really unflattering photos, especially of people, where it should only be used to get even with somebody. So, it’s best to just avoid using the flash altogether and either use Night mode (available on newer iPhones) or just let the camera automatically expose for the amount of light that is available, even if it’s dark where you’re shooting. (it does a surprisingly good job in most cases).
This isn’t just a tip for iPhone cameras; pros follow the same rule for their traditional camera’s built-in flash—they avoid it like the plague. If you do have to turn on your flash in some emergency photography situation (hey, it happens), you’ll wind up with a driver’s-license-bureau-quality image, but now at least you know what you’ll get.
To turn off the flash, on newer iPhones, tap the upward-facing arrow at the top of the screen to reveal the camera feature icons near the bottom of the screen (right above your shutter button); on older iPhones, they appear at the top of the screen. Tap the flash icon (the lightning bolt) to bring up the flash options, and tap Off.
- Killer Tip to Keep from Missing the Moment
If you see something cool that you want to take a photo of, and time is of the essence (you need to get to your camera quickly), don’t unlock your iPhone and launch the Camera app and all that (you’ll have already missed the shot!). Instead, just pick up your iPhone and swipe left on the screen. That takes you directly to the Camera app and you’re ready to shoot. You don’t have to unlock the iPhone or anything—it’s just ready to go.
This is ideal for times when your friend leaves their locked iPhone on the table at a restaurant and goes to the restroom for a moment. I’m not suggesting you pick up their iPhone, swipe to the left, and start taking random pictures and selfies before placing it right back into the same spot where they left it.
So the next time they go to their Photos app they see all these odd pictures, and then finally a selfie of you, but…I’ve heard of people who have done things like this. Not me, mind you. Other people. I’m sure.
- How to Take Video While You’re Shooting Stills
If you have an iPhone 11 or newer and you’re out there shooting something and realize what you’re shooting would make an awesome video, too, just tap-hold-and-drag the shutter button to the right. Your shutter button will turn into a white circle with a red “stop” button inside it, and you’ll see a timer appear at the top of your Camera app—these let you know it’s now shooting video. The video will keep shooting until you tap the red stop button.
Related: 7 Most Photogenic Cities In The U.S.
You Have Written Dozens of Photography Books. Do You Have a Personal Favorite?
I do. It would be The Digital Photography Book (published by Rocky Nook). It’s the #1 best-selling book on digital photography ever and was the most fun. That’s because I get letters from all over the world from people who tell me it’s the book that got them seriously into photography. It’s also used by many colleges and universities as their course curriculum.
Can You Offer Any Advice to an Aspiring Professional Photographer?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the camera settings and features. There is no “make great photos” button in there, so let’s all stop looking for it, and instead, focus on the things that really matter—how you compose your photo, and how you work with different lighting situations. You don’t have to buy any more stuff—you just have to focus on the stuff that matters (and it’s way easier than you’d think).
What Other Projects Are You Currently Working On?
I’m hosting a two-day, two-track online conference for outdoor photographers in May, with an incredible team of photography instructors, which I’m really excited about. We’ve been doing these online conferences since the pandemic hit, and we’ve had incredible success with it—the participants absolutely love it, and we get a real kick out of putting them together. Details can be found at kelbyonelive.com.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, CBS Los Angeles, CBS Chicago and CBS San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a digital audience reach of 489 million and more than 5.5 million monthly visitors. His other stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, Examiner.com, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University, U.S. Army veteran and lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.