How to take better photos with your smartphone

If you’re now a shutterbug in addition to your writing and other responsibilities, try these techniques for grabbing and holding on to your viewer’s attention.

Journalists and PR pros are often given photography responsibilities.

Most of us don’t lug our 10-pound dSLR cameras every time we leave the house anymore. Unless you’re a photojournalist or participating in a monthlong photography challenge, you’re probably using your phone as a camera.

This trend has skyrocketed recently, and it shows no signs of slowing down. As journalists and public relations professionals, you know this upward swing is adding more tasks to your already demanding job expectations. Suddenly you’re the photographer or videographer for an event, in addition to interviewing sources or pitching to media outlets.

The photographic functionality in phones, specifically iPhones, has been improving dramatically with each iteration. There are many photo-editing apps available to help you easily and affordably enhance the photos you take. We can not only take photos, but we can edit them right on our phones, as well. Once edited, we might as well shoot it off in an email, store it in Dropbox, or send it in a text message.

Although the capabilities of shooting, sorting, and sending are all in the palms of our hands, taking photos on your phone is often daunting. As a PR professional, you’re now an event photographer, and though you may have access to the tools on a daily basis, a lack of experience and confidence can interfere with bringing these images to life. (Never mind that you’re not trained as a photojournalist.)

Here’s how to take better photos using your iPhone:

1. Use a background that makes your subject stand out.

Especially when taking product photography and headshots, there is an emphasis on singularity. Think of the viewer and envision what his eye wants to see. For a corporate headshot or product, there is little need to include any other element in the shot. This means your subject is at the forefront and your background assists your goal.

In street and lifestyle photography, we have the opportunity to set the scene, so to speak. Use a neutral backdrop to allow your subject to catch and hold the viewer’s eye. A busy background will compete for the viewer’s attention and will make your image look busy and awkward.

2. Play with the macro setting.

This is one of the more advanced tips. It can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with cameras to hear terms like aperture, macro lenses, and exposure.

iPhones have the ability to take macro photos (this just means the camera is close to its subject and takes a microscopic perspective of the object). This setting requires patience, as it can be tricky to master on each iteration of the iPhone devices, but once you’ve nailed it, you’ll have opened up a whole new level of phone photography.

You’ll want to get your phone close (but not too close) to your ideally stationary subject. Once there, hold your finger against the portion of the screen you would like to focus on. This will enable to iPhone’s exposure and focus lock. The letters AE/FE should appear on the screen to indicate you’re in macro mode.

3. Adjust photo composition by cropping.

Composition is one of the foundations of visual art, and photography is no exception. Though it’s a valuable piece of the artistic puzzle, don’t worry too much about the common rule of thirds. Simply ensure there is no debris, unwanted logos, or elements that divert your viewer’s attention.

An easy way to deal with composition, for those of you still experimenting with the actual shooting of the photos, is in post-production. If you missed the opportunity to compose your image thoughtfully, never fear. Sometimes there isn’t time, and often we don’t notice what’s in the shot until it’s too late.

There are a few cheats to “composing” your image after you shoot a photo, cropping being the main one. In the iPhone camera there is cropping functionality, enabling you to maintain the classic landscape/portrait dimensions or set entirely new ratios—such as the popular Instagram square image.

Whatever your subject and no matter the brand, photography will enhance your life experiences and your online content. Whether you would like to practice a new skill, or visuals are simply an occupational prerequisite, these three manageable tips should give you plenty to work with.

Experimenting with macro photography and practicing your composition (and cropping) skills will be an ample addition to your existing method of image capturing.

Jessica Hammond is a photographer and blogger living in rural Ontario. You can see her work and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists by searching their bios, tweets, and articles.

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