12 Steps to Better iPhoneography

instagram coverI was initially a little resistant to Instagram. (Yes, I’m a photo snob for no reason. Don’t you hate me?) Although it’s a simple app with limited editing options, it’s definitely a fun way to stalk people follow friends or self-proclaimed “iPhoneographers,” who actually take their work quite seriously — it’s amazing what someone can do with an iPhone today. Most of all, it’s convenient.

I thought it would be fun to share a few key I’ve used to produce really cool photos with my phone. Obviously this doesn’t apply so much if you use IG as more of a social app, but it’s always fun to test out what your phone is capable of. And it’s a great way to get creative (and play around with the basics of composition, lighting, depth of field, etc.), especially if you don’t have your own camera.

I’ve rank each part of this post in order from least to most involved/complicated.  I’ve also included some examples throughout (all my Instagrams) to help illustrate!

lighting1. Be conscious of lighting. If your photo is underexposed (dark), it will look grainy once editing. With an overexposed picture, parts of the image will be less clear. You can also play around with lighting to create contrast in your photos. The beauty of having a portable phone camera is you can practice with as many photos as you want! See above for a couple examples.

2. Take photos with your camera, not the IG camera. The quality will be better and you’ll be able to edit your photo on other apps as well (see #10). And make sure to use your camera’s focus by tapping the part of the image you want to highlight before taking a photo.

contrast filter3. Don’t abuse the lighting enhancement feature. This is the button that looks like a half dark, half light sun in your IG editing tools. It doesn’t really up the contrast, but it WILL blow out your picture. See the difference in the images above?

food filters4. Be careful with filters for food! Food is one of the hardest things to photograph (I struggle with it A LOT), regardless of whether you have an iPhone or a Nikon DSLR. Make sure you have lots of bright lighting to capture colors correctly, and choose a filter that doesn’t discolor food (Amaro is usually good). See the above photos — the one on the left is yellow-y and dark, while the one on the right is brightly lit (but not overexposed) and shows colors accurately.

5.  Don’t overuse frames. You can turn this feature on and off using the frame editing button, but in general they only detract from your photo.

cropping6. Crop carefully. IG uses a square format, so keep in mind that you’ll be cropping to those proportions as you’re taking photos on your phone. Pay attention to the way the subject is framed and the way your eye is drawn across the image. You’ll get better at creating good compositions with practice! In the above example, the photo on the left is far too busy and it is difficult to figure out the subject. On the right, positive and negative space are used relatively well, and the focus of the image is clear.

blurring7. Use focus to create depth of field. You can use your camera focus to do this (which is more effective), but you can also fake/enhance depth of field with the blur feature on IG. Just be discriminating with when you use it — if you can see the edges of the blur clearly, you should probably skip it. The image on the right disguises the added focus on the subject’s face, whereas the blur on the right just makes zero sense.

8. Layer filters. Play around with different filter combinations to create your own effect. To do this, start with a filter of your choice, then screenshot the entire image. Editing the screenshot by cropping to the original photo and choosing a new filter to layer on top. You can do this as many times as you want!

9. Use Statigram to view your photos online. Statigram is an Instagram web viewer where you can sign in with your IG login to view your photos, and view and like friends’ photos. You can also enter Instagram contests. It’s ultimately just an easier way to view your pictures if you’re an avid user. They also collect stats for you based on your Instagram usage (ie, number of likes, favorite users, favorite filters, etc).

beautified10. Use external apps to help with the editing process. There are many external apps that you can download to edit your photos before instagramming (or just to use for fun!). A few (free!) apps of note:

  • PhotoGrid — lets you grid multiple photos in one frame (you may see these on Instagram sometimes)
  • PS Express — short for PhotoShop express. Super easy to use, but gives you greater editing features (ie, brightening and contrast) that you won’t find on the IG app.
  • Photosynth — awesome app for taking easy panoramas.
  • Photo wonder — developed to slim features and smooth blemishes, this app also works to smooth out harsh edges and noise in photos with non-human subjects. It definitely can help add the right mood to select images (see photos above).

11. Print your shots with Printstagram. This web app is a great way to share your photos! The prices are super reasonable, with 24-48 prints for $12 or a set of two 50-photo minibooks for $12.

12. Consider using add-on phone lenses to enhance your iPhone’s photo-taking capabilities. Photojojo (an awesome site for photo junkies) has a great selection of these, ranging from $20 to $25 each. They also offer a flash attachment for $30 or a macro lens band for $15. I’m just a little bit obsessed.

Have you tried any of these techniques/apps to edit your iPhone photos? If so, I’d love to know. Happy editing!

15 thoughts on “12 Steps to Better iPhoneography

  1. These are great tips! I just followed you on instagram btw. I unfortunately made the mistake of over editing my ig photos when I first made my account, but I’ve learned since then! 🙂 VSCO cam is my favorite photo editing app so far

  2. Pingback: On My List: A Photography Course | Jeans and Juice

  3. Love this post. Great tips and photos! I finally got a new iPhone and the camera is SO much better. I will definitely follow you on instagram. Have you tried VSCOcam? I also love Afterlight and the new Beautiful Mess app.

  4. Pingback: 12 Steps to Better iPhoneography | photography ...

    • I agree! I always take better photos on my iPad (it’s especially better for food photography), but it’s a little ridiculous to whip out my iPad (not a mini, mind you) in the middle of a restaurant…oh well.


  5. Fantastic explanation!! Your post is a good start to make good photos from an iPhone or any camera. The tips you posted are esential for photography, so you can always use them.

    I’d like to follow you on IG!! Your photos are great, wonderful!!

    Have a great day!!

    • Hmmm…not familiar with the Galaxy Notepad but I would suggest following the more general tips in here, ie play around with lighting, cropping, and depth of field — you don’t need an editing app to take great photos! Also, if you’re really interested in learning more, Photojojo teaches a phoneography class (I think you may be able to take it on your tablet) which is $5, but you get a store credit when you finish the class. It’s pretty simple, but reviews the basics of photography much better than I ever could! http://photojojo.com/university/

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