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How to take a decent photo using your iPhone

The How-To Issue

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Why is it that some people can take killer photos using their iPhones (or Androids, or iPads, or whatever) worthy of framing or gifting or showing off on photo-sharing websites, while others of us (ahem) struggle to just get a picture that’s passable enough to post to Facebook? Sure, you can always use Instagram or Facebook’s filters to improve the look of your pics, but sometimes you want to take a halfway decent photo without having to make it look all sepia-toned and hipster. We asked Orlando Weekly contributing photographer Robert Bartlett to give us a few tips:

Don’t use your flash. It makes everything washed out, it reflects off things in your photos and in the wrong hands, a flash just makes pics look bad in general. It’s hard to even take a good photo of your cat using a flash, unless you’re intentionally going for the kitty-with-laserbeam-eyes look.

Use available light. Can you move your subject closer to a light source? Can you bring a lamp or lit screen or even a candle closer to your subject? Can you take a cool photo using natural light from a window? Nine times out of 10, amateur iPhone photos look better using available light than using a flash. Don’t zoom if you don’t have to. The more you zoom in on most smartphones, the less clarity your photo will have.

Make sure your light source isn’t directly behind your subject. Unless you want a big, looming silhouette in front of a bright glow, get the light to shine on your subjects instead.

Turn on your grid lines. On an iPhone, you’ll find them in Settings. Use them to help you use the “rule of thirds” to create a better composition for your photo. The rule of thirds says that a strong image should be divided into nine equal sections and that key points of interest should be placed at or near the intersections of those lines. Even if you don’t want to use the rule of thirds to snap your pics, you can use the grid lines to help you compose and align elements in your image.

Isolate your subject. Figure out what the main element of your photo will be, and get rid of as much clutter around it as you can. That could mean focusing on a particular element in a landscape, rather than trying to take the whole thing in, or it could mean (literally) shoving a bunch of clutter out of the way if you wan to take a better picture of your dog/cat/boyfriend/meal. Even if you don’t use any of these other tips when taking photos with your phone, use this one. Nobody wants to see the dirty laundry on the floor next to your new baby or the plate full of half-eaten food next to your awesome bottle of craft beer.

Take a minute to edit your pics. A lot of smartphone cameras come with a simple photo editor that’ll let you crop your images or adjust colors or sharpness. While cropping alone can make a huge difference in the quality of your photo, a real photo-editing app, like Photogene or even the Photoshop app, can make your photos sing. Want something that’ll really make your photos pop? Try Snapseed, which gives you more control, editing and filter options, like Drama and Tilt-Shift, that you won’t find on Instagram.

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