Simple Tips That Will Make Your iPhone Photos 100 Times Better

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

These days, if you own a mobile phone (and 75% of the WORLD does) there is a decent chance you have the capacity to be a photographer. BUT you might not be a very good one and putting on an Instagram filter isn’t the only way to try and make your pictures better.While plenty of apps abound and we do love Instagram, getting a handle on the basic rules of composition and understanding some of the important camera functions built right in to your iPhone can help you create MUCH better images. And then they will look even cooler when you add a filter…or you might not even need one.

Here are some tips to start you on your journey, but keep in mind the most important thing to improving your photography is to go out and take pictures, go home study and critique them, and then repeat.

Legendary photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

And that was long before the digital age, now that number is probably closer to 100,000. So get out there and shoot.

Your iPhone camera interface - this is how it should look. HDR On and Grid On.

Click the options button in the middle and then slide them on - but make sure in Settings that you are saving both originals and HDR versions of your photos.

Use the manual focus option - don't just let the camera decide! Use your finger to select where you want the camera to focus and expose for. Sometimes when a picture looks too dark or too light try focusing on a different part of the image.

But if that isn't working...

Another tip is to just move your camera a little or angle it slightly different so it is letting more or less light in.

If you press down and hold the focus square on a specific point it will flash, get larger and then smaller and turn on AE/AF Lock - this means it will lock in that focus point and exposure (light setting) even if you move the camera around. This can be useful if you want to adjust your framing and composition without the camera settings changing.

Rule of Thirds - One of the oldest composition rules around. Imagine your view is cut into thirds and try to position your subject a little off centre and around one of the axes. In the beginning it might be helpful to keep your grid on but eventually this will become a natural part of your photography.

The rule of thirds can also be used to segment images, like this one where each section (foreground sand, mid balloon, and background ocean) takes up about a third of the frame.

Use HDR in high contrast lighting situations so you can get good colour and light for all areas of your photo. In this example if it was not HDR there would be no blue or yellow in the sky OR the buildings and people would be totally dark. Using HDR you get both - a little post shot editing helps even out the exposure and lighting.

Here is the non-HDR version trying to expose properly for the people walking in the foreground.

Framing is the use of elements in a scene to highlight a point - like this Instagram profile picture. The camera frames the reflection the photographer's (my) eye.

Try shooting from different and interesting angles. Don't just hold your iPhone out in front of you. One of the biggest benefits of the iPhone (and any mobile phone camera) is that it is small and discrete. You can easily put into positions or places that your eye doesn't usually see the world from. These are more interesting visually then straight on shots that simply capture what everyone would see naturally. Though of course there is a time and place for more standard shots.

Interesting angles can also mean getting up high and shooting down.

Getting really close can also help create interesting contrasts between the sizes and proportions of different objects. Things closer to the camera look bigger and things farther away look smaller.

utilise leading lines and tunnel vision to draw a viewer through your picture, even if it is empty like this one. Here, everything points to a central point in th back (which is conveniently about one third up from the bottom of the frame - coincidence?).

Keep your eyes open, interesting things are happening all around us all the time, even when our backs are turned. The convenience and discreetness of your mobile camera is one of its best qualities, use it by keeping your eyes open.

Don't use the camera's zoom function. It doesn't actually zoom! All it does is digitally zoom, which is the same thing as cropping your photo. But if the camera is trying to zoom digitally it will still pick up more shake from your hands and it will create a lower resolution image. Your best bet is to take the picture without zooming and then crop in as close as you want - that is what we did here.

Use the iPhone's (4S) f/2.4 aperture to create a shallow depth of field and bring focus on the foreground...

Or background. Both photos totally unedited and straight out of the iPhone - no artificial blur added.

Try out lens accessories like the fish-eye to get extreme wide angles and unique perspectives.

But remember that you don't always need them to get a cool effect - mirrors can often help.

Use editing apps to bring out colours. Our personal favourite is Snapseed ($4.99) but there also great free options, like Camera Awesome.

In low light conditions don't just use your flash - try and think about how you can use shadows and contrast or outlines to show the story or moment.

But all rules are made to be broken (once you know and understand them) for example, sometimes putting things smack dab in the middle works nicely.

So spread your wings and go out to take some photos.

But if you aren't ready to go out right this second, here is more on photography...

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