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How To Take Better iPhone Pictures

Interested in taking better iPhone pictures? I’ve rounded up some of my top tips adapted from the How To Rock Your DSLR Workshop I did with my friend Huoy Chen last year + my Instagram Takeover for Baby Notebook! These simple tips + tricks will get you using your iPhone to the best of it’s capabilities! So whether you’re documenting your newborn baby day-by-day at home, or capturing your latest international adventure, try implementing these strategies to take your iPhone photos from bleh to frame-worthy!

I want you to be able to take the best iPhone pictures you can, but I also want YOU in the photos! So make sure to hire a professional for bigger milestones to make sure you’re in the pictures too!

1. Composition

“Rule of Thirds”: This is photography composition 101! It refers to lining up your subject (people, landscape, whatever) on one of the three equally-space lines dividing the frame – vertically and/or horizontally. Some iPhone camera settings even show this grid right on your screen! For example, say you’re photographing sunset at the beach – it is visually appealing to our eye to have a horizon line hit right along the bottom (or top) 1/3rd of the frame. Read more about it here on Artifact Uprising! However, these are artistic choices after all, so do whatever you want! 

Another composition tip is to bottom-weight your photos. Rather than centering your subject’s bodies right in the middle, cut out that extra foreground on the bottom & frame their feet at the edge. (See below)

2. Lighting

This is arguably the most important aspect of a photo! Lighting conveys tone and emotion, and can take a photo from bad to great!

Be aware of how lighting is affecting your subject – shadows, color, back light (dark subject, blown out background). Tap around the screen on lighter and darker parts of the image to see how the exposure changes. Your phone tries to read all of the light in the frame & can get confused when subjects are back-lit. You can also reposition yourself so your subject is more effectively lit! (see below) 

Be aware of harsh shadows (and squinty eyes!) caused by direct sunlight and aim for directional (think sun lower in the sky) or diffused light. Diffused light can either be a cloudy day (this is great, even lighting!), open shade out doors (blocked by trees/building etc.), or indoors, diffused by a window or curtain. Avoid artificial lighting (overhead fluorescent tubes, yellow lamp bulbs, etc. whenever possible) Experiment with different settings and see what you like the best! 

The best light for photos, in my opinion, is natural light – by the window from the side. Check out the amazing difference between the two images below. The plant is in the exact same spot, all I did was change the angle at which I was taking the picture (and therefor the angle of the light) – backlit (left) vs. side lit (right). WHOA! (please excuse the dead leaves – I do not have a green thumb haha)

HOT TIP: When you hold down focus on the iPhone & lock it in, you are able to manually adjust the exposure before you take the photo! Check out this video!

3. Settings

The latest iPhones actually have some pretty stellar (and complicated) setting options. Understanding these capabilities can give you even more control over your photos! The easiest component to manipulate is aperture, or “f stop”. This controls the “depth of field” or how much is in focus. Higher f stop, more in focus, lower, less in focus. Play around with this in Portrait mode and see what happens! It can get a little wonky if you’re not paying attention though! (You can see a video of me explaining this in the Baby Notebook IGT

There are also different lighting settings within portrait mode that are fun to play around with!

See how the trees behind us are blurry in this photo? That’s what you can do in Portrait mode! Also, how cute is Lemon!? I know, I’m biased.

4. Editing

Alright, now we venture towards the black hole of iPhone editing. The software that is built in to the iPhone is really all you need, though!

Right inside iPhone Photos you can adjust: 

    • Exposure (overall brightness/darkness)
    • Highlights (manage bright/light spots)
    • Shadows (manage dark spots)
    • Contrast (increase/decrease difference between dark and light – create POP or not!)
    • Saturation & vibrance (color intensity)
    • Warmth (cool/blue tones vs. warm/yellow tones) 
    • AND MORE!

If you’re ready to kick it up a notch, though, VSCO is by far my favorite editing app. (Again, you can see videos of me editing this photo of Lemon in the IG takeover) Play around with the filter options and see what fits your style! I tend to modify from the “C1” filter (see below).

There are additional mobile Lightroom presets out there (ex. Jenna Kutcher) but it begs the question, how much editing do you really want to do on your iPhone? Plus, if you get better at utilizing the previous steps, you won’t have to edit as much to make it a great photo!


I got a couple of questions during my Instagram Takeover, and the most common one was, “How do you get kids to look at you and smile?”

My answer is that I’m more about capturing kiddos how they are in this age. If they’re in a really mobile stage, or into making funny faces, my inclination is to capture that! Plus, if you’ve gotten better at making the photos look better technically, these candid moments will look more intentional and artistic!

That being said, I am not above making crazy goofy sounds to get people (or, ehem, dogs) to look at the camera!

Quality over Quantity

Finally, I do want to make a note on *quantity* of iPhone photos. Now that we have these fancy cameras in our pockets, I see people taking WAY too many photos. Take the shot to create the memory, but then put your phone AWAY. Too often we spend the concert, the hike, the party, the trip, seeing it through our phone rather than experiencing it. Don’t forget to live in the moment and actually ENJOY what you are seeing with your own eyes!

Print Your iPhone Photos

One of my my biggest soap box stances is printing your photos! How often do we scroll through the hundreds (or thousands) of photos on our phones? Me? Not that often. Get them off the screen and into your hands so you can enjoy these memories! My favorite, easiest way to do this is through Chatbooks. You can read more about my tips for printing your photos on the blog!

See More

You can learn more + see me explain these concepts (with fancy video examples!) on my Instagram Takeover for Baby Notebook HERE Happy shooting!

More questions? Let me know! I’m always happy to help!!

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I believe in all things bright, happy & colorful! Specializing in capturing the JOY of life's greatest adventures!

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