I am a firm believer that beautiful photos aren't created by a camera. They are created by perfect moments, lovely light, and a memorable subject. You might be surprised how many instagram accounts or blogs only use iPhones to tell their stories. Creative portraiture can be achieved easily, it just takes practice and training your eye to view every day life a little differently.
You might desire to document life with your children so you can have beautiful photos for the baby books you'll eventually make once life SLOWS DOWN. ;) You're not alone. I've been there! I'm a professional photographer that forgets to print pictures, let alone set aside enough time to put them in an album...because life is crazy! But we want to remember all those crazy, hectic, beautiful moments just as they were, right? Maybe you desire to share outfits or daily style via your blog/social media or love to travel and see new places; but feel without a professional camera, you can't provide quality content. Don't fret, some of my favorite shots of fashion and travel were taken with my phone! And do you know why? Because it captured the moment just as I saw it. No frills or fancy editing, just a real moment, when I was exploring and experiencing somewhere new.
The ideas I share below can be applied to any kind of photography. Remember-- whether you're shooting with a professional camera or a phone, it's not about settings, but about what you see.
1.Lighting is everything.
Forget background+location for a moment. If your lighting is poor, it's hard to make the rest of your elements collaborate. Thanks to that handy flash, you can always grab expressions and moments in any light, but if you're going for quality aesthetics, good lighting is your friend. A photo of the most gorgeous location in the world can appear just "meh" if the light isn't managed well. This means for indoor photos, windows are everything. If it's day time and you have the opportunity to position your object, person, or activity near a window...turn off your overhead lights and let that natural light shine! Faces to the window will provide soft light that's extremely flattering. This goes for any subject-- food, animals, people, you name it! And give yourself freedom to experiment. Grab someone to model for you at different angles near or against a window. By experimenting, you will train your eye to instinctively know the best placement with the available light. Oh!--And the next time you burn breakfast, notice how the light rays stream through your windows. Random, but the smoke and light make THE coolest photos!
When you're outdoors, shade or back-lighting is the way to go. Shade is ideal if you're shooting between 10am-mid afternoon because the sun is high in the sky. This is usually the least flattering time of day to take photos of people, because the light angles down on their face instead of straight-on, which is what sunset provides. During this time, find a spot with complete shade and keep all speckles of light off your subject. This will provide nice, even light to accentuate your subject's best features. Backlighting is achieved in the two hours after sunrise or before sunset. When the light is behind your subject, it often gives a soft and airy glowing effect. Photographers call this the "golden hour" because the sunlight becomes yellow and oh so magical. As with window light, experiement with different kinds of outdoor light at different times of day!
2.Change your position.
Try not to get stuck in a rut and stand straight on for every photo. Be active and change YOUR position. Your camera's placement is just as important as your subject's placement. Selfies are popular for a reason! Shooting from above is both flattering and gives a unique perspective for portraits. Try standing on a chair and shooting straight down at the table while your kids are crafting. Or if they're playing in the sprinkler, lay on your stomach in the grass and snag a shot of their feet jumping through the water. Back up, move in close, and experiment with every angle imaginable. I've always thought it would be neat to see 10 photographers take a picture of the same subject, just to see all the different angles they'd choose. Take the sprinkler scenario as an example, and think of all the different ways a moment like that can be captured! I'm giddy just thinking about it ;). Most people just hold their phone out front, ensure everyone fits in the frame and call it done. But challenge yourself and try something different! Train your creative eyes to see everyday life a little differently...even if it gets you laughed at. Trust me, I've put myself in some pretty awkward positions to get THE shot.
3. Let them move.
All too often we try to pause moments to get the perfectly posed photo. BUT, the best photos are the in-betweeners. If I'm taking a picture of a couple about to kiss and I tell them I got the shot, they might instantly start laughing. That laughter and raw emotion is priceless and usually makes for an even better photo. It's always nice to get a young child to hold still for a photo, but you know what can be equally as cute? When they run, skip, and swing their arms in the air after we stop encouraging them to hold still. I like to sit on the ground and call them to me while I'm snapping away. If we want to remember our live as we lived them, snagging the everyday moments will be an irreplaceable treasure. A good way to grab movement and interaction is to introduce an activity. It can be as small as asking someone to walk towards you, eating some ice cream, or getting the family together to fly a kite. Don't be intimidated. MOVE and have fun with it!
4. Be aware of the background.
Less is truly more with most things in life, except cookie dough chunks in ice cream, of course. When you're shooting with a phone, most objects in your frame will be fairly in focus because most phones don't have an option for a blurry background. You will see everything. Remove distracting items from the background before you get your shot, and you'll probably like the photo much more. We want authenticity and to remember life as it was, but we also don't want to remove attention from our subject. Minimalistic backgrounds make for aesthetically pleasing phone pics. Do you want to get a photo of your daughter with a plain background? Have her stand next to the window with the curtain draped out from behind her, covering the background. Or have her lie down face up on her bed, and you can shoot from above! Are you struggling to get a quality background? Just move in closer and eliminate it. We often times stand a few feet away and ensure everything is in the frame...but why? Going back to what we learned with positioning, try something new, move around, and hop out of your comfort zone!
5. Avoid too many filters.
It's fun to experiment with different ways of editing your images. Whether you like bright and airy or dark and moody film tones, there are loads of great apps for playing. Afterlight and VSCO are my two favorites. But I try not to change my picture too drastically or tell myself I'll fix it later. Brightening and darkening phone pics isn't easy, and they usually ends up looking overly edited. With professional cameras, there are many ways to adjust your images flawlessly, but your phone will make you work for it! A good photo won't need much editing, so instead of focusing on the edits, remember the importance of your lighting, position, and background. The heart of your composition.
And that's it! If you take anything away from this, please just have fun and experiment. Practice with different lighting, positions, and backdrops. If you find yourself naturally shooting one way for everything, stop yourself and try something different. It's a lot of fun to capture moments from your life, and for them to be really beautiful too!
*** All of these photos were taken with my phone.