Cell Phone Basics

Seeing as many people use their cell phones for photos, today I am going to give a couple quick (and I mean QUICK) tips on some basics of getting better photos with cell phones. For purposes of demonstration, I quickly took a couple photos of my Bison Coolers soft pack and did not edit any of these photos. I didn't even really think about composition, so this is really just bare bones here!

1. Tap on the photo to change lighting.
This first photo is mostly lit from behind (back lit) which will make the front of the cooler darker. Usually when you a subject is backlit, it will look like a dark silhouette. For this photo I had enough light coming from in the house that it wasn't super dark, but if you try something like this at home your photo might be much darker. Either way,  I tapped on the screen in a dark area of the cooler to lighten it up. I touched the screen where the dark strap is to lighten it up. This will help in back lit situations or in really bright situations. (You can touch on a bright part of the photo to darken the overall picture). My cell phone has HDR available which will also help even out photos that are really bright or really dark. However not all phones will have that, so tapping on the photo in light/dark areas will help even out exposure. Also HDR will probably not be as helpful with moving subjects as it takes two photos (one exposed for the bright areas and one exposed for the dark areas) and merges them together. So if someone is running across the frame, there is a chance they will be blurry since the camera is essentially taking two photos of them a second or two apart.

Now, I don't think you would ever want to put a cooler on a chair like this, but let's pretend this was the shot you were looking for. You can see the difference here in the grey chair. The first photo was dark so I tapped on the screen where the grey chair is and the photo was lightened up.

2. Look for open shade when photographing outside.
For a photo to come out clean and crisp, the camera needs lots of light. Luckily being outside will provide lots of natural light. However, you still need to think about how to best use that light available. One best way is to place the subject in open shade, meaning a shady area but still facing the sunlight. In this first photo, you can see that the cooler is in the bright sun with uneven lighting. If I moved it back just a couple inches as in the second photo, the lighting is much less harsh and looks nicer.

Also be sure to look for even shade, not spotty.  This first photo is in dappled light, which can be very cool if done well. This one is not done well and just looks like I haphazardly placed the cooler on the ground (which I totally did!). The second photo is moved to a spot with more even shade. Remember to still have the subject facing the sun so it will be lit nicely.

3. Pull your subject away from the background. 
To help give a little depth to your photos, pull the subject away from the background. This first photo is right up against the bricks with no breathing room. The second is pulled away about 3 feet and gives more depth to the photo. 

Pulling the subject away from the background will also help to give a more blurry background naturally. Editing in a blurry background can make your photo look fake and should be used lightly. If you get it right in camera, then you won't need to worry about editing it later! Notice the fence and kickball is much more blurry in the first photo than the second because of the distance to the fence. I also held the camera pretty close to the 'bison coolers' label, and tapped on the screen to focus on the lettering, to take these photos. That will also help get a blurry background. Even the grass in the first photo is blurry because I told the camera to focus on the lettering by tapping on the screen. Usually a little green box will come up where you tap and that is setting the focus point. 


Jen Faith Brown is a family photographer specializing in storytelling family photography session, either in home or on location. Jen is married with three young sons who keep her quite busy and give her abundant practice in photographing always-moving children! Jen is now booking 2015 sessions in Flower Mound, Southlake, Highland Village, Lewisville, Coppell, Frisco, and surround DFW areas. Please visit for pricing and to view sample galleries.

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