When I started learning about photography—and when I started teaching Momtography®—I was focused on my DSLR camera. I wanted to know how to use it beyond the auto setting. I wanted to know how to set up a good picture and play with light. I wanted to know the technical stuff behind good photos and the tricks to going beyond a snapshot. Since then, camera phones have exploded, which means you can have amazing photos right in your pocket.
I still use my “fancy” camera, and I encourage moms to get to know and use theirs, but some days you don’t have your camera with you or you want to travel light. You can still get great shots with your phone.
3 Steps to Amazing Photos from Your Phone
It comes down to a few things: pay attention to your environment, engage with your subjects (assuming you’re photographing your kids or other humans), and know your camera (in this case your phone).
Pay Attention to Your Environment
One of the things moms often don’t love about their photos is the clutter they end up seeing in the background. My house and yard are not clutter free by any means, but I still get pictures that I love. Here are a few tips to help with shot set up:
- Move a few things. I’m not suggesting that you clean the house or even the room to start taking pictures, but maybe you could shift the laundry basket to the side or pick up the backpack your kids dropped right in front of them.
- Try a different angle. If you took your shot from the other side, would it be “cleaner”? Sometimes a different angle can make the difference.
- Set the stage. Know you want to snap some shots, set your kids up to read on the cleared off chair or sofa that’s against a wall. Make your bed and give them some cozy reading time. Clear a play space before bringing out a new LEGO set.
- Use tools and editing to your advantage. Get your kid in focus and the background fuzzy. Crop out some of your surroundings. Try viewing the photo in black and white (sometimes less color overload leads to less visual overload).
- Embrace the mess. Sometimes you may decide that the mess is part of the reality you are capturing. That works too!
Light is one of the other big factors that affect your photos. It may seem like it’s always too much or not enough. Work with angles to avoid shooting directly in to the sun (even if you need to turn people around). Pay attention to shadows. Sometimes they can look really cool in a picture and be part of what you capture. Other times they will be a distraction.
Engage with Your Subjects
Have you ever tried to take pictures of your kids only to have them make silly faces or fake smiles? Or maybe your kids want to see the picture before it’s even taken or hide from the camera. One of my favorite tricks for getting good pictures of kids has nothing to do with your camera or even taking the picture. It’s about what happens before you take the picture.
Engaging with your kids before you start clicking away can make all the difference. Get your kid thinking, talking, smiling, and laughing about their ice cream cone being a space ship or how they would move if they were an elephant and you are more likely to get a natural look than if you ask them to say, “Cheese.”
Know Your Camera
Your phone may seem like a much simpler tool than a DSLR camera, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know it and get comfortable with it.
- Take a bunch of pictures and delete them. This help especially help if you want just to get comfortable with holding the camera and clicking the shot. It may sound silly, but sometimes people get their fingers over the camera or set up the shot, but want to click with the hand that’s holding the camera. Find what feels natural. Get used to opening up your camera quickly and easily. (The less time you spend getting the camera ready, the more time you can spend setting up your shot.)
- Try different angles. You can think about different angles for lining up your shot, but also the angle of your camera. I see a lot of moms stand over their kids and angle the phone down. What happens if you get on level and hold the phone straight? Or go directly above with a flat phone? Shooting with your phone at an angle sometimes gives funky results. Try it. If you don’t love the results, try a similar shot from a different angle without the angled phone.
- Know how your camera reacts to dim light. Does it have a flash? Will it use the flash automatically? Is there a delay when you use a flash? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you can Google it (including the type and version of your phone), and better yet, play around!
The more you play with your phone, the more you get a sense of how it works in different situations.
If you want to learn more about what you can do with your camera phone — plus other secrets of getting confident behind your camera, no matter what camera it is — Momtography® online can help!
If you primarily use your phone, you can start with the brand new camera phone track, and you’ll also get access to the DSLR track to take when you are ready.
With your phone, you’ve got your camera in your pocket or your bag all the time. That means amazing photos are right within reach. Ready for it to click?