Photo Lessons from an iPhone

Here’s today’s photo tip, with a return to basics for snappers of all levels…

-- Bonnie

Bonnie Caton
Great Escape Publishing

October 14, 2009
The Right Way to Travel, Weekly Photo Tip

Photo Lessons from an iPhone

By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

I have never been one of those people who have to have a phone to their ear or strapped to their hip. In fact, I rather like being unfettered. But my iPhone is so much more than a phone… I fear it’s become my second brain. And one of the features I use a lot is the camera.

While the iPhone has some nice applications that can “process” an image, crop it, turn it into a cartoon or otherwise modify the photos it takes, it does not have any other camera controls.

Without all the bells and whistles of a full-size digital camera, you have no choice but to think about composition… because that’s all you have to work with.

But even with a complex SLR camera, you should still be thinking about composition first. Because proper exposure, focus, and other technical details can be learned and mastered. But without a strong composition, you’ll have a hard time selling your photo anywhere… whether as stock, editorial, or fine art.

Here are three tips for making sure you’ve always got composition on the brain, no matter how simple or sophisticated your camera is:

** 1. Consider the entire frame. Every time you put the camera to your eye, look at the whole image from edge to edge -- top to bottom, and left to right. Make sure that what you see is what you want. Is there garbage in the way or some other distraction in the shot? If so, then change your angle or perspective until you see just what you want and only what you want. This takes some patience, but it more than pays off in the end.

** 2. Go beyond the Rule of Thirds (more on the Rule of Thirds here) and think about the implied motion in the photo. Technically speaking, it’s best to place your subject on a Thirds Line, with the motion of the subject moving into the image -- toward the center or across.

Take these two shots, for example. In the first one, the subject is moving into the photo, while in the second one, she’s moving out of it. The first one is a much stronger composition:

Rule of Thirds

Note: your subject doesn’t have to be moving for there to be implied motion. It can be the direction your subject’s face is pointing, where the eyes are looking, which direction she’s standing, etc. Also, when playing around with composition, feel free to try other approaches, as sometimes a person moving out of an image can add a tension or mystery to a photo.

** 3. Change perspective. Since I don’t hold my iPhone the way I would my big digital SLR camera, I find myself taking all kinds of strange angles and perspectives, coming up with photos I have never tried or thought about. The iPhone is small and light, with no focus to worry about, so it’s easy to try shooting from overhead, from foot level or around a corner -- the idea is to try a variety of angles and see what interesting things you can capture. Try this with your camera -- whether it’s a big SLR or a small point-and-shoot. Mixing up your angles, you may come up with image compositions you never would have expected.

Taking pictures with my iPhone is simply for the fun and joy of it -- I can’t sell the images as stock because the quality isn’t anywhere near good enough. But it allows me to try new and different things and grow in my craft. Plus, it’s been great practice in composition.

My point is: step away from the iPhone to a camera with bells and whistles and the most essential skill you have as a photographer is still… composition. Practice this one essential above all else if you want to make an income from your shots.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]