I often get asked by friends how I can make a glass of lemon mint smoothie photogenic as if it belonged on a menu card, while when it’s their turn to take a picture of their own smoothie they feel it looks lacklustre. With a few tweaks and giving an extra 2-3 seconds of letting that image come to life, record your daily moments with a nice dash of spirit. Mobile photography has always been something that I naturally could do at an unconscious level.
But take into account the whole idea of nature vs nurture. Being a natural at it can only get you so far on a skill but when you truly nurture it with time and effort – the whole process can become effortless. The skill quietly develops, I will attest to that. Occasionally I will scroll down back to the origins of my Instagram feed for example and see how my photography has unfolded.
After looking back it makes me realise that actually, I’ve been a hobbyist shooter for over 10 years. Only now does it feel like I can break down into simpler steps how I go around taking a photo in a practical way. Seeing as digital cameras and smartphones have evolved the way we choose to capture images has a new level of versatility we never had before.
**Honest disclaimer, this post includes affiliate links, which means I get a commision should you make a purchase through a link I provide. No extra cost for you and this also, in turn, helps support the work I put into this site.
Again you don’t need any fancy equipment you just need to get that practice done, after all, if it’s anything like what Josh Kaufman mentions in his book…
“The trouble comes when we confuse learning with skill acquisition. If you want to acquire a new skill, you must practice it in context. Learning enhances practice, but it doesn’t replace it. If performance matters, learning alone is never enough.” ― Josh Kaufman, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast
Below are 6 photo taking tips that I have picked up from recording all my moments through my phone. These might be iPhone photography tips only because I currently use an iPhone 6 but you don’t necessarily need an iPhone to shoot well. I’m all for it’s not just the equipment but it’s the intention. The general idea is how to better compose and convey how you felt when you chose to snap that exact moment. I think that’s the beauty of the spontaneity of this – at first, it might feel very planned but as you keep on photographing it will become second nature.
Here are my 6 DIY mobile camera hacks:
Tip #1 – Enable your photo grid
You’ve probably heard this before but how many of you actually turn it on and make use of it?
I’m not going to go too much in depth about the rule of thirds but in a nutshell, those lines on your screen aren’t meant for distraction. They help guide your eye and help frame your shot by defining where are the interest points. These interest points will be the intersections of your image – the ‘visual hotspots’ where our eyes are drawn to.
For iPhone’s to switch on the grid go to:
Settings > Scroll down to “Camera” > Switch on the label for “Grid” > PRESTO!
*** I believe for non-iPhone users you just need to find your Camera settings and enable the grid too but if not should you be familiar with post-editing on your image editing with the “Crop” function it will prompt the grid as well.
Here’s how I shot these super simpatico “BUN”nies..
It makes it even seem as if he’s kinda looking at you while the rest are just seemingly looking away hoping they don’t get picked and eaten – don’t you think?
Tip #2 – Play around with having your main subject off-centre
A habit that we all seem to naturally have is when you are either travelling or see something that you want to photograph the first reaction is to want to make the focal point the central point. These types of shots I think are great to share with friends, your family album but if you want to convey that something extra – that pinch of “je ne sais quoi”.
Plus, in the era of digital photography, we don’t need to overly concern ourselves with running out of film roll. Experiment with having your subject in different areas of your grid.
Here are two examples of the same shot just different framing:
One with the silhouette to the side while other shot with the silhouette being in the centre. Exact same shot and settings, just very different feel. For me the horizontal version makes it feel as though the figure is walking on clouds while on the vertical one makes it seem he’s still atop the peak.
Tip #3 – Turn it upside down
How often are you trying to get low enough to grab a photo of something but you can’t just seem to get low enough or the angle just seems unfavourable? But at the same time, you don’t really feel like kneeling down, laying on some random floor to get that shot? My favourite hack by far because it’s so simple and after the first time you attempt this you will become a convert. It’s just a cold fact – friends that picked up this trick from me tell me it’s the favourite photo tip they learned from me.
The answer: Literally turn your phone upside down. Why? This puts the phone camera at a lower vantage point where you are tilting away from the subject instead of angling towards it which will immediately give you a better depth of field.
Here’s a quick comparison:
Tip #4 – Flip the camera around
Trying to take a photo of a ceiling? But you haven’t really quite perfected your Matrix-meets-yoga backbend? No problem, simply pretend you are taking a selfie of the ceiling instead. Flip that camera and just frame away without having to strain your back. This also helps avoid getting those distorted lines that might make the image seem a bit wonky.
Here’s an example of when I was trying to capture the ceiling of this Taiwanese ceramics shop:
Tip #5 – Flattering layers
As you will notice on my IG feed my style of food photography is predominately “flat lay” style (although close friends jokingly refer this as the ‘Yone shot’ haha.) but the issue then is how to avoid making an image that is supposed to be flat – not look too flat? But more the idea of dimensions.
Three is my lucky number and I think for flat lays it’s also the minimum magic number to get a shot that conveys more than just a single element. As other photographers might say you want the static image to tell a sort of story.
Tip #6 – Natural is best
I’ve learned and have slowly become more and more of a stickler for shooting using natural light. One of the most valuable photography workshops I’ve done was all about window light portraits and the idea was mainly to work with the light and not against it. Considering that most of my shooting comes when I’m on the go and not in a proper studio I’ve become less shy about moving around to find where I find the light most pleasing or even turning the actual dish around to find it’s tasty side. Best of all when shooting in natural light it actually spares me from having to edit an image since I’ve already ‘bent’ it to my favour.
Here’s my example:
Note that there are 0 edits on this shot.
That’s it for some quick tips to boost your mobile photography that is not only free but easy to do. Without the fuss of any extra effort of purchasing new equipment. If this post has been helpful let me know or even better if you have recently applied any of these tips send me over an email or tag over at IG for me to can check it out!
Follow my quest of personal bliss expressed in images through my Instagram @museflux
But if you just want to discover food spots that I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to check out my images tagged #musefluxfoodie