3 Lighting Tips for Better iPhone Photos

April 25, 2020

We’re all know the iPhone is a serious piece of technology, and the photos they can take a pretty dang amazing! Now don’t get me wrong, I would never trade by “big camera” for one, but I also can’t always carry by big camera around. Mainly because… well, because its a BIG camera haha.

iPhone photos typically capture your every day life, and just because they’re taken on your phone doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful images you send to print.

Really, all you need is some “good light”. But you’re not a photographer! How are you supposed to know what the heck “good light” means? Here are my top 3 lighting tips on making sure your iPhone photos have the best chance of being a beautiful printed image!

Number 1: NATURAL LIGHT, aka light from the sun. It may sound like a minor detail, but natural light is the absolute KEY for getting beautiful skin tones, pretty shadows, and no weird orange tint to your photos.

This doesn’t mean you have to be outside – it can be natural light coming in from a window. It can be natural light coming in from a window… even on a rainy day. Just make sure to turn off your artificial indoor lights, and get up close to those big windows!

Artificial light on the left, natural light on the right. To me, the right is just much more flattering on her skin. This actually isn’t horrible, but a lot of artificial light is significantly worse. These are unedited images.

Number 2: OPEN SHADE. A shaded area can give you such a different look than the harsh rays of the sun. A LOT of times that can’t be avoided (think the beach), but when you can get in the shade, it can give you a much cleaner looking photo.

Direct sunlight without any sort of diffuser (a tree, for example) causes lots of harsh highlights and shadows on your subject’s face, and makes creating a consistent look from photo to photo pretty difficult.

You can see Blakeslee is in direct, harsh sunlight on the left photo. On the right, she’s in the shade. It still looks warm (you can tell it’s a sunshiny day) on the right, there just aren’t harsh shadows and blown out skin.

Just try to make sure which ever way your subject is facing has access to the sky – it keeps the light on your face clean. That’s the “open” part of the open shade! If there isn’t access to the sky, you could have a color cast from whatever is creating the shade.

Once again, same edits. You can see the photo on the left my daughter is facing into the tree – the ambient shade is coming through the leaves and tints her face green. The photo on the left, she’s shaded by the tree, but she’s facing the open sky.
Left – she’s facing OUT and towards the open sky. This is the clean photo (right) above. The right, she’s facing a direction covered in leaves. the green color cast!

Number 3: YOUR ANGLE! The angle between your camera and the sun is so important. It matters for shadows on your subject’s face, for sure, but it also matters for how “clean” your photo is. If you are letting direct sun rays right into your phone/camera lens, you’re going to get a lot of “haze”. That’s one reason some of your images are cloudy or blurry looking, and don’t have clear and defined contrast or “pop”.

If you like haze, that’s fine! It’s not personally my style, as I prefer to have a “clean” photo with lots of definition and sharpness. I also find they’re easier to edit! If you can see the sun in your frame as you’re taking your picture, you’re pretty much going to have haze. This is relatively easy to avoid during the day, but much more difficult when the sun is lower in the sky.

The left photo had the sun in the top right corner, a VERY small angle turn created a “clean” photo. These are edited exactly the same – you can see how much harder it would be to have definition on the left photo!

Was this helpful? Obviously you can’t control a lot of situations, especially if they’re candid photos, but it’s nice to know the tricks for situations you can control. Can’t wait to share more!


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