Updated: Oct 9, 2020
Want to up your photo game? Whether you’re using your phone or something a little fancier, there are lots of small things you can do to get better. Check out our tips and tricks, then get snapping!
1. Determine the best angle
There may be several angles that work great for the photo you want to take, but an easy way to figure which is best is to ask yourself what you want others to see when they look at the photo.
For instance, this photo is focused on sprinkling salt on the cookies, so it’s taken from straight-on:
This photo is meant to show off the patterns and colors of the dishes and linens, so it’s taken from the top, down:
And this photo is capturing the color of the cherry blossoms against the blue sky, so it’s taken straight up from the ground:
There can be multiple “right” answers to the “best angle” question, but you’re the one who knows what the most important element of the photo will be, so deciding how to best show that off is totally up to you.
2. Experiment with composition
Every photo should be visually balanced with a main focal point that draws the viewer’s eye, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the subject needs to be at the physical center of the photo (though, it can if you like!). What’s more important is that your photo is balanced. So, how do you know if your photo is balanced? Here’s an easy trick: if you were to slice the photo in half (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), the amount of space the items take up on both sides will usually be pretty equal.
For instance, in the photo below, the pancakes are the focal point, but they are in the top left corner. But it still feels balanced, and if you use the slicing rule, it checks out:
Here’s another example of good balance, and an example of a photo where the main focus isn’t necessarily the biggest element in the photo.
Your eye is drawn to the macaron with a bite taken out because it’s different from the rest of the cookies. And even though nothing is centered, the photo is balanced.
There are lots of ways to create great composition—and every photographer’s eye is different—so, just experiment until you fall into a groove that feels right to you.
3. Manipulate natural light
Natural light is best for taking most photos, but there may be times when it’s not being very cooperative. Here are a couple easy solves:
Too dark? Reflect light with something white. If you find that one side of your photo subject is a little darker than the other, set something white like a posterboard on that side. Light coming at it will bounch off and reflect on your subject. You can also use tin foil covering a poster board—tin foil will just create a different effect, so try both to see which you like best.
Too bright? Diffuse light with something translucent. If you’re near a window that’s streaming in bright light, you can even it out by diffusing it a number of different ways. Simply tipping blinds up or down can do the trick. Or if your curtains are somewhat translucent, closing them can even out the light. You can also tape tissue paper or parchment paper to windows. Anything that doesn’t block the light out completely will help keep the light more consistent.
4. Use phone editing tools to correct lighting
Taking pictures with your phone? When working with natural light that’s a little on the dark side, there are a few tools you can utilize during or after taking the photo than can help:
Use photo editing tools.
Even if your photo turns out a little dark, you may find that simply editing that photo in Instagram gives you a better photo than one with a flash. Here are a handful of other editing apps you can experiment with. Use your phone’s built-in tools to enhance lighting.
You can change the exposure of your photo by using the manual exposure tool for your phone camera. While taking a photo with an iOS phone, put the camera in focus and swipe up or down—this will bring up the sun icon, which you can move to change your photo’s exposure. For Android users, you may have this feature under the name of “pro mode.” Otherwise you’ll have to download a camera app from the Google Play store that has this. Use photo filters.
Your phone has a few built-in photo filters, but Instagram will have more to choose from.
5. Play around with your camera mode
If you’re taking pictures with your phone, try out these different camera modes so you have a few secret weapons for certain occassions:
On Android, this is called live/selective focus. This mode softens the background of a photo so that the person is in hyper-focus. It’s great for selfies or flattering images of people. Burst mode.
When your photo subject is in motion, burst mode allows you to capture a long series of images within a short amount of time. To activate it, simply keep your finger on the shutter button when you take a photo. Your phone will keep taking photos until you release your finger. Both iOS and most Android phones offer this feature. HDR mode, a.k.a. High Dynamic Range.
This allows you to maximize the colors in your photo for high contrast results. For iOS, HDR usually activates automatically when the image calls for it, so you don’t have to worry about activating it for every photo that you take. Most Android phones have this mode, so Android users just have to select it when taking a photo. Timer mode.
This is great in situations when you want your camera to take the photo automatically after a few seconds, so you don’t have to physically be there to touch the shutter button. Use this if you want to include yourself in your photo.
The best not-so-secret trick to taking great photos is practice, practice, practice! Use these tips to get started, but we hope you work to develop your own style that allows you to stand out. We look forward to seeing all the amazing Ripl creations that will result!