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What Makes An iPhone Photo, A Good Photo?

October 24, 2018

If you've ever taken pictures with your iPhone that looked really good — so good you've often asked yourself, "how did I do that?" you may have been following the guidelines to good iPhone photography without even knowing!

Read: Your iPhone X and Low Light iPhone Photography

It's true.

Just as much as you and I can both tell when a picture looks good with just a glance, there is a formula to getting it right all the time. So let me ask you, "Why do you think that your iPhone pictures that look good, keep looking good?" Not sure? Let's go through the basic elements together.

underwater iPhone photography

1. Your Subject

Every photo needs a subject or something that can take center stage. If you're always taking pictures because of something that looks interesting or compelling, you're doing it right! You probably want to get it right every time, so what makes a good iPhone photography subject?

Common sense tells us that the more unusual something is, the more compelling of a subject it will be in an image. So, start there. Think about what you find interesting, and then look at it from a new vantage point, or perspective — perhaps that alone will create the interest.

iPhone photography

Do this:

To prove to yourself that your iPhone photography isn't bad, find yourself a subject that you might find boring on an average day. Something mundane. Then, without touching this subject or moving it or modifying it in any way, try to take at least 10 interesting shots of the subject. You're allowed to play around with your angles and your focal point.

Have you noticed something? Sometimes, the subject itself doesn't have to be interesting, but you need to think outside of the box when shooting it. Pay special attention to what you find appealing because that's the key!

2. The Photo's Composition

While you were doing the "subject challenge" you probably felt desperate to move things about in order to make the photograph compelling, right? Good! That means you have an innate sense of composition.

Meaning, you understand the importance of positioning the main elements in a photograph, in order to attract the viewer to wherever the focal point is (in this case it was the subject of the photograph).

Did you know that there are many composition techniques, that will help you do this even quicker?

dog instagram grid


The first one, which every professional photographer knows, yes the ones who use expensive DSLRs, is something called, "the rule of thirds".

Read: How To Change The ISO Settings On Your iPhone

The rule of thirds just basically states that an off-center subject looks more natural and appeals to the eye much more than a subject that is in the center of the frame. For instance, positioning the subject a little to left or to the right of the frame, as well having a clean background in the top third (instead of the center) automatically creates a much more compelling image!

Then there's something called, "Leading lines".

Leading lines are exactly as the name suggests, lines which lead the eyes to what the photographer wants the viewer to focus on. The best leading lines are roads, walkways, bridges, rivers, etc. Basically, anything that runs parallel.

taj mahal photo

3. How You Use Light

The eyes are the best guide when it comes to taking compelling photographs with your iPhone. Although the iPhone X uses artificial intelligence to automatically adjust and optimize images, paying attention to how you use light is a sure-fire way to take good pictures.

During the subject challenge, did you notice how the light impacted your image? How did your subject interact with the light? Did you notice that depending on the direction that the subject was facing, the way that it interacted with the light dramatically changed how it looked?

dog iphone portrait


Think back to the last selfie that you took... Have you noticed that depending on the time of day, selfies taken by the window can project varying moods?

This is because of something called, "exposure".

When iPhone photographers talk about the exposure in an image, what they're basically talking about is the amount of light that the camera is able to capture when you take a picture.

To adjust exposure on your iPhone, all you have to do is set the focus by tapping on the screen, then swipe to select your options whether or not that is exposure. You can swipe to make the image brighter or swipe to make it darker. When a photo looks too bright or washed out, then we say it's "over-exposed". iPhones don't typically overexpose images, amateurs, on the other hand, do!

4. The Overall Mood of Your Image

This one is tricky, but you just know it when you experience it. The mood has to do with the color aspect of your iPhone photography. The reason why you like someone's "themed" Instagram is that they create the overall mood. When you use earthy tones, your images have a relaxing mood, whereas bright colors create a feeling of excitement.

BUT if you have a lot of clashing colors in your image, by using black and white, you can bypass this problem and still convey a cohesive, mysterious and classic feeling.

color scheme through lens


Do this:

One week, decide on a color scheme and then follow that theme for the whole week. Really challenge yourself to see this particular color in everything.

Repeat this with all the colors of the spectrum until you get to black and white. What this will do is make you aware of ALL the colors at a particular point in time. When you first see people's themed Instagram feeds, it is tempting to think that they've put in a lot of hard work to accomplish the theme, but they've honestly just forced themselves to focus!

5. Be Easy About It

iPhone photography is definitely easier than trying to become a pro with a DSLR. So in the same respect, take it easy! Don't over complicate things with trying to do too much too soon.

iPhone cameras come with so many amazing features that allow you to hack your way into impressive photography with half the time that you'd spend on another device — let alone an actual digital camera.

Read: Must-Know Camera Hacks For Your iPhone

Take a LOT of Pictures

The interesting thing about photography is that you will not get your picture in one shot. It happens, but it's very rare. So the key to doing well at iPhone photography is to consistently and constantly take photos. If you're taking a picture of a scene, don't just take one or two pictures — take at least a dozen!

Finally, shoot at various exposure levels to see what works best (later, when you edit your images, you'll be glad that you did that). Keep experimenting and most importantly... Do not over-edit! There are plenty of apps that allow you to edit the contrasts, saturation and all that jazz, but refrain. There's nothing wrong with applying a preset as a signature to let people know that something is your image, but that should be the extent of it.

Whether you've been aware of it all along, or only recently became comfortable with your iPhone photography, just know that by repeatedly following the principles from 1 to 5, your images will look good and your iPhone photography will improve tremendously.

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