How your phone can help you become a better photographer

My Iphone is easily my favorite camera for a number of reasons. The main one being that I always have it with me!IMG_3912

Being a good photographer is about capturing the moment, telling stories and translating emotions. The tools you pick to do that matter much less than your creative process.better-phone-photography

In fact, the worse the tool (within reason of course) the better. Why? Because it forces you to get creative and to focus on the essential: composition and light.

Yes definition/sharpness will be crap. Yes there will be tons of noise on most pictures. So what?

I believe that everyone can benefit from owning a good camera. A DSLR with a good lens if budget allows. But a good photo is a good photo, regardless of the gear you use to take it. Camera phones have their strengths and their weaknesses, but by emphasizing the good and downplaying the bad, one can create magic with them!

Here are some tips that may help you do just that:

  1. Good light is the most important thing in photography. When using a phone camera, it is even more important. Essential! Numero uno!!
  2. To ensure people don’t focus their attention on the lack of sharpness and overall “quality”, you have to blow their mind with a good story. Here, composition is EVERYTHING! MOOD is the word! I took the photo below of my grandnephews and was about to delete it (just too blurry I thought). My Sister in law saw it and got it framed. It became the most passed along and framed picture in our family in 2014. I think everyone has a copy. TAKE THATstupid 4000€ DSLR!better-phone-photography
  3. Pay more attention to textures and your rule of thirds. Go watch this video: Rule of thirds vs Golden Ratio
  4. Edit first. Filter second. I use Snapseed for editing. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve tried them ALL and Snapped remains my absolute favorite for its ease of use and overall quality and stability.  Then, since most of my phone photos are made specifically to share on Instagram, I only use Instagram filters.
  5. Try not to add fake blur. You can almost always tell that it is fake. If you want to play with shallow depths of field, use a proper camera and a low f-stop. It kind of works sometimes like (I think) in the picture below, but it must be lightly applied.better-phone-photography
  6.  Never, ever use the flash. If you do, then use the shot as an extreme creative project and go wild with the filters, flares etc…
  7. Avoid using the zoom at all costs. It is better to crop later if you really have to.
  8. Experiment. Have fun. Mess up. Set challenges for yourself. Leave your comfort zone behind… That’s what being an artist is all about!

Here are some of my Instagram pictures. ALL of them taken with my Iphone:

37 Comments Add yours

  1. Joëlle says:

    Hi Stéphane!
    Thanks for the tips on taking photos, I sure need to improve on my skills if I want to make my gluten-free sulfite-free food look delicious 😄
    We live in a beautiful country, your album is here to prove it!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Glad you found this helpful Joëlle 😉

  2. Yes I have been using my iphone more and more. And love snap seed!

  3. Hello, Stephane! It’s been fun to read your post…..scroll through your wonderful collection of photos and feel inspired and enriched, AND learn even more while reading through all the comments attached. You expressed exactly how I feel about photography and the benefits of a phone camera (I have an iPhone 4), when not using my usual DSLR. How it isn’t just the gear but the person using it to tell a story or to create a mood, an emotion, a memory. Like you, I find it so handy to have the iPhone with me for those foodie shots or those really opportune shots while out and about for errands, say, and you see a rainbow after the storm. I depend on both of my cameras for my photography – equally happy with my CANON as my iPhone. Thank you for your insights. 🙂 Bonne journée!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Bonne journée! 😉

  4. I want to to high-five you so much for this post! I love taking pictures with my phone camera. It’s a different experience from using a dSLR and I don’t understand why anyone would carry a camera around with them all the time and not use it 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Glad you liked it! High five 😜

  5. Sho says:

    I simply love the angles that you shoot from! Your photos are like a refresher course in Photography 1.1 🙂
    When I was travelling this summer I really missed having a good camera phone, especially when it was raining and I did not want my precious DSLR to get spoilt. Finally made the switch to an iPhone a couple of months back and don’t regret it one bit!
    In fact, it was extremely handy during this mini-trip I just came back from. TThanks for the great post and keep those tips coming!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks. I will 😉 iphones rock! ☺️

  6. Iphone cameras have come such a long way. I use mine as a point and shoot a lot. I love my pentax but it’s heavy. So it’s nice to have an alternative.

  7. As always you make it sound and look so effortless Stephane. I love the convenience of my iPhone – it’s all I use and can’t wait for the return of summer filled with longer days and better light. Especially now I have more tips and tricks to try. Thank you.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Our Summer is almost over. It has been one of the warmest we ever had. Now I guess I should move to Australia to make it last longer 😉 i’m a big fan of fall and Winter though. Cardigans, fires and stews… ☺️

      1. I’ve just returned from a book group get together with old friends and red wine in front of a roaring fire. Yes winter does have its advantages but nothing beats a blue sky day.

  8. skd says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. I love to click my food pictures with my S4 (as you said it is always with me and I don’t usually need to edit the pictures).And I have been feeling guilty of late. But this post from an ace photographer is heartening.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Good for you! Keep it up. Samsungs have much better cameras than Iphones.

  9. Just yesterday I finally got a new smartphone with a good camera in it. (My other one was over three years old and had horrible resolution.) I do plan on taking more photos now with my phone now that I have one with a decent camera. All great tips!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Have fun my friend! I’m getting my new one next month. Can’t wait! I’m such a geek 😜

  10. chef mimi says:

    I never would have guessed these are iPhone photos. You’re just so talented. Thanks for sharing the love and inspiration.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are way too kind ☺️

  11. bluebunny01 says:

    Wonderful photos – thank you for the advice as well

  12. This is such a good reminder. Although as I have a very bad camera on my motorola phone I’m always blown away by the quality of iPhone pictures. On the other hand this used to stop me taking pictures full stop. As I’m now travelling and don’t have another camera I’m making do and its definitely better than having no pictures. That said my camera makes everything darker, even on a beautifully sunny say which makes me sad 😦

    Either way, some good tips!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They always say that the best camera is the one you have with you. But now I will tell you what I wojld (and have in the past) tell a friend: get a bloody Iphone! You can get them very very cheap with your next plan and they are so so easy to use. It’s not just the photography. They are a great tool for so many different things. They help you be more creative too… Anyway. I don’t know what your reason is for not having one and I apologize for trying to sell you on this. You must have your reasons 😉

      1. Well, I don’t like being tied down into a plan plus money is a factor. However, I do have a friend who brought a second hand, older gen iphone for £90, mostly for its camera. So I have been considering doing something similar. Who knows!

    2. RhB says:

      You don’t really need an IPhone. Just a phone with at least an 8 mp. Even a cheapie knockoff has that. They do have limitations, but an artist should know how to work with them. My current one is from Samsung. Not as sharp as an Iphone, but workable.

      1. My French Heaven says:

        I absolutely agree!

      2. Sadly mine is only 5MP but thanks for the advice 🙂 I will bear both of you in mind for my next phone!

  13. ladyredspecs says:

    You’re an inspiration Stephane! I avoid photographing with my iPhone, I’m rarely happy with the result, I probably need to pay more attention! I’ve been using Snapseed since you recommended it to me a couple of years ago and heartily endorse your recommendation.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I use lightroom for my DSLR stuff, but Snapseed is all I use for the phone pics on the fly… Glad you like it too!

  14. RhB says:

    Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. No IPhone, Samsung now, but camera phones… or any cameras at all… requires the good eye of the artist. Anyone can take a photograph. The artist conveys a story or feeling. Good for you.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      My thoughts exactly! There was that saying: to say that the camera made the picture is like saying that the typewriters wrote the novel (or something like that). And it resonated with me as I think that the Photographer’s creative process is much more than just pressing a button…

  15. How do I find you on instagram? Your pics are like mini-holidays and I want more :0).

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are too sweet dear Kristen: myfrenchheaven 😉 I only post one or two every day though…

  16. colormusing says:

    Oh, I can’t describe how happy this makes me! I use a basic point-and-shoot camera that works just fine for my purpose: I create photo montages. I’ve actually had people come up to me with their oversized DSLRs and tell me I need a better camera! I’d be willing to bet my eye is better, probably because they’re relying on their cameras to do the artistic work for them. This is like hoping your computer keyboard will add eloquence to your writing. (If you’d like to see examples of my montages, see my Photo/Graphic Design page on Facebook. I mention this because people usually confuse montage with collage, although since you are French, you probably understand the difference!) Thank you for this wonderful post!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Well, Lindy, although I don’t wear lingerie, I must say that your work is quite interesting! I hope you keep it up. We need more creative people like you in this world!

  17. I absolutely agree with you! I use my iPhone 6 more and more as a camera. It means if I’m out and find a good place to eat or drink and decide on the spur of the moment to blog about it, I can without carrying my camera everywhere. The quality is great – in the right light – and I like that it’s discreet. I do try not to annoy other diners or restaurant staff in a restaurant by making a big thing about taking photos. Even my ‘real’ camera is a small Canon digital. I often think I should buy something better but am too lazy to carry something bigger around. I like being able to put my small camera snuggly in my pocket or handbag. But I also know even my best shots aren’t nearly the same wonderful quality as yours, Stephane!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That’s what I like most about a phone: it doesn’t get in the way. The new Iphone is coming out next month and it’s supposed to have a much better camera. Sharper images will definitely enhance the whole experience and help in low light situations. 🙂

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