iPhone Photography Tips for Capturing the Great Outdoors

BY: Sarah Gorr |Apr 27, 2017

With the advancement of smartphones and iPhone photography, it's never been easier to capture and share the moment no matter where you are. That doesn't mean the results are perfect, though, or that great outdoor photography is simple. We've all been there—the sun is shining, you frame up the perfect shot, and all you wind up with is a blurry mess. But all hope is not lost! I spoke with Chicago-based photographer and artist Michael Egon Schiele to get some pointers that'll help take your iPhone pics from ordinary to extraordinary.

Making Portraits Pop

Egon (as he prefers to be called) has worked with fashion designers on editorial shoots, had work appear in the Chicago Reader, and teaches introductory classes to kids at By the Hand Club for Kids, but that doesn't mean he looks down on iPhone photography. In fact, he was quick to realize "that you could do high-quality work with a device that fits in your pocket." But how?

For starters, try changing the way you think about your photos. Though you might not think of the family photo at the beach or the shot of the kids on the swings as portraits, that's effectively what they are. "There are some really simple photography rules that can really help with portraiture," says Egon.

  • Don't be afraid to get close. People naturally pull out their phones at about chest-height and tend to keep their distance from their subjects. But if you move closer and hold the phone a bit higher, you'll eliminate a lot of what Egon calls "clutter".

  • Get out of the sun, if you can. Bright, direct sunlight can cast harsh, unflattering shadows. So don't get down when you see the clouds roll in, because "a partly cloudy day or an overcast day actually is gonna mimic that [diffused light] more than a sunny day."

Capturing Motion

Portraits are one thing, but what about when your target is moving? Whether it's the family pup bounding across the lawn or friends skidding across the water on a jet ski, getting a shot that's not a blurry mess can be tough. "All point and shoot cameras [are] made to perform well, but as soon as you're not under optimal settings, the image quality really starts to break down fast," says Egon. But there are three tools that'll help that all live within the iPhone itself.

  • Use the auto focus! Tap the screen where you want it to focus and hold down until the yellow square flashes and the text "AF/AE LOCK" appears. This means your phone has locked its auto focus exactly where you want it, and even if something moves into the shot, your camera will stay focused exactly where you want it to be.

  • Take rapid fire shots. Hold down the shutter button instead of just pressing it to snap your pic. This takes a burst of 5, 10, or even 100 photos. You might have to sift through them to find the perfect shot later, but there's a much greater chance that you'll have something clear when you do.

  • Volume button hack. A steady hand (or hands) will go a good deal toward getting you a crisp image. Instead of fumbling for the touch button on the screen, just press one of the physical volume-control buttons on the side of the phone. This will snap your pic while allowing you to keep both hands firmly on the phone.

Taking Your Pics to the Next Level

Once you've mastered the art of a well-framed, non-blurry pic, there's still room to easily elevate your photos.

  • Adjust the exposure. When you tap the screen to adjust your focus, simply drag your finger up to make the image a bit brighter or down to make it a little darker. This can be especially helpful when shooting things up close, such as the buds and blooms of a garden.

  • Third-party photo apps are your friend. "Google makes a product called Snapseed . . . it's this beautiful combination of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop," says Egon. You can give land- and cityscape photos more depth and detail with HDR scaping or even erase blemishes making your sunny selfie look as perfect as you feel.

All photos by Michelle Klosinski, Groupon.

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