iPhone Photography 101

A piece I did for a content exchange. I like this because its instructional, easy to digest, and useful for a lot of people. 

iPhone Photography 101: Better photos for your online store

from Wix Blog



A successful online store is impossible without good product shots. When the customer can’t hold the item in his or her hands, the pictures are all that’s left. So you’re not a photographer, but you can get better! This is iPhone Photography 101, and these tips really will improve the way you show your products.

Step 1: Prepare

Clean it, steam it, make it look its best. An out-of-shape item will make a great photo impossible. You've worked hard to create or find this item, so make sure you give it its propers.

Step 2: Follow the Light

A natural light source is everything. Have a room full of windows? Great. Have just one? That’s ok too. Let the light face your item. If you want something a bit more moody, you can turn the item so that the light from the window shines onto one side. To make sure the effect is not too stark, try it in a room full of white walls. This will allow the light to bounce off the walls and keep any deep shadows from appearing.

Step 3: Create a Backdrop

This is where you need to be resourceful. Look around your home. You need a neutral, clean backdrop to take your photos against. A wall can be fine. You can also make a backdrop by hanging a piece of fabric. You’re after something that is simple, wrinkle free (if it’s fabric) and very light in color. For small items, you can use paper to get a result that's a lot like using a professional photo backdrop. Tape a large piece of the paper to a wall and let it hang down to create a soft curve between the wall and floor. 

Step 4: Choose your Time

If unfiltered sunlight shines directly on the things you’re trying to shoot, the shadows are going to be harsh, the light is going to be red, and the photographer (you) is going to get sweaty and mad. The morning is the time to shoot. If you’re not set up before before the sun is up and out, just use a white sheer curtain to filter the light over your window.

Step 5: Focus

Your iPhone or Galaxy can take a great picture. You can tap and hold any section of the screen to lock the focus and exposure. This means that you can control how bright you want the photo to be, and what area of the frame you want to be in focus. It’s probably going to make sense to just tap and hold on the item you’re shooting. On iPhone, you can swipe up or down once the focus is locked to adjust the exposure (amount of light.)

Step 6: Steady

Tripods make all the difference. Cleaner, more crisp images come out when your phone is not shaking with your hand. If you don’t want to buy any equipment, here are a few dirty secrets: you can use a binder clip with a piece of padding or sit your phone in a stemless wine glass. Otherwise, there are some mobile phone tripods out there that are pretty darn cool.

Step 7: Style

This is maybe a trickier step than most, but you can learn to style a photo! Here are a few rules.

Rule 1. Less is almost always more. This is a product shot. This means that you should just say no to excessive props, bizarre backgrounds, and extra distractions! You want a clean backdrop, and maybe one additional prop to put the item you’re selling in context.

Rule 2. Style to the camera. The lens is the eye that you need to entice. This means that as you’re styling, stand back and look at what the camera will see (from the same angle). This will help you know what to move, what to adjust, and what to nudge so it looks great.

Rule 3: Compose. Ok, this is a bit more involved, but we can do it:

Turn on the grids feature on with your phone by going to Photos and Camera in Settings, and toggling the grid switch on. You'll now have lines that divide your camera frame into 9 equal parts. The areas of interest should land on the intersections of these lines.

You want a good amount of contrast between your item and its surroundings. Try to make sure that there are never more than two background colors. If the item is very light, a darker background will work, but never go too dark on a background for a product shot. 

Symmetry is good. Asymmetry is good. It kinda needs to be one or the other, and not in-between. Unless you're going to shoot the item right in the middle of the frame, think about each side of the photo as the arms of a scale. You want to balance the amount of stuff on each side—remembering that a bunch of blank space can often be as weighty as your photo subject.  

Step 8: Shoot!

You want to shoot 10-20 shots of each item then choose the best one. Shooting an item from 45 degrees above it, and 45 degrees to one side of it is usually pretty good for perspective. Shoot a few straight on. 

Extra Credit:

There are lots of good photo editing apps for your phone. Use them to crop, adjust exposure, and balance the light—but don’t filter them too heavily. People want to see a clear shot of things they’re buying online.