January 16, 2015

iPhone Photography

Hello internet. There are a lot of not so wonderful things I would love to unload today in probably non coherent ramblings. But instead I'm going to talk about one of my favorite things: iphone photography!

I often get questions about how I go about taking semi decent images with my phone: apps, filters, lighting, etc. In 2013 I did a 365 with my phone and it ended up being really great because my photos and technique grew exponentially better. At the end of it, I started the tradition of printing books of a compilation of my images from each year. I just received the book for 2014 last week and I love it so much.

Apple really opened a new wonderfully quick and sufficient world of simple photography. I am a firm believer that good photographs come from the photographer and her skill and not necessarily the equipment she is using. Yes, there are undeniable times when clarity and quality is sacrificed with cheaper, sometimes outdated, devices. But good photographs can be taken with any camera. Which is why it's so frustrating when a non photographer looks at a photographer's work and responds, "You must have a really nice camera." But that's a whole other debate I will not address today.
SO, my advice for taking better images with your phone... because that's why you're here, right? Why are any of us actually here?

Most of the same basic photography techniques that apply to actual cameras apply to iphone photos. But let's pretend you are a total novice at all of it. Here is what I would suggest you do--

1. Look for the right light.
You will rarely see a photo on my instagram that is taken at night. The most important element in my phone images is the quality of light. If you are indoors, find good window light. Play with shadows. If you're outside, unless you are specifically going for silhouette images, backlighting is not always the best option with a phone. But for the most part, outdoor light is a safe bet. If you do take an image in bad light, that is what black and white filters are for.

2. Less is more.
I keep my phone images very simple. Nothing too busy: clean and straight forward. 

3. Pay attention to lines and angles.
I tend to align or parallel the borders of my images with the lines of objects or horizons in a scene. If I can take a picture of something straight on, I do.

4. Don't be afraid to have empty space.
I enjoy showing the size or distance of a scene by letting there be empty space in a lot of my images. 
5. VSCOcam and Afterlight
These are the apps I use exclusively for my images. I begin with a photo in VSCO (I often use the square camera in VSCO to make sure the image is framed exactly how I want). The filters I use in the app are usually either C1, G2, E3, or E6 (with B4, B5, or B6 for black and white). I don't usually use the maximum level of each filter. I dial them back to 6 or 7 depending on the image. I prefer my images to be very bright. I tend to crank the exposure up 2 or 3 notches, sometimes higher depending on the original lighting. Don't be afraid to abuse the rotate adjustment in the app as well. It helps if you weren't able to get totally straight lines in the image. I feel like VSCO tends to add a little too much warmth to the filters I use, so I will dial back the temperature as well as add some green and blue tones into the image (which I do in afterlight because it works better in that app). I have been enjoying sharpening the images within VSCO as well. After I am done in VSCO, I open the image in Afterlight and usually add more brightness. Like I said, I like bright photos. Adjust coloring in mid tones and sometimes highlight tones. Then done!

6. Practice, practice.
All of this takes time to figure out. Don't get frustrated and overwhelmed. Be patient with yourself and your equipment. Don't be afraid to take mediocre images. They tend to lead to better images. There are plenty of crappy photos on my phone that I have taken and never shared.

7. Get inspired.
I am very picky about the people I follow on instagram. It probably hurts some feelings but I use the app as an artist and I enjoy following other artists whose work inspire me. Get ideas from others. Never copy but let them inspire something in you and the way you look at your environment.

8. Take pictures that you want to look back at. 
I take pictures with my phone to remember different and small moments in my year. So I can look back and say, YES I remember that and how that felt and what I was going through when I took it. Make it personal and be deliberate. 

9. Have fun.
You can be personal and deliberate without taking it too seriously. Enjoy it! It will show in your images. 
If you would like, find me on instagram @brilamkin. If you have any questions, please ask! I read and often respond to comments.


  1. I love this so much! Your instagram is definitely one of my very favorites.

    xx, rn

  2. Thank you for sharing these tips! I want to get better at photography whether using my phone or a different camera so this helps!

    God bless!


  3. Where do you print your books? I really want to print one out for last year, I love yours!

  4. Thanks for sharing your tips with us! I was always wondering how you take your great photos. If I may ask- which iphone do you use? :) have a great weekend!

    1. I currently have a 5s. My husband has a 6+ and that thing takes the best photos I've ever seen on a phone. I wont be able to upgrade until later this year though. bummer.

  5. I have followed your Instagram account for years and always wondered how you took such lovely photos on your phone! It makes me truly believe that it's the photographer, not the device, that makes a photo great. Thanks so much for the tips, I will definitely be using them!

  6. I love the natural light aesthetic as well. It bums me out that most of my life happens at night-- roller derby bouts followed by after-parties, etc. I haven't found my aesthetic yet because I can't seem to get the lighting right in really dark, pretentiously lit situations (think Christmas lights on a patio, etc.)

  7. this is so lovely. the third paragraph you wrote is just spot on. i just discovered instagram last month and i'm really loving it, and this post also helps me too. great shots, great post. :)

  8. This post is so gorgeous! Thanks for this :)

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