Think you can’t take photos as beautiful as the ones your favorite designer/influencer/blogger is always posting on their feed? Think again. I’m here to share the 5 secrets you need to take your iphone pics from stale to stunning. Let’s go!
1) TURN OFF ALL THE LIGHTS.
Artificial light creates glare and instantly makes photos look less lux. You always want to shoot using only natural light. This means you’ll have to coordinate your photo taking with the time of day and weather. When you’re shooting inside, the brightest time of day for each room will depend on what directions the windows face. For me, this means taking photos of the bedrooms in the morning and waiting until the afternoon to take pictures in the kitchen or living room. You want to aim for the least amount of shadows possible, so pay attention to when each room has the most direct light and take photos then. Shadows are another reason to turn off all your artificial lights before taking pictures. If you’re taking photos of an outside area of your home like a patio or deck, try to do this during the period of time that photographers call the “golden hour.” Read more about that here.
Because my hallway doesn’t have any windows, it’s nearly impossible to take photos in here without the overhead lights on. You can see in both of these images how having the lights on creates a glare and shadows on the walls. The artificial light also brings out the orange and yellow tones (yikes) in the wood floor, which appears much softer in natural light.
2) STAGE & STYLE YOUR SHOT.
Before you start snapping photos, take a few minutes to stage and style your shot. You want to make sure the area you are photographing is clean and tidy of course, but there are some extra little things to do before taking pictures that you wouldn’t do if you were just cleaning up for guests. In a photo, the only context comes from whatever is inside the frame of the shot, so details like phone chargers plugged into the wall or zippers on pillow covers that blend in and disappear when experienced as part of a big room will suddenly become acutely noticeable. To avoid messing up a beautiful shot with a sloppy detail, stage the area first by removing all cords and visible wires from sight: tape window pulls to the inside of your shades, unplug lamps and hide the cord behind furniture, make sure cloth labels or zippers on throw blankets and pillows aren’t visible. This may sound crazy, but this is what designers do before shooting any of their designs, which is why you should never compare your house on a normal day to a styled image on instagram. It’s an artificial comparison. It’s not that different from comparing your beautiful real body to a photoshopped model in a magazine.
See the laptop cords behind this chair that I forgot to move? My eye goes straight there. That little gray cactus pot partially obscured by the parlor palm and the throw blanket on the end of the couch should go too.
Once you’ve finished taping cords and flipping pillows, you want to think about the actual composition of your shot. It helps to remember that the way a space looks in a picture is not the same as it looks in person. This is because the picture loses the context of the rest of the space. So even if you have a room arranged in a way that looks great in person, it might not be the best set-up for a photograph. Once you decide on the frame of your shot (meaning how much of a space will be in the photo) you want to remove anything that’s only partially inside of that frame. Seeing half of a chair creates visual confusion and messes with the focal point of an image. Basically, it makes the image less pleasing to the eye. This is one of those rules that can definitely be broken, but if you’re just learning how to style great photos, it’s a helpful guideline.
Remember that not every photo has to be a full room shot. In fact, some of the best pictures are close ups of little details like a grouping of bottles on top of a dresser or the contents of a coffee table tray. Think of yourself as a visual storyteller and create little vignettes that tell a story about the people living in it.
3) HOLD YOUR BREATH!
If you have a tripod to hold your phone, then you don’t need to worry about getting a steady shot. I finally gave in and purchased this mini remote-controlled tripod that fits my iphone and I love it. But if you don’t have a tripod, the best way to get a perfectly clear picture is to take a deep breath and then hold it while you take the picture. This minimizes any shaking and I can say from personal experience that this works pretty well!
4) SHOOT STRAIGHT ON!
This is the hardest part in my opinion. You want to try and make sure you are shooting straight on, so that your phone is completely straight both horizontally and vertically. This is really hard to do without a tripod, but I’ve had some luck setting the bottom edge of my phone on a tabletop and using it as a guide. You can also shoot with the grid feature turned on; the grid lines help you to see when you’re not lined up totally straight. Getting a straight shot means getting directly above your subject of you want to shoot from above and involves getting down on the ground if your shooting something low down in a room. Hey, at least you’re getting a good workout doing all those squats! If you still can’t get a perfectly straight on shot, don’t panic, that’s what editing apps are for!
In this photo you can see that I’m not holding my phone straight up and down, the top is pitched slightly forward making the the line of the window frame appear at an angle when it should be straight up and down.
5) DOWNLOAD AN EDITING APP.
This is the same photo before and after editing. All I did here was crop it slightly, use the curves feature to bring up the natural light, and use the “everyday” filter at 25% intensity.
If you really want professional looking photos, an editing program is a must. But you don’t need to spend a bunch of money to get a good one. There are several that you can download for free or just a few bucks in the app store, and then you can choose to make purchases within the app for additional features, but you can absolutely get by with the just basic features.
The app I use is A Color Story which I downloaded onto my iphone from the app store. In the tools menu, use the perspective tool to straighten your image if you didn’t get a perfectly-straight-on shot. The other tool I use a lot is the curves feature, which allows you to bring up the natural light to brighten a photo without making it look washed out the way the instagram brightening feature does. Speaking of instagram: I don’t recommend ever using any of the editing features or filters in the app- they are too strong and they make photos look unnatural and over-manipulated. OK, back to the editing process. Once I’m happy with my perspective and lighting, I tap over to the filters menu. I try to mess with my pictures as little as possible to keep them looking really natural, so I never use a filter at 100 percent intensity. You can slide the little toggle thing up and down to control the strength of the filter. There’s a bonus filter pack called “Flashes of Delight” created specifically for photos of interiors that you can purchase for just a couple dollars, and highly recommend getting it. The only filters I use consistently are from the “Essentials” pack that comes with the app, the “Flashes of Delight” pack and the “Golden” pack which is another one you have to purchase. I’ve only ever used one editing app in my phone, but I have heard people rave about VSCO Cam and Snapseed so you may want to check those out as well.
I hope you found this guide useful, but most of all I hope it makes you think twice before comparing yourself or your home to anything you see on social media. There is a lot going on behind the scenes to create such pretty pictures and I think it’s really important to talk about it because my goal is to create content that inspires and encourages us all to always be creating our own interior joy, not to play the comparison game and feel less than.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments! I SINCERELY mean that. Introduce yourself!