iPhone Photography 101 – Lesson 2, Part 2

10 Tips for Photographing People

That split-second moment of elation in a hello, the boundless sprint through the backyard, the uninterrupted moment of quiet — these are the snapshots of life that we wish we could hold onto for forever...
Thanks to our mobile cameras, we can.
And so, we sat down with a few of our favorite photographers to hear just how they document the humans in their lives. From tips on lighting to capturing real emotion — you’ll want to put the tips into practice right away (hello, loved ones!).

Tip 01

Declutter Your Backdrop

Portraits pack a bigger punch when the subject stands out amid the background, so if you’re dealing with a lot of distractions behind the person you’re photographing, simply aim up or down! The upward technique works best with outdoor locations and a decent stretch of sky, while aerial images can work in almost any environment. Grassy fields and simple-patterned blankets all make great backdrops, so get creative and start redirecting your gaze toward the less obvious.
— @nickisebastian


Tell A Story

Step back and watch your subject through your lens, which is literally through your screen. Instead of trying to capture one specific shot, let the moment unfold. Don’t be afraid to take more than one shot as it all comes to life; I usually end up with a series of shots by using burst mode. This lets me be a part of the moment, and it brings the full story into the photo. Invest yourself in the shot!
— @jenannro


Tap to Brighten

Explore the mood of a subject or location by playing with the exposure (aka the lighting). You can do this by tapping the middle of your phone and then using the "sun icon" to drag the yellow square up and down. This will make the area lighter or darker, and it will put the emphasis on the person in the photo.
— @deunivory


Stop Time

One of my favorite ways to capture the moment I’m in is via taking stills during a video. You can do this by hitting the white shutter button on the bottom left of the video screen. Use that forward-facing camera of yours while in movement to capture unfiltered emotion (like joy!) in a way like little else can.
— @lauraschmalstieg


Know Your Subject

When taking a posed photo, there can be an element of discomfort. And whether it’s bringing music or a list of questions to ask, occupying the space between allows for you to create a stronger connection with your subject — and therefore a more genuine photo that shows their personality.
— @seacannon


Make Windows Work

Windows never disappoint when looking for interesting light. They’re easy to find and fun to play around with: as a fixed light source, you can move yourself and your subject around to create different looks and moods. Depending on the direction of the sun, the weather conditions, the window position, and even window treatments — lighting can be soft and ethereal, or direct and dramatic. Experiment as much as you can to find the light that makes you tick! (For a look similar to the one pictured, place your subject(s) partially in a direct, sun-filled window light and expose for the highlights...the result is moody magic!)
— @nickisebastian


Adjust Your Altitude

I love the way mobile cameras capture shadows and light, especially when there is a super strong contrast between the dark and light of the environment you’re in. When photographing shadows, make sure that the light is consistent in the frame — I do this by photographing my subject from up above, or I position myself lower to the ground.
— @jenannro


Go the Distance

I love using Portrait mode on my iPhone — but I always think spacing first. In this photo, my mom was perfectly positioned 15 feet away from the backdrop of pine trees. To create the blurry effect, I almost always have my subject standing at least 10+ feet away of the background. Try it out and they’ll never know you took the photo on your phone!
— @lauraschmalstieg


Capture Personality

Know the person you are photographing, and you’ll be able to capture their genuine emotions in a powerful way. For Elouise (my daughter shown above) — she’s all about princesses, and so telling her to put her hand on her hip and give me a princess smile made for an unforgettable photograph that undeniably captures her personality.
— @seacannon


Look for the Anti-Pose

There’s something to be said for images that capture a slice of action and raw, genuine, in-the-moment expression. Try taking a more documentary approach to photographing people by placing yourself among the activity — get ahead of the shot by predicting what’s about to occur in front of your phone lens. This works particularly well with children at play: don’t be afraid to get on their level and join the fun! The benefit of shooting with a mobile device in these instances is that it doesn’t distract, and kiddos are completely themselves while you snap away (a great technique for avoiding the dreaded forced smile)!
— @nickisebastian

Put it in practice.
Then put it in print.

Follow Along with Our Contributors

@nickisebastian / @jenannro / @seacannon/ @deunivory / @lauraschmalstieg /

Share This Article

Related Articles