Are you running out of new ideas for your iPhone photography? Has your style become a bit stale? Don’t worry, this is a common problem, even for professional photographers and artists. Luckily there are some simple techniques that you can use to get yourself out of that creative rut and expand your vision. In this tutorial, you’ll discover eight inspiring ways to freshen up your iPhone photography and give your photo feed a wonderful new lease of life.
1. Scout Out Photo Opportunities
The chances are you lead a a busy life, whether you’re a working professional, a stay at home mom or a student. You may think that this leaves you with little time to find good photo opportunities, but try to consider your day-to-day life as one big scouting mission.
A fun way to freshen up your photography is to start planning out a few photos. Try to resist sharing a few of your favorite shots right after you take them. Instead, go home, look at them at the end of the day and really study them.
What makes that location beautiful? What fun elements could you add to it to make it more interesting? Could different lighting make a big difference? Would a prop or “model” add a strong focal point? Keep that beautiful spot in your pocket until you come up with an idea and the time to go back.
This photo happened that way. I was on a hike with my family one sunny Saturday at a State Park. The scenery was breathtaking and I took many photos that were certainly shareable.
However, when looking more closely at the photo, I thought about how the pier faces the sunrise and how quiet and beautiful that area would be in the morning.
So I begged a friend to make the pre-dawn hike a few weeks later… in a dress! We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise, fog and a lot of laughs. Some of our favorite photos of the year came from that morning.
So wherever you go, always keep an eye out for great photo opportunities. Plan out how you can best capture that scene, then use your creative and technical skills to produce the shot that you envisioned.
2. Take A Normal Shot & Make It Different
Realistically, not many people have the time to go back to all of their favorite locations at just the right time. But don’t worry, the average day-to-day photos of regular life can be beautiful too.
Let’s imagine you’re stuck at home on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a long to-do list. As you work your way around your home performing various chores, keep your eyes peeled for small glimpses of beauty.
Notice the way the sun hits the wood floors that you’re vacuuming, the steam on the windows as you make your kids mac and cheese, the crazy shadow of your great-grandmother’s figurine.
Instead of just taking a shot of what you see, try coming up with a unique way to photograph it. Ask a person in a bright hat to stand on the other side of the steamy window. Catch your kids or cat while they’re playing in good light.
And don’t forget you can spice things up in post-processing. A crop or a flip is a great start. The above photo of my son on a swing was made more dramatic by flipping it upside down in post-processing.
Be bold! Since the subject may not be that thrilling, now is the time to add excitement through your edit.
3. Think Ahead
Most of the time you can’t predict life’s “big capture” moments. But if you take a little step back and think about your surroundings, you’ll have a much better chance of catching them.
I was at a beach near a lake with my family, and my husband was tossing our son up in the air in the water. I thought this would make a terrific shot, but instead of just taking the photo the next time they did it, I decided to spend a few minutes taking in my surroundings and asking myself what else I could “add” to the photo?
I noticed all of the other people, many birds, some brightly colored floating toys, waves, a kayaker and suddenly I heard the roar of a plane. I remembered that this beach is nicknamed “747 Beach” because of the high number of planes flying over. I decided that it would be amazing to include a plane flying overhead, and since they’re constantly flying over I could take some time to set up the shot.
Instead of just capturing my husband and my son spontaneously playing, I shuffled along the beach until I was directly in the plane’s flight path and the sun was in a spot that wouldn’t distract or overpower the subjects.
Then I got down very low so that it would be mostly sky behind them and started to rapid fire my phone as soon as I heard the next plane approaching. The plane came slowly across the lake so I had plenty of time to catch a few “ups and downs” before it passed on. The whole process took two to three minutes, after which I tucked my phone back into my bag and jumped in to join them!
Taking the time to look around at your surroundings, then plan and set up a shot is definitely worth the extra effort. Look through your camera’s viewfinder and create the frame that would be perfect with your subjects. Think of where the ideal placements for your subjects in relation to the background would be.
Look at the sun. Is it to your back so that your subjects will be colorful and brightly lit? Or is the sun in front of you so that the subjects will be dark silhouettes? If you have the right backdrop, but not the right light, you either need to reposition your placement or come up with a new idea.
Thinking about all of these factors before your subject arrives will greatly increase your odds of getting a more unique and interesting shot.
4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Sometimes it helps to remember that there are no “Rule Police” in photography! While there are certain techniques that are good to follow, you don’t need to do everything by the book.
Always worrying about techniques or crafting the perfect photo can lead to a lack of creativity and spontaneity, so you need to find a good balance.
It can be liberating and exhilarating to simply remember that photography is an art – a way of expressing yourself and having fun. Push yourself past any limitations you may have created for yourself.
When I first started out with photography, I thought I was a nature photographer. I felt funny sharing photos of anything else. Then one day I rebelled. I thought about how that little square (in Instagram) is MY space to do whatever I want with it.
So I started a bunny series. That’s right, a grown man in a bunny costume. After that, I never felt those self-imposed restrictions again and I found it really liberating!
Try to push yourself with creative props, silly situations, unique crops and edits. They may not always work out, but when they do you’ll have something truly unique.
5. Humor & Emotion Overrule All Other Rules!
In my opinion, humor and emotion overrules all other rules. For the most part, if you catch a moment that truly is a once in a lifetime capture, don’t be too hard on yourself if the composition isn’t perfect. The emotions a photo evokes can be so wonderful and distracting that most people won’t notice if everything else doesn’t line up.
I took this shot while trying to create an entry for a WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project) mirror challenge on Instagram. It was both of my sons’ first time ever witnessing skydivers. The entire experience was exhilarating – there were men falling from the sky!
So when I knew a diver was dropping right behind me, I focused on the mirror and started shooting using burst mode to capture a series of pictures of that moment. Afterwards I was totally blown away by this photo.
I love my son’s expression of seeing a skydiver for the first time, the sky diver in the air, and the two on the ground. However, as you can see the horizon line is way off. If I were to straighten the photo, I’d completely lose one of the men in the background. Therefore, I nearly threw out this photo.
Now, almost a year later, I can tell you that this photo is one of my favorites. It’s been in two photography shows and has received many accolades. And I almost didn’t share it because it was crooked!
6. Find Inspiration In New Places
Looking at other people’s photos on Instagram can be incredibly inspiring, but it’s no stranger to clichés such as the solo tree, the beautiful sunset, the kid on a swing, etc.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to find inspiration somewhere else. Coffee table art books are wonderful for finding new inspiration. If you don’t own any, the big box book stores usually have a whole clearance section of them.
Try to buy or borrow books you haven’t already seen. Look for inspiration in children’s books. Read a Shel Silverstein poem and try to envision it as a photo, then go out and take that photo. As ridiculous as the initial photo may seem, a more subtle and beautiful photo may emerge from your effort.
Stepping away from photography is also inspirational. Put yourself into unfamiliar situations. Go watch an indoor ice skating practice on a hundred degree day, or spend an hour at a dog park even though you’re a cat person.
Find humor and joy in your surroundings. And finally, go get some exercise. Take a walk or go for a run. It’s very likely that you’ll return from your escapades with renewed energy and vision.
7. Accept Challenges
If you’re a regular on Instagram, then you’ll know that challenges are popping up almost daily. Once in a while, accept a challenge! When you find a good challenge, put some time into really thinking about what you’d like to capture.
First, think of what the immediate response of 99% of the photographers participating in the challenge will shoot. Let’s say it’s a water challenge. Most people will run out and shoot a waterfall, a lake, a kid in a tub or maybe even a glass of water reflecting the sunset.
Once you’ve figured out the cliché submissions, take a step past those. What else is water? Ice, snow, fog, clouds, tears, the human body, a popsicle, a bubble… you get the drift. Focus on your favorite idea and then go out and have some fun with it.
Putting in a little thought beforehand will really save you the frustration of having one of those awful “I can’t find anything to shoot” sort of days, and will hopefully give you a winner of a shot!
8. Try Out A New Genre
Are you typically a child photographer? Challenge yourself to a week of black and white street portraits. Do you only shoot nature? Try reading up on how to take a high-key portraits and set aside some time to take one. Are all your photos taken in bright light? Have a go at taking pictures at night or try your hand at long exposure photography.
Shooting a different type of photography is challenging and can be scary or intimidating. However, the time you put into stepping out of your comfort zone will greatly pay off.
You’ll be forced to learn new technical aspects of photography that will subtly help you in all forms of photography. And who knows, you may even make some new friends!
I’ll leave you with a few ideas of different genres to try: Street Photography, Catch A Stranger, Nature, Minimals, High Key Portraits, Long Exposure, Black and Whites, Portraiture, Animal Photography, Architecture, Symmetry, you get the idea!
To keep your iPhone photography fresh, keep trying new things. Not only will this create more variety and uniqueness in your photo feed, but it will keep you motivated and inspired, and you’ll constantly be learning new skills.