Often, when I tell people I’m a photographer, they ask what camera I shoot with. I always tell them about my trusty Nikon D3oo, but I rarely give credit to the camera I use (and love) the most: my iPhone.

It’s true that the best camera is the one you have with you. And if you’re a skilled enough photographer, you can get some pretty incredible shots with whatever camera you’re given. I’m not saying I’d shoot a wedding with my iPhone any time soon (though it’s been done before), but my Nikon doesn’t exactly fit in my back pocket. Plus, I can’t go on Instagram with it.

With all that in mind, the key to getting great shots on whatever camera you’ve got is to learn to use it to its fullest potential. Whenever an update comes along, I read about any new features of the camera app. Stay tuned for a series of tips on getting the most out of your iPhone camera (many of which can be applied to other phones and tablets). Today, though, I’m going to talk about how to turn bad lighting into magic.

I was babysitting my friend’s toddler the other day, and when it was time for his nap (which, as with any 2-year-old, he was opposed to), I sat next to him on the bed while he drifted off to sleep to the sights and sounds of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy review video, en español, on his iPad. I was going back and forth between Pinterest and Facebook on my iPad, when I got a text from his momma asking if he went down for his nap okay. As is often my habit, I decided to answer with a photo instead of a simple “yes.” So I flicked open the camera app on my phone and snapped this:

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Now, I’m sure many of you recognize this picture. No, not specifically THIS picture. I mean the phone picture. Bad lighting. Grainy/noisy. Weird color cast. You know it; you’ve taken it.

I sent it to Momma. “Perfect,” she says.

Well…

I set his iPad aside, set up a slightly better angle with my phone, tapped the screen to the area I wanted exposed/focused properly, and took a couple more (I love burst mode on my phone).

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Hmm…still grainy and splotchy, if a little brighter. Sure, this picture would show up in a message just fine, because our phone screens are smallish and forgiving. But this is no different than a picture that anyone could take with their phone of their sleeping child.

So, armed with my understanding of lighting, I opened up a blank web page on my iPad (I actually ended up having to Google Image search “blank white page”), turned the screen brightness all the way up, and placed it where I wanted to light that sweet, angelic, unconscious face.

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As you can see, the horrible, splotchy noise is gone, and the iPad screen illuminates his face so that the iPhone camera can see and expose it correctly, then the light falls gently off around his hair and his shoulders. But those poor red cheeks! Little man’s been sneezing up a storm all day. So I hit the edit button, picked a black and white filter*, and sent this one off to his mom:

Use an iPad screen to illuminate your subject when taking a photo with your iPhone

“And I’m in love with you,” was the response I got back.

These are the words I like to hear. I took a few more, changing up my angle and repositioning my “softbox.” And then he turned over, and we were done.

The point is, I could have just stuck with that first picture. My friend would have loved it just because her boy looked so sweet and peaceful in it. But I had the tools to make something a little better, with very little extra effort. Seriously, I didn’t even move from my spot. Just sort of scooted and shifted a little.

So, to recap:

1. Make sure your tablet’s screen brightness is all the way up, and navigate the browser to a blank white page – OR – download a softbox app (which I discovered I already had on my iPad after all of this). The nice thing about an app is that a lot of them will let you change the color, so you can get some cool lighting effects, or match the screen output color to odd ambient colors.

2. Position tablet so that it illuminates your subject to your liking. The great thing about this kind of lighting is that you can immediately see it and adjust as needed.

3. Take the shot!

4. Edit as needed.

Thanks for reading!

Jen

*A note about the black and white filter: I used to be very particular (read: stubborn) about using pre-set edits, but now I’ll go through the available filters and adjust if needed. There are myriad apps in which you can edit your photos, but I’ve found that if you have to get too heavy into editing, you should probably just try and retake the picture and make it better from the snap. 🙂

Headshots

I picked up a new backdrop this week for a charity event I’m doing this weekend (stay tuned for details). Of course, I had to test it out. The last self-portrait headshots I did a couple weeks ago with my iPhone, a continuous light and a reflector. I used my bookcases as a backdrop in that instance, because books are beautiful. photographer IMG_8636 IMG_8637 I think I look best in black & white.

By the way, I’m thinking of writing a blog post on how to get the most out of your iPhone photos. Would anyone be interested in that? Let me know in the comments.

Anywho, back to yesterday. So I set up my backdrop and my lights, and thought I’d try something new with the camera. In the past, I’ve always set the focus manually so that the plane in which I’d be sitting would be in focus, turn on the self-timer, and go. This was exhausting. It meant getting up every time and hitting the shutter again, making sure I didn’t lean too far forward or back so that I would fall outside the focus plane, and climbing over the tripod every time I wanted to check the photo. That’s why I went with the iPhone last time. I could at least see what I was doing, and I had a remote shutter release in my Earpod headphones.

But not this day. I’ve known for awhile that Lightroom allows direct capture, meaning your camera can be connected to your computer and downloading right to it. So instead of climbing around the tripod to view the back of the camera, I can just look over at my 27″ iMac screen to see it, histogram and all. It also has a remote shutter function, so I can click the mouse to take the picture. Since I have a bluetooth mouse, I didn’t even have to stretch. I had it sitting on my leg while I sat in front of the camera, which can now autofocus on me, and take photos from there. Happy day! Headshot 140731_Lights-040 140731_Lights-049 140731_Lights-086 140731_Lights-038

Ugh. Now I just need to work on my facial expression when there’s nobody to interact with. You think it’d be easy, since I think I’m hilarious. Ah, well. At least the light looked good, and I’m all set for Sunday!

As always, thanks for reading. Have a magical day. 😉

Well, this is exciting! I’ve been listed as one of the “32 Best Photographers” in Tampa Bay by the site 32best.com. According to their site, they use reviews, social media interactions, and business rankings to select which businesses to list. One cannot pay to be listed. I was contacted a few months ago by a representative who asked me a few questions about what I do, how long I’ve been in business, and where I see myself going as a business. I didn’t know anything would come of it until one of my friends posted to my wall on Facebook that I made the list! Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.07.28 AM

The businesses aren’t ranked in any particular order, so the list is shuffled each time you go to it. Check it out for yourself: http://www.32best.com/photographers/tampa!

I thank you, my followers and clients, for helping me make the list!

Jen

Today, my two brothers graduated high school (they grow up so fast)! As the photos from the day were downloading, I was perusing the web (wasting time on Facebook) and stumbled across a link from Huffington Post’s Weddings section, which I did not know existed, but there you go. Plenty of articles tell you how to choose your wedding photographer, but this one makes some good points on how NOT to choose:

How NOT to Choose Your Wedding Photographer

And because it wouldn’t be a good blog post without a photo, here’s one from today:

130531Graduation-86 Stay tuned for more photos from the graduation…tomorrow.