How journalists and PR pros can take better photos (using an iPhone)

Apr 17, 2014
How journalists and PR pros can take better photos (using an iPhone)

Most of us aren’t lugging our ten pound dSLR cameras every time we leave the house anymore. Unless you’re a photojournalist or participating in a month-long photography challenge, you’re likely using your phone as a camera. This trend has skyrocketed recently, and shows no signs of slowing down. As journalists and public relations professionals, you know that this upward swing is adding more titles to your already demanding job expectations. Suddenly you’re the photographer or videographer for an event, on top of interviewing sources or pitching the media.

The camera functionality in phones, specifically iPhones, has been improving dramatically with every iteration. There are just as many photo editing apps available on these devices to help easily and affordably enhance the photos we’re taking. We can not only take the photos we wish to capture a moment or submit a story, but we can edit them right from our phones as well. Once edited, we might as well shoot it off in an email, store it to Dropbox or send it along in a text message.

Although the capabilities of shooting, sorting and sending are all in the palm of our hands, often taking photos on your phone is a daunting task. Since its conception, photographic technology has become more and more accessible. Actually taking a photo, however, is still a fine art to be mastered. As journalists and PR professionals, the role of Event Photographer is now yours, and while you may have access to the tools on a daily basis, a lack of experience and confidence can interfere with bringing these images to life. (Never mind the tragic truth that you’re not at all trained as a photojournalist!) Here I’m going to share how to take better photos, using your iPhone.

1. Use a background that makes your subject stand out. Especially when taking product photography and headshots, there is an emphasis on singularity. Think of the viewer and envision what it is their eye needs to see. For a corporate headshot or a brand’s featured item, there is little need to include any other element in the shot. This means your subject is at the forefront and your background should be assisting your goal. In street and lifestyle photography, we have the opportunity to set the scene, so to speak. Use a neutral backdrop to allow your subject to catch the viewer’s eye. A busy background will compete for onlookers’ attention, and suddenly your image becomes very busy and awkward.

2. Play with macro! This is one of the more advanced tips. It can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with cameras to hear terms like aperture, macro lenses and exposure. iPhones have the ability to take macro photos (which really just means the camera is quite close to its subject, taking a microscopic perspective of the object). This setting will require patience, as it can be tricky to master on each iteration of the iPhone devices. But once you’ve nailed it, you’ll have opened up a whole new level of phone photography. You’ll want to get your phone close (but not too close!) to your (ideally stationary) subject. Once there, hold your finger against the portion of the screen you would like to focus on. This will enable to iPhone’s exposure and focus lock. The letters AE/FE should appear on the screen to indicate you’re in that mode!

3. Composition vs. Cropping. Composition is one of the foundations of visual art, and photography is no exception. While it’s a valuable piece of the artistic puzzle, don’t worry too much about the common Rule of Thirds. Simply ensure there is no debris, unwanted logos or elements that catch the eye that are not your subject. An easy way to deal with composition, for those of you still experimenting with the actual shooting of the photos, is in the post production! If you missed the opportunity to compose your image thoughtfully, never fear: sometimes there isn’t time, and often we don’t notice what’s getting in the shot until it’s too late. There are a few cheats to “composing” your image after the fact, cropping being the main one. In the iPhone camera there is cropping functionality, which allows you to maintain the classic landscape/portrait dimensions, or take on entirely new ratios—like the classic Instagram square image.

Whatever your subject and no matter the brand, photography will enhance your life experiences and your online content. Whether you would like to practice a new skill, or visuals are simply an occupational prerequisite, these three manageable tips should give you plenty to work with. Experimenting with macro photography and practicing your composition (and cropping) skills will be more than enough of an addition to your existing pattern of image capturing.

Jessica Hammond is a photographer and blogger living in rural Ontario, Canada. She is an advocate for online education and curious minds. You can see her work, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  

Photo credits: Jessica Hammond

About the author

Library-Dweller // Reader, writer, picture-taker.

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