"Phonetography" 411: a Friday feature

Lately I've been getting asked a lot about how I take photos with my phone and which editing apps and such I use. My random once a week pregnancy insomnia has led me to the idea of starting a new little series on here every other Friday or so called "Phonetography 411". Every few weeks I'll be interviewing some wonderful Instagrammers about their phone photography tips and tricks and such. I always love finding out about how other people capture images using their phone and learning new tips and tricks to incorporate into how I take photos as well. To start off the series I'm interviewing myself. Not awkward at all, right ;) Full disclosure, I am FAR from an expert and I just kind of learn as I go. I simply love taking and editing photos and I've been slowly over the last couple of years figuring out what kind of photos I like and what my "style" is... So a picture that I may have taken and been really proud of a month or so ago I now think "ehhh, it could be better". It's a work in progress, you know? Anyway, I digress. Lets get to it...
What kind of phone do you have?
I have an iPhone 5s.

Do you use any phone props/gadgets/additional lenses when taking your photos?
I don't routinely use any gadgets. Mostly because my photos are taken on a whim so I'm not necessarily lugging phone-gear around with me. I have on a few occasions used a clip on macro lens though to get those crisp close up shots. You can find the macro lens kit HERE. I also have an iPhone tripod that I really love. I always make sure I bring it along with me on trips and such because its a great way to get a group photo or actually be the one in front of the lens for once. You know, to prove to future Navi that I actually existed in her childhood and such ;). You can find the tripod I have HERE (which is currently on sale for under $4!).

Do you use the native camera on your phone or an extra app for your photo taking?
I just use the normal camera app that comes on the iPhone. There have been times when I've used the camera through the VSCO app because it has the ability to separate the exposure and the focus... but 99.9% of the time I just use my phone's native camera.
What percentage of your Instagram feed are photos taken with your phone?
I'd say 99.9%. I think I've shared 5 big camera photos on there since I started my account.

Walk me through your process of capturing the perfect photo with your phone.
I will be in a moment and it just has a magical feel to me that I know I want to freeze in time. I open my camera app from the lock screen and lock my exposure by holding down my tumb on the area of the shot whose exposure I want to focus on. For landscapes I usually focus on the lightest part of the photo to prevent that whited-out sky effect and for portraits that's usually the face of the subject. It really just depends. Then I snap away and usually end up taking at least ten photos of the exact same thing with slight variations. I look through my photos at the end of the day and just see if I captured what I hoped to capture and then edit one of the shots if I found a real keeper. I also usually shoot in square mode and I have the grid feature tuned on so I can get my shot as level and straight as possible and also so I can frame the shot as I want.

Tell me a bit about lighting and how you use and manipulate it when capturing your images.
Lighting is one of the most crucial elements of a photo in my opinion- it can really make or break the whole shot. I always look for natural light when taking a picture. Our house has a ton of south facing windows which makes for some really great light pouring in most of the day which is great. When we're outside I like evenly shaded but well lit areas. Direct sun can be pretty harsh in a portrait setting but can make for some great sunset silhouettes and such. And as far as phone photography goes I think its really helpful to adjust your exposure lock in a few different places so you can experiment with how the lighting of the shot looks best.

What are some of your favorite editing apps?
My go to apps are Snapseed and VSCO. I love how much you can customize with each of these apps and I feel like they really work together to give my pictures the finished look that I imagine in my head when I snap the photo. Some other apps that I really like on occasion are Afterlight, Mextures, Picfx and PS Express. They each have their own purpose... for example Mextures really excels with landscape shots in my opinion and PS express is really nice to use for up-close portraits where you want to get the lighting and skin conditions just right. The Tadaa app is a great tool for creating depth of field and blurring photos. For self timer photos I use TimerCam and for video editing I LOVE the Replay app.

It's probably different depending on the photo, but walk me through your typical editing flow of an image.
I always open up my photos in Snapseed first. Then I straighten and crop as needed, adjust the ambiance and brightness as needed and use select adjust to get the lighting just right. Then I save it to my camera roll and usually open it up in VSCO or Picfx. I apply one of their preset filters and then adjust it down because I usually prefer just a lightly filtered look. I think a good shot is a good shot with or without editing. I've found it to be pretty impossible to create a great photo out of a subpar phone shot because you can really only edit so much. The lighting and sharpness really need to be on-point before any editing takes place so the edit/filter is just enhancing the shot, not creating it. Does that make sense?

Do you have any photography pet peeves?
I absolutely must have my photo straight. Straight horizons, straight wall lines, etc. I've shared a few photos or videos where I just couldn't manage to get it as straight as I'd like but I went ahead and posted it anyway and now whenever I come across those photos I have to fight the urge to delete them. Ha!
What do you like most about Instagram?
I love how easy it is to connect with likeminded people that you wouldn't otherwise have the good fortune of meeting. I appreciate the community of support and the wonderful conversations I get to have with these new friends outside of Instagram. I've even got to connect with a handful of "Instagram friends" in person...which may sound kind of crazy I suppose... but it's been just wonderful. I really value the friendships I've created on that little app :)

Any additional phone photography tips or tricks that you'd like to share?
Make sure you don't over-edit your shot. I think too much contrast, saturation and sharpness can really kill a shot. When editing I always try to focus on the emotion photo- how did I feel when I took the shot, what was the air like, the smells.... what do I want to remember about this moment in time... and then I edit according to that. I like to edit to capture the moment as it was not to create something that wasn't there.

And that's a wrap! Hope you enjoyed the first installment of Phonetography 411 and be sure to tune in on Fridays in the weeks to come... I'm really excited about all the wonderful people I have lined up to spill their secrets :)


  1. Thank you for sharing these great tips!!!
    Your pictures are stellar and I love the idea of an iPhone tripod.

    1. Thanks so much, glad you liked it! And the iPhone tripod is just such a cheap and easy little accessory to add to your purse... and voila, you're all the sudden able to appear is family photos now, like magic ;)

  2. Your silhouette pictures are the best ever! Everytime I take a picture directly into the sun I get an extra reflection on my photos. Like a light spot. How do you avoid that?

    1. You could always edit the light spot out... I actually kinda love it though... I think it really adds to the photo so I'm probably not the best person to ask about how to avoid it since I'm usually trying to achieve it haha!

  3. ❤️ your tips!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I didn't realize a clip on lens existed!!! How cool is that??? 😊

  4. PS -- Of course you know I ❤️ your photos, too!!!

    1. Thanks, Leah! Glad you liked the tips <3


Thank you so much for your comment, I read and appreciate each one!

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