5 Tips for More Engaging Smartphone Photos

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5 Tips for More Engaging Smartphone Photos

This post is for all the boys and girls who drool over stunning pictures on Instagram. Amateur photographers who follow countless bloggers, photographers and stylists that have a magic way of turning a table scene into a work of art.

I’m excited to share my tricks for transforming so-so iPhone photos into Instagram eye-candy. Expensive camera not required.

NOTE: There are dozens of photo editing apps on the market. I love VSCO Cam and will be mentioning it in this post. However, the tools I suggest are available in most photo editing apps, including Instagram.

 

Original image.

Original image.

Apply the right filter

Filters sometimes get a bad rap. We’ve all seen images that are simply overworked. The scene doesn’t look real, the colors unnatural and the grain clearly faked. The key is to be mindful and apply a filter that enhances your image without overwhelming it. It should add polish, not cheese.

This filter enhances the warm, rich tones of the wooden table top. The sidewalk takes on a cool blue tint. The contrast adds visual interest.

This filter enhances the warm, rich tones of the wooden table top. The sidewalk takes on a cool blue tint. The contrast adds visual interest.

The best photos communicate emotion. Consider the message that you are trying to convey. A sunny picnic in the park will have a much different mood than a cobblestone street in the rain. Is the scene playful or serious? Calm or exciting? Think about this as you select the effect.

I’m impressed with the photo editing app VSCO Cam. VSCO filters add style and tone to images with grace. The filters are developed to emulate the effects of analog film. Enhanced images that have a professional look and feel are the result.

Try on all the filters. This will train your eye to see the differences between effects. Ask yourself, ‘How well does this enhance the subject matter?’

 
I wanted to scene to feel lighter, so I brightened it one shade.

I wanted to scene to feel lighter, so I brightened it one shade.

Adjust exposure

More often than not, my iPhone takes underexposed photos. This means that the image is too dark. Smartphone cameras auto-correct the lighting, and sometimes auto-correct is wrong.

Adjust exposure in your photo editing app. Play around with it. See what a difference it makes to brighten a shade. See how darkening the image affects the mood. Make adjustments until your subject is well-lit.

 

 
I cropped the image so that the glass is on the left third dividing line.

I cropped the image so that the glass is on the left third dividing line.

Straighten & crop

Crooked photos can look sloppy. Find the horizon line and make sure it’s horizontal.

Much has been written about composition and the rule of thirds. Thoughtful composition lays the foundation for excellent photographs. Consider this when you crop your image.

 

 

 

 
I applied a subtle vignette. Can you see the difference between the edges of this image compared to the previous step?

I applied a subtle vignette. Can you see the difference between the edges of this image compared to the previous step?

Vignette

Vignetting is a subtle darkening of the edges of the image. I apply a vignette effect to many of my photos because it focuses the viewer’s eye on the center of the image. This makes your subject shine.

 

 

 

 

 

 
This one is really subtle. My image was already in focus, so I sharpened it just a tad.

This one is really subtle. My image was already in focus, so I sharpened it just a tad.

Sharpen

I always sharpen my photos. Always. Sharpening minimizes blur and ensures that edges are crisp. The result is an in-focus subject.

Be cautious about overdoing it. Sharpening too much can make your image look grainy.


 

Ta-da! So-so to eye-candy.

I hope this article helps you add a little sparkle to your smartphone photos. Please share your photos with the community by including #instaeyecandy on Instagram. I can't wait to see what you've made!

I’m a Product Designer. I help teams build strong brands and delightful products. On weekends I geek out over color, photography and handicrafts. Find me on Instagram & Twitter.

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