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10 tips for taking great holiday iPhone photos with Camera+

by Lisa Bettany
December 20, 20114 comments

Holidays are the perfect time to capture magic moments with friends and family and take the time get creative with your photography. Here are some simple tips to get the best photos from your iPhone using Camera+.

1. Shoot outdoor lights before it gets too dark

Holiday lights on the BC Parliament buildings.

The best time to capture outdoor festive lights with an iPhone is during “blue hour” just before it goes completely dark. Catching the lights while you have enough ambient light will help you avoid getting blurry photos. You can help by using both hands to steady your iPhone while using the stabilizer mode. If you plan on doing a lot of night photography consider investing in a little tripod, the Glif or the Gymbl Pro make great options. Avoid leaning your iPhone on walls or ledges unless you have a protective case, one gust of air or curious cat paw can send your beloved iPhone tumbling onto the hard, unforgiving concrete floor.

2. Capture the sentimental details

My favourite ornament lit with a small twinkle light.

It’s the small sentimental things that make your holiday special. Take shots of your favourite ornament, candles, table placings, and bows on gifts. To get great macro shots, position your iPhone at least 2” away from your subject and tap the screen to focus. Use a second finger to get the proper exposure. Make sure you don’t get too close or the iPhone won’t focus! Also, you may want to add a bit of external light. For the above shot, I held a small twinkle light in front of the ornament to get more light on Santa and the reindeer.

3. Change your perspective by shooting from a low angle

Different perspective of the Parliament building lights with a low angled shot.

The beauty of shooting with an iPhone is that you can easily move it around and even position it on the floor to get really interesting shots. Changing the angle that you shoot from changes the size of your subject and also plays on the the light and shade and patterns on objects. Get low and make presents look huge as your kids tear open gifts. Play with perspective by shooting from underneath the tree or below a plate of cookies.

4. Use focus settings to capture amazing bokeh lights

Background bokeh can add interest to macro shots.

One way to get “wow” holiday shots from your iPhone is to position an object in the foreground of a lit tree or some twinkle lights. The lights in the background will become small out of focus light circles called “bokeh”. The trick is to position the object at least 5-10ft away from the lights. Tap to focus on the object and make sure the lights in the background are out of focus, then adjust the exposure by tapping with your second finger. If you aren’t getting any bokeh, you need to move the object further away from the background lights.

5. Compose and fill the frame for great holiday portraits

Squatchi fills the frame for this magic holiday memory.

Photographs of your friends and family are the most precious holiday memories. It’s easy to forget to compose shots with an iPhone, so turn on the grid mode and fill the frame with your subject by getting close and cropping out any background distractions. Since my friends and family are shy, Squatchi agreed to pose for me amid a fervent present wrapping session.

6. Focus on one point of interest

Mia’s gingerbread masterpiece is highlighted in this shot.

Holiday photos can often get cluttered with people, colours, and lights that all distract from what you are shooting. Use the Depth of Field FX in to blur out the distractions and bring your subject to the forefront. Tap on your photo in the Lightbox and hit FX. You’ll find Depth of Field in the Special FXs.

7. Use Photo flash light to capture beautiful food photos

Holiday cheesecake lit with photo flashlight.

In between eating plates of cookies, brightly wrapped chocolates, and delicious buffets of yum, snap some photos of your holiday treats. iPhone food photography can turn ugly pretty quickly if you don’t light things properly, so if you are in a dimly lit room or restaurant, instantly add light by using photo flashlight (a continuos light source). Just tap on the flash icon in the shooting screen and choose the photo flashlight icon. Tap on your subject to get focus. Tap again with a second finger to get a second exposure point to get the perfect exposure.

8. Use your headphones as a remote to snap shots in low light

Using my headphone as a remote for holiday macro shots.

One of the challenges with taking great holiday shots in low light is camera shake. If you are shooting ornaments in a dimly lit room use a tripod and your headphones as a cable release.

9. Tell the story with captions

Make sure you capture the “story” of your holidays from decorating cookies to putting up decorations to loved ones arriving at holiday gatherings. Tell the story of these moments by adding fun captions. First, add a border and then tap the captions button.

10. Head outdoors for winter nature shots

Snapping a winter sunset.

You can capture some of the most spectacular sunsets during winter. Photograph barren frozen landscapes with stark silhouetted trees, or snow covered winter berries. It’s hard to get good photos if your hands are cold! Get some touch-screen compatible gloves so you can use your iPhone outside in cold temperatures. When your hards aren’t freezing you can spend the time to compose and focus on taking great shots.

Magic memories only happen once. Good thing you always have your iPhone and Camera+ in your pocket!


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4 comments

  1. Louise
    2:59pm, December 20, 2011

    And/or… head outdoors for summer nature shots. Loving the tips Lisa - thanks!

    Merry Christmas to the Camera+ crew!

  2. shirley
    10:40pm, December 29, 2011

    love you! Lisa!

  3. Christopher Battles
    11:33pm, December 30, 2011

    Thank you for this. I appreciate the ideas. I enjoy taking pictures with my phone, but they do look have a personal touch them a lot of the time. So keeping these in mind will add to my enjoyment of making the pictures more “mine.”

    K, bye

  4. Jim Spencer
    8:57pm, January 1, 2012

    Great suggestions. I used to have a dark room and now many years later only take photos with the iPhone 4. I am always looking for ways to take better images to share.


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