How to Photograph Kids with a Phone Camera: Guest Post Jose Carlier

IMG_3199I am so excited to welcome Jose Carlier to the blog today.  Born in Holland and raised in Iran, Jordan, Egypt, France and other assorted locales, Jose is a New York-based photographer whose nomadic sense of adventure is evident in her every frame.  Whether she is shooting fashion for a magazine or environmental portraits of kids, Jose’s pictures are whimsical, bold, and unexpected.  Trained at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and published globally, Jose, a mother of two, has most recently focused her lens on kids.  She starts with an unexpected outdoor scene, places high-energy children in it, and captures the can’t miss moments.  Check out her work on her website, Instagram and Facebook.



10 tips for shooting portraits with your phone camera

(I use the iPhone 6)

1.  My #1 rule would be to take a step back.  Phone lenses are wide lenses, and they distort the face when you get up too close.  Shoot from further away, and you can always crop your image later during your editing process.

2.  Keep the background simple.  It’s easy to lose your model in a busy background.  If they have light hair and/or clothing, try a darker background so that they will pop out and a lighter background if your subjects are darker.  Also, be careful that you don’t have branches, poles etc. sticking out of your model’s head (when using a busier background).  I love old walls as a background (they have tons of character).  I don’t love graffiti (way too busy unless clothing is styled specifically with the graffiti in mind).



3.  We have always learnt to keep the sun behind us while shooting so that we don’t get shadows on our models’ faces.  I recommend that, but it’s also very popular at the moment to shoot with the sun behind the model while exposing for the model’s face (press on the face on the phone screen to expose for it prior to shooting).  Experiment with the position of the sun and you can get fun flare effects.


4.  Shoot from above.  If you are lower than your model’s face you will have a bigger chance of capturing multiple chins 😉

5.  I find that lots of kids’ eyes are sensitive to sunlight and you will end up with lots of images with 1/2 closed eyes.  If I notice that they are blinking a lot, I will ask them to close their eyes, I will count till 3, and then shoot when they open their eyes at 3.  Prevents discomfort and bad images.

6.  When you are setting up your shot you can touch the screen to set your focus and exposure.  Play around with the exposure.  As you touch different areas of the scene on your screen you will notice the image getting darker or lighter.


7.  Don’t ZOOM in!  Remember as you zoom in you will lose a lot of photo quality.  It’s better to crop the image later or step in a little closer to your subject.  Don’t get too close or you will get distortion (see tip #1).

8.  I never use flash.  I don’t like the effect you get at all.  The newer phones are incredible, and you can get great results in low light situations.  Try tip #6 to expose for the darker areas.


9. I was amazed to discover that most of my friends didn’t realize how many editing options we have on our phones.  On my iPhone 6 I can go to edit on a photo and press on the 3rd icon (looks like a clock), ignore the options, and go to the 3 horizontal lines (list icon) and click on that.  It then opens up light, color and b/w options so you can get really specific.  For example getting rid of the dark shadows without changing the rest of the image.  Most photo addicts have other photo editing aps (I love Snapseed) but I use them less and less as each new phone camera gets better quality and editing options.


10. Filters.  Lots of photographers stay away from filters because they feel it’s a crutch.  I think that if you have a good image to start with, you can improve it with some filters and it’s fun to play around with them.  Actually if you have a bad image you can also use filters to save it 🙂  Just don’t go too crazy.  Pick a few favorites and stick with those and create your own style.

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Guest Post: Moira Wright on Taking Landscape Photos with your Phone Camera

58865_10200415738529998_1781041494_n[1]We are thrilled to welcome Moira Wright to the blog today.  Moira is the Vice President of Public Relations at Holt Renfrew, and the creator of some of the most beautiful landscape photos Instagram has to offer.  She is also family, and when I asked her to share her secret for her amazing photos at a family gathering a few years ago, she said to me, as she says below, with her characteristic grace and humility, that she just uses her phone.  It was that exchange that inspired me to explore the camera function on my own phone, and it is to Moira that I owe the joy that comes from capturing my still lifes.  Armed with her tips below, I’m now ready to try my hand at some landscapes, too.



What I appreciate about Instagram is that it really just illuminates inspiration. Yes, it can be a distracting and sometimes vacuous pursuit, and I am often amused by how our “fake Instagram life” may contrast with our real one. At times I am tempted to post images of the daily domestic mess or less harmonious moments to more authentically represent reality, however, given my role in public relations representing a retail brand, I keep my profile open and my posts are filtered to ensure they are in keeping with my public self. I also find it helpful in moments of feeling overwhelmed to review the peaceful and aesthetically pleasing moments to remind myself of the good times – and anticipate those to come!

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Instagram or any other photo gallery is a reflection of your personal lens – posts reflect what you see and what you are drawn to, and what you spend your time pursuing.

I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, stayed in the land of living skies until the age of about 30. I am naturally drawn to – and crave – open spaces and landscapes.  I will always run for the hills on the weekend whenever I have a chance, as an antidote to long weeks spent in a windowless office, and a busy and cluttered home shared with 3 boys in a house we jokingly refer to as “the tube” for its row house effect. For me, the ideal weekend involves a family hike along the Bruce Trail, or if I am lucky enough to be near water, on a kayak in Georgian Bay or in Nova Scotia. Snow or rain, sun or not, I crave a vista of nature. In an overscheduled world, I love the family bonding moments we enjoy in nature, discovering interesting animals, birds, flora or fauna. I also appreciate time alone in the woods, fields or on calm water.

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My photo methods are quite simple – all photos are taken with my iPhone 5. Essentially the shot is what I see. The light is of course best in the evening or early morning, and an early mist is also lovely. I will sometimes play with the light settings – just by tapping on different parts of the screen to adjust the light before taking the shot. I do this particularly with sunset shots. When posting to Instagram, I rarely filter or amend the photo – perhaps just brightening an image a little if needed, or playing with the colour saturation a little – always within the Instagram photo editing menu.  The square format of Instagram is sometimes a challenge with landscape, so I do have an additional app called SquareReady that I sometimes use to adjust the image if I want to keep the full latitude visual.

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As my phone battery often has limited life with the camera open, my Mophie is key for extended battery life on a long walk. And having the right apparel for the weather is key – I hike on the most cold days of winter, and love a walk in the rain.  Here are a few posts, with some accompanying notes.

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This was in the rain! The boys were not originally happy to be wet, but then became enthralled with the discovery of caterpillars and a grosbeak. I may have brightened the image a little before posting.


This is a view from the Bruce Trail near Hockley Valley Resort, at sunset. Generally with sunset I may adjust the light settings to focus them off centre (in this case, closer to the left, nearer the setting sun) by tapping on the screen. In this case, I wanted to further illuminate the landscape, which had the trade-off effect of limiting the depth of colour in the sky. You can get very different images of the same moment.

I wanted to keep the full length of the landscape, so I reshaped the image within the app SquareReady before posting in Instagram. It’s very seamless, you simply open the app, go to your photo library, and then click through to open it within Instagram.

Sometimes I might enhance the colour just a little with the saturation setting from the Instagram photo editing menu. (see below as well)


How to Take a Still Life with Your Phone Camera

As I mentioned in my post last week, I have been really energized by the practice of carrying my phone along on my walks and trying to capture some of what I see around me.  The fact that I give myself the task of capturing one good image from each walk means that I am looking around me more carefully, and when I see something interesting, I am then thinking about how best to frame it, capture it, translate it.

Here are some of the steps to capturing a great still life in nature.  If you are inspired to go out and take any photos after reading this, please post them and tag us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  I’d love to see where your walks take you.

1.  Pay Attention.

What moves you?  What brings you a moment of joy?  Pay attention to your surroundings and tune into what’s important to you, what catches your eye.  What has been capturing my attention lately is colour and light.  Who can resist the bright flowers and the crisp greens of spring?  I took this picture on a really bright day, and what caught my attention was the way the leaves cast shadows on each other.



The shadows multiplied the shades of green, and highlighted that really juicy pale green of the young leaves.  I tried it from several angles and distances.

This was too close to capture the feeling of the wide bright sky:

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And this captured the blue sky but not the intensity of the bright light, and the background is too busy:

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I finally realized that I would have to get underneath the tree and shoot towards the sun from an angle only possible from the ground, so I sat down on the sidewalk and got this:

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Now I had the shot that captured what I was seeing: new leaves, green shadows, bright light, blue sky.  This was taken with my iPhone camera with no filters, and it’s pretty close to the final image that I published on Instagram.  I then edited and framed the photo in Phototoaster so that the leaves on the bottom were off centre and in sharp focus, leaving the background foliage blurry, and I made the colour more intense.  These are effects that I added after the fact with my photo editor app: Phototoaster.  I love Phototoaster.  I am not the kind of person who likes to experiment or play with technology because I don’t have the patience, but Phototoaster is the exception.  With this app, you choose a photo from your phone camera album (the original is not changed), and then you have fun and play.  You can add shading, intensify colour, blur the edges, make it black and white or sepia, choose a texture that makes it look like an oil painting or an old photo.  So many possibilities and so much fun.  Taking the picture is really only the beginning; most of the effect comes from using the photo editor.

2.  Get Close.  Really Close.  Closer!

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I lost some of the resolution by using the zoom to get so close to this tiny lilac blossom, but I still like the final effect.  Get as close as you can without using the zoom to get the best resolution, and then play with the zoom when you edit.

3. Compose.

I did not want that lilac flower to be in the centre of the square photo, so I composed the photo with it off-centre, and the eye travels from bottom left to top right with the movement of the stalks.  Figure out where you want the eye to go.  Do you want symmetry or asymmetry?  Do you want attention all in the foreground, or do you want to keep details from the background?

4. Crop.

I do all my cropping in Phototoaster so that my original is not changed.  It’s a really important step that allows you to cut out any extraneous “noise.”

5. Edit.

This is the really fun part!  I have so much fun taking a photo through different incarnations.  When I took this photo, I wanted to capture my sense that the poppies were on fire.  Something about the early morning light shining through those fragile, feathery petals looked like flame.  This is as shot:

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And then to intensify the colour I played around with focus until I got the best impression of fire that I could.  I actually had a hard time deciding between these.

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6. Frame.

It’s the final step to making your image pop.

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