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 Improve Your iPhone™ Photo Skills for Today’s Image-Driven Culture

This material was prepared for and presented to the Houston  IABC Chapter Entrepreneur Strategic Interest Group at the monthly Luncheon meeting at the La Griglia Restaurant, Houston, TX on July 9, 2015




Sylvester Garza

My Disclaimer – As an image maker for over 25 years, I’ve used professional Nikon & Canon  camera bodies & lenses to capture the highest quality images possible for my clients . . . I do recommend using a real camera for capturing photographs.

That said, we all carry our phone with us all the time and,  there are times that is all I have available too. I might use these images for scouting, as reference pertaining to a shoot, or for personal use.

I have discovered here are some instances where an iPhone™ camera will create some great images . . . and there are situations and environments where the results are just not good.  Please take at look at the information below to  learn some tips & strategies on taking better photographs with your iPhone.

An Example of a Well Planned & Executed iPhone Photograph



  • iPhone™ portrait indoors.


  • No flash


  • Positioned my subject so that the light was coming from a window behind me.


  • All natural lighting


  • Edited with Aviary App

An Example of a Less Than Desirable iPhone Group Photo

  • iPhone™ group indoors.

  • Nova flash

  • Group Positioned in the most accessible part of the room

  • Image taken by Waitstaff


  • Highlights (Bright Areas) have no detail


  • Image is not sharp- back row very fuzzy

The Difference That Using a Point & Shoot Camera Makes

  • Sony NEX7 Mirrorless indoors.

  • Flash Enabled


  • Auto Mode – Camera makes all exposure decisions

  •  Group Positioned in the most accessible part of the room

  • Image Taken By Waitstaff


  • Well exposed image -Focus extends to back row


Today, I will share some Tips on how to Improve your iPhone Photos . . .

Since it was introduced in 2007, the iPhone™ has had a phenomenonal influence on how we communicate.


iPhone camera capabilities:

– Photo – standard or square

– Video

– Panoramic

– Time-Lapse


iPhone 6 & 6Plus- iSight camera –Specs

  • 8-megapixel

  • ƒ/2.2 aperture

  • Optical image stabilization (iPhone 6 Plus only)

  • True Tone flash

  • Five-element lens

  • Auto image stabilization

  • Auto HDR for photos

  • Improved face detection

  • Exposure control

  • Panorama (up to 43 megapixels)

  • Burst mode

  • Tap to focus

  • Photo geotagging

  • Timer mode



 How to Access your Camera Quickly – iPhone camera shortcut

If you want a quick shot of your grandkids or children being cute or a rare appearance of the family cat, you need speed on your side.





 Turn off your flash


  • The flash is still just a LED light: It’s just not that powerful.

  • Instead, try shooting using natural lighting sources.

  • EXCEPTION – Use the Flash to Reveal Daytime Details,It may sound counterintuitive, but when you’re shooting in daylight, a fill flash is your secret weapon. It produces a quick burst of light to reduce the shadows that bright sunlight creates. . A fill flash provides pleasant, even lighting on your subject’s face to fill most of the shadows.

  • The tiny LED flash works only at very close range, so don’t expect it to help unless you’re within a few feet of your subject.


Other lighting options

If you don’t mind carrying around a little bit of extra gear, I  recommend. The Nova LED Light. It connects to your iphone via a nova app and let you control the light output.



Lock focus & control Exposure

Hold down a spot on your viewfinder to lock focus. You can do this by tapping and holding on the subject in question until you see the yellow AE/AF Lock alert. This means that the automatic exposure metering and automatic focus metering have been locked on your subject; to remove the lock, just tap anywhere else on the frame.



Use HDR – Scenes without people

Your iPhone comes with a software feature called High Dynamic Range, or HDR: This lets you snap photos that may have high contrast light sources (say, a bright area against a dark interior) and still capture a nice image without distorting either the light or the dark area of the picture. Your iPhone does this by snapping several pictures in quick succession at different exposures, then merging them together to create a unified image.

The default app does not provide a strong HDR effect . .. I recommend purchasing Pro HDR X from the itunes store. 



Use the PANO Mode for some stunning results

Your iPhone camera has a PANORAMIC option.

Straight from the iPhone 5s this image was 150 inches x 32.389 inches @ 72 ppi

I resized it for a print output  sample in PS6 – the image was 36 in x 7.773in.  @ 300ppi





Time- Lapse

Your iPhone camera has a Time-Lapse option.




 Thoughts about creative composition:


Keep it simple



Shoot from low angles




Use leading Lines




Use the Rule of Thirds









Use Focus Creatively

Use Focus Lock to add a professional edge







Shoot From The Level Of Your Subject






Don’t fight the light

Be aware of where the main light source is coming from,








Use image Editing Apps







 A Few iPhone Accessories . . .




My Favorite iPhone accessory is the Nova light.

It is a LED light that comes with a app that allows control of the light output from the iPhone   You can also use the app all by itself to take pictures with the iPhone camera .  The app itself has many presets,   inducding portrait and scenery . . . that make it easy to enhance a photo on the fly and then send it to FB, Instagram or Pinterest.  Check out the video below

To buy the Nova Light Unit

– Click or paste this link into your browser –

This link will redirect  you to Adorama Camera . . . one of my trusted suppliers –

Key in “NOVA” in the search widow at the top of the page

Nova App –

Companion app to Nova – the off-camera flash.

 A bright new way to take better photos. Carry this slim, wireless flash in your wallet and transform your photos with great light. Nova provides 40 warm and cool LEDs gently diffused to create natural looking lighting for photography. For over a century, photographers have used light situated away from the camera to achieve beautiful photos. Nova brings this to your iPhone. The first Bluetooth flash for iPhone

 After taking photos with Nova, you can post-process and share.



 In closing . . . .


After doing a substantial amount of research for this presentation,I have come to appreciate the value of the camera function in my iPhone™

For some applications it is a reasonable alternative to using a real camera . . . Esp. if that is all that is available at the time.

With practice on each functionality of the camera . . . An awareness of where the light is coming from and a steady hand or a tripod . . Good images will be the result.

Getting consistent results comes from practice.

Having Said that . . . .

I still recommend having a discrete device (a camera) for capturing photographs & videos.


icon-training_If you are interested in taking your teams digital photography skill-set up a notch, then call me to schedule a complimentary 30 minute phone consultation.  – 713.957,2777 or Click here to send an email to inquire about On-site Photography Training


* Tip from a Pro:

Don’t just take one or two photos – take many, many  photos.  Pick your fav .. and then edit using an iPhone app until you are happy!


* Image Handling Tip:

 Download your photos, movies, panos &  time-lapse files:

On a Mac, connect you iPhone™ with the charging cable and then open a finder window- key in “image capture”, narrow your search to “applications”. . . .

Image capture-screenshot

click on that app – a new window will open revealing the contents of your camera roll.  You can now download individual files or  the entire contents of the image files on your device


Free Editing Apps:

Snapseed –

Snapseed stands out with its extremely intuitive and touch-friendly interface, allowing you to tweak every aspect of an image with a precision and ease that no other mobile image editor can offer. It’s easier to point out the things it cannot do, rather than what it can: there’s no way to zoom in on an image when you do your edits (which can be inconvenient on the small screen of the iPhone), it cannot selective blur parts of an image, and it has not been updated to match the new flat looks that Apple introduced with iOS 7. Regardless of those minute shortcomings, it remains the most feature-rich editor out there and it’s completely free, unspoiled by any kind of in-app purchases or other bloat.



VSCO Cam is an by the Visual Supply Company, a firm known for developing some of the best film-emulation filters for Adobe Lightroom, and it’s no surprise that this expertise has resulted in a collection of some amazing filters that you can get in VSCO Cam. The beauty of VSCO’s filters (or presets rather) is in the subtle measure of the artistic effects that will help you get a sense of the right amount of touch-ups needed for a photo, and also help you avoid overediting your images. The full preset pack costs $5.99, and while you have some free presets, the app starts to truly shine when you unlock the potential of all the presets. VSCO Cam also allows you to edit the strength of each filter, as well as edit all aspects of an image non-destructively. Apart from its filters and effects, VSCO Cam also comes with a ‘journal’ with ideas for shooting, and the apps gets the job done as a camera replacement with separated exposure and focus controls, as well as tilt level.


Aviary –

Aviary’s Photo Editor has gathered a wide following for a good reason – it strikes the right balance between feature richness and simplicity in use. It is also regularly updated, with sleek visual style, and large image previews that allow you to have a good look of your edits as you do them. It has some unique capabilities too – you can remove blemishes from faces for better portraits, whiten teeth, add fun memes to your shots as well as stickers. On the downside, it’s an app that throws in-app purchases right in your face at the beginning, and it takes some getting used to the menus.



Sylvester Garza Productions
2499 Judiway Street #920778
Houston, TX 77018
Office: 713-957-2777
Mobile: 713-899-9706

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