During our time in Japan, the very top of our bucket list was sakura season. We knew we wanted to capture the arrival of daughter and the arrival of a once-in-a-lifetime spring all at once, so we waited to take professional photos until our second year in Japan.
And boy, was it worth the wait.
One of the highlights of our time in Japan was meeting so many amazing people. Our cherry blossom photos were captured by a yochien mama friend of mine who runs a photography business, the immensely talented Laura Kasper. The only day that worked for our schedule was chilly, the blossoms had only begun to peek out, and my better half (MBH) and my son disappeared for thirty minutes mid-shoot due to a potty accident. Laura found one tree in bloom and made magic happen despite all the zaniness of real life.
One afternoon at our bus stop, Laura brought her camera to snap some nice photos of the kids. My son was grumpy and spent ten minutes hiding from her, but then got distracted by a pile of leaves. Laura crouched down and one second later, had captured this perfection, one of my all-time favorite photos of my son.
I loooooooove having talented friends, and I especially love learning from them. MBH bought me a fancy camera for my very first Mother’s Day, back when I thought I’d have hands free to capture all my children’s amazing moments, instead of being hands-on and knee deep in chasing, shouting, playing, laughing, sticky snacks, spilled juices, and the million other moments that make carrying around an expensive piece of machinery impractical.
So Laura was kind enough to share five tips to take better photos on your iPhone, the camera you carry with you all the time, instead. I’ve stood beside her, both of our phones angled up for the exact same shot, and hers came out phenomenally while mine looked sort of meh.
Here’s how she makes the magic happen, with some of Laura’s favorite photography advice for your iPhone, with some of her favorite photos!
- Rule of Thirds: Use the grid lines to break the shot in mind up into thirds. Place your subject where the two vertical lines and horizontal lines intersect. The photo will feel more balanced and your eye will naturally go to those areas. I love to place my subject either in the center or off to the right of the photo for more visual interest.
- Framing, Leading Lines, Angle, Patterns: I look for lines, patterns, texture, reflections and frames to help create depth, make an impact or enhance a photo. These can be placing your subject in between trees or interesting doorways. I often look for murals. street lines, and stairways. Use different angles. Shoot at a low angle to capture the scene. I do this to help convey a story. It’s normally my wide shots of the kids playing or with landscapes to get more sky. If I see something interesting above me, then I will lower myself to capture more of that space. Getting low also adds depth to an image. Shooting at the level of the subject or slightly above helps to enhance your subject features such as my favorite, the eyes! It’s always fun to just experiment and play with different angles than just having your subject just stand at you facing the camera. With some shots I like to get in close or “fill the frame” to create impact or get rid of any clutter in the background. It’s great to follow these “rules” but it’s fun to also break the rules too!
- Capture the candid moments! I have two young children and getting them to actually look at the camera can be difficult. I love capturing them playing, dancing or running. It helps to tell the story of what they were doing in that moment. I love how movement or capturing emotion can impact the way the final image looks or how you make the viewer feel. Have fun with it and practice everyday! Most of the time, my kids are facing away or profile to me.
- I use natural light whenever possible. With selfies I love using a window and face towards it. When taking photos of others I put my back to the window or bright lit area. When using the sun, I love shooting towards the sun as long as it is slightly out of my frame or blocked by trees, clouds etc. I also sometimes use the camera’s manual exposure to underexpose or overexpose slightly depending on the brightness outside. My favorite fun tip to try with lowlight and avoiding harsh flash is to have someone use the flashlight app on the their phone to hold up and to the side of me to light my subject or group. This raises the light higher and makes the image more flattering.
- Don’t be afraid to edit images. I love to play with exposure (how bright or dark and image is), saturation, contrast, highlights, shadows, sharpening and clarity. Most of the time I will bring up the exposure, add a bit of contrast and raise or lower my highlights and shadows. My landscape or architectural shots I add some clarity and sharpness. My favorite apps are Lightroom, Photoshop express, SnapSeed and Retouch.
What’s your favorite photography tip?
After hearing Laura’s advice on leading lines, I spent an entire day exploring Tokyo with my then-toddler son and newborn daughter… without a stroller. By the time we made it home, he was exhausted, as was I.
But then I pulled out my phone, got low, centered the lines of the train platform and those of my son’s tuckered out little legs… and I gotta say, this moment is one of my all-time favorite captures on my phone. It makes me laugh every time I look at it, which is definitely not what I felt like doing in the moment. But I had my phone on me, it miraculously had enough battery left to work, and I was able to catch a memory that I truly will treasure forever.
You can find more of Laura’s incredible work at her website, on Instagram, or Facebook. And for the times you definitely want a professional in charge of your photos, book her early! She sells out sessions fast.