How to Create Bright and Sharp iPhone Photos

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhonePeople often ask on Instagram if my photos are taken with my iPhone. My answer: "Of course!" Almost all of the photos I post there (aside from some photos from here on the blog) are from my phone, edited on my phone. 

These devices are little miracles. When I think about my high school days and taking all my photos with disposable cameras and getting them developed at Walmart... Well, things have come a long way! As cheesy as it may sound, I count my iPhone as one of my blessings because of the memories it helps me capture every single day. Pretty stuff. Random stuff. Dumb stuff. All of it. Yay—iPhone. You're so cool. 

Okay, so here's how I get my photos from point A (straight out of the phone) to point B (ready to share and print!). Spoiler—it's a million times easier than you probably think! 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 1)Tip 1: Wipe off your lens 

This is simple, but SO important. Most people don't generally think about wiping off their mobile phone lens, but the day-to-day use of your phone actually gets it really dirty. If your photos are fuzzy, blurry, or hazy, this could be the cause. Now I compulsively wipe off my lens every time I go to take a picture! 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 1) On that note, lighting matters. iPhones are awesome and powerful, but they don't handle bad lighting very well AT ALL. So unless your dark photo is, like, a selfie with Justin Timberlake, I suggest starting over and finding better lighting. Windows are your friend!

This photo (above) was taken facing a window. A good photo will have a much less drastic before/after because it was already pretty great to start with! 

When you have good lighting, it's not only flattering, but you also have the opportunity for awesome colorful editing. When your photo is taken in bad lighting, it will probably be too yellow or grainy to make those pretty colors pop, no matter what app you're using. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 2)Tip 2: Brightness and contrast are my first (and usually last!) stop. 

Instagram added a brightness and contrast adjustment feature, and since then, quite a few of my photos have been edited ONLY inside of Instagram with this feature.

When I edit a photo, I boost the brightness just a little bit and then I boost the contrast just a little bit more (or a lot more, depending on the photo and what it needs). That's the basic workflow that makes my photos appear brighter, more colorful, and crisper. Simple! 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 2) Because of her (precious) spots, Dolly's facial features can sometimes be hard to see in photos, especially when you take into consideration that people are viewing these photos on TINY phone screens. A little brightness and contrast makes her features pop while giving the overall image a crisp and colorful feel. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 3)Tip 3: Go for intense color! 

iPhone photos are naturally a little muted and dull. When you layer a filter from most apps on top of that, it will give you an image that's still muted and dull, but now with a color filter over it (usually a yellowish tint). No bueno. 

To get intense color without a heavy filtered look, my favorite method is first boosting the brightness and contrast just a little bit and then using a filter from VSCO Cam. It's by far the best app for getting color to pop. The filter I use most often is C1 (which comes with the free app), and I usually turn it down between 25% and 50%. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 3) Sometimes no brightening is needed. I used the VSCO Cam app here as well to give these autumn leaves a little extra pop. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 4)Tip 4: Know when to use black and white. 

If your photo was taken in unfortunate lighting, like my photo above, black and white can be a huge life saver! When used with just a little brightness and contrast, it can turn your photo into something really crisp and beautiful! Sometimes I'm shocked by how powerful black and white really is. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 4) The other reason I use black and white is to minimize distracting elements, like my pink drink in this photo. It's a great solution when there is color clashing going on, or the color is taking away from the content of your photo. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 5)Tip 5: How to brighten people. 

People are tricky, and sometimes your favorite moments can't be captured in the perfect lighting. I think bright, contrasty photos can be really flattering for skin tones and just generally make your photo look better small or far away (which is good for posting on Instagram).

In the photo above, I used brightness and contrast as well as my favorite Afterlight filter with a blue tint (Relic in the Original pack) to help correct our red skin tones caused by the sunset.

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone (Tip 5) I used the same thing on this selfie. I usually turn down the Relic filter to about 25% strength so that it gives a little bit of the cool tones without overdoing it. As you can see here, brightness and contrast also helps to make my eyes, makeup, and hair contrast against my skin and gives my tattoo a color boost! Just a simple, little, three-step editing. 

How to create bright and sharp photos with your iPhone   I hope this article has been helpful. I'm hoping the takeaway will be that editing iPhone photos doesn't have to be complicated or require a lot of steps to get the look you really want. It's actually really easy! 

If you have any questions at all about iPhoneography, I'd love to answer them here in the comments and hear your suggestions for future photography posts as well! xo. Elsie 

Dslr basicsAlso, if you love photography and you're looking to up your DSLR photography game you should check out our latest e-course

Credits // Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. All photos taken and edited with the iPhone. 

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