Lesson 6: Hold the Phone

One of the things we don’t always think about when we are taking photos is how we’re holding the phone.  Using an iPhone or any small-bodied camera, especially smart phones, creates a challenge around holding the phone straight and still.  This can both create blur and distortion as well as change the framing.  Click image to enlarge:

stability and angle of phone.001 (1)

The “rule of phone” here is to hold the phone as much like a camera as physically possible.  That means holding all 4 corners of the phone firmly.  Use your thumbs on the bottom side.  On the top side, use your left index finger and your right middle finger.  Assuming you have an iPhone 4S or later, keep your right index finger free to press the volume up button to take the photo.  Your finger placement will look like this (click to enlarge):

finger placement.002 (1)

If you turn your phone vertically, you may find it easier to keep your fingers in these positions, but open your unused fingers on your right hand to keep them out of the frame.

Now that you have a good grasp on your phone, look at the screen of your iPhone to frame the subject, use your free index finger to tap the screen to set focus/exposure, and then take a moment to make sure you’re stable and you haven’t messed up your framing in the process.  Then, click the volume-up button to take the photo.

Bonus tip:  if you have a place to set your phone that gives you the framing you want, you can use the volume up button on a headset to take the image, too.  This will ensure your phone is perfectly still and perfectly perpendicular.

Another thing to be aware of is the angle you are holding your phone at.  I sometimes find that I am not quite able to fit my subject in the frame.  When I look at how I am holding my iPhone, I discover I am holding it at an angle to the subject, which makes the space I have to work with vertically more condensed.  Compare these two images (click to enlarge):

stability and angle of phone.002 (1)

I held the phone at the same spot but at two different angles.  Holding the phone straight gave me more vertical space in the frame.  Keeping the phone straight can also help when you are taking photos of objects that are square and you want them to look straight.  As is true with any “rule,” sometimes an angled phone works great.

Your Assignment:  Practice holding your phone like a camera.  Start with the instructions above and try sliding your thumbs closer together or further apart.  Try using different fingers.  Practice setting focus/exposure and clicking the button to see if you can find a comfortable grip that helps you keep the phone steady while you move your free finger around.  You might even try turning the iPhone around so the volume-up button is under your left thumb–especially if you’re left-handed–some people find this easier.

Now take a few images with the phone at a right-angle to the ground.  Without moving, try tilting it forward and taking a photo and then back.  See how it changes what fits in the frame.  Notice if it affects the way the subject looks.