DIY Photography

DIY Friday- taking your own portraits using a smartphone camera

Who knew how amazing pictures can be by simply just using your “handy dandy” smartphone camera! Here’s the story….

It all started because I really wanted to capture the moments of my son with those “pinterest” cute portraits, but my husband and I are really watching our pennies since cutting down to just one income (that way I can stay at home with our son! best decision btw). We can’t afford a photographer right now…so what’s a mama got to do, but take out her “handy dandy” smartphone camera and start learning portrait techniques herself.

I currently have an iPhone 6 and I am by no means a tech-savvy person, but I love to learn! After doing a little research and following just these five adjustments I have captured some pretty astounding pictures. I can’t believe the changes in the photographs I take! If you gain anything from this blog just remember these five techniques:

  1. Use your focus/exposure control (visit my previous blog iPhone 6 camera features  to understand how to use this feature)
  2. Find the right lighting 
  4. Change the perception of your photos 
  5. Be steady

Follow along as I go into more detail about these techniques. I’ll post some before and after photos to show you what a difference they make. Join me in my learning experience about diy portraits.


That’s me just pulling up my camera app! I swear this is a very informative blog post. Sometimes humor just helps along the way!

Learning from your mistakes and studying from your photos is the best way to learn.

Johnny was such a trooper with my diy portraits. I’m still learning and I have a long way to go, but I’m having so much fun doing it!

Here are my results:

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart,

I’ll stay there forever.”

-Winnie the Pooh

“People let me tell you ’bout my best friend” -Harry Nilsson

Exposure Control

I used the exposure control to focus and increased the lighting on the book so it would stand out more. My perception did change a bit as well.

This feature in simple terms means how light or dark an image will appear when captured. It helps for certain features/objects to stand out in your photographs. To get more advanced there are three items that work in conjunction to express exposure. It’s called “the exposure triangle”these three variables: aperture, shutter speed, and IOS are never separate. If you want to learn more about “the exposure triangle” click on the link above. After researching I have found this page to be the most valuable in explaining the meaning of the “exposure triangle”. 

I found this image while researching on google, which helped me to understand the terminology and how these three variables work together.

Aperture= depth of motion

shutter speed=motion blur

IOS=image noise


One of the most valuable things I learned so far is the importance of lighting. I mean that simply is what photography is about, right?  It truly is a learning process in how to “train your eye” to understand how the lighting will affect the photos. If you click the lighting link above it will take you to a more detailed blog that focuses on tips for proper use of lighting.

What I found most valuable about lighting is that it’s easy to adjust by simply just playing with it in your photos. You can use certain aspects of the lighting to incorporate highlighted features. If you speak to any photographer I’m sure that they would recommend to take outside portraits during the golden hour (first hour and last hour of sunlight), but as a mom sometimes that doesn’t always work out. So, I make do with the light that I have and try to incorporate it in different ways. The way your subjects are positioned play a big part in this.

Zooming In

You know that “zoom in” option on your camera app…yeah well try not to use it. This is a tip that came across multiple websites when I was researching photography with iPhones. The reason behind this is that anytime you “zoom in” it causes the pixels to become more visable and in that case becoming a blurred image.

Instead, get closer and try out different angles. You can always go back and make little tweaks by editing anything you do not want in the photo.

I use to zoom in all the time, instead of just getting closer to the image I wanted to capture. Since learning about this I have not touched my zoom button, and it has made a huge difference.


When you change the way things are looked at sometimes there is a whole new beauty to it. This has been my favorite learning experience with photography. I really enjoy getting in the moment and giving others a different view of something that is such a familiar object. When I was photographing Johnny, I was literally laying on my stomach trying to get ta great picture. I’m sure it was hilarious to view as a bystander. When taking pictures it’s our natural instict to take that straight shot, so when we see photos with a different perception it makes just a good picture into a really good picture.

 Here’s how you can be creative with exploring different perceptions.

  1. get high and and get low with your images
  2. use a stool or ladder to get the “top views”
  3. explore different angles
  4. tilt your camera ever so slightly either up or down
  5. lay on the ground to take pictures
  6. take “upside down pictures”

Be Steady

Johnny said “be like me, don’t move a muscle”

We all know that the more steady you are the less blurry and the better quality you will have with your photographs. It can be pretty tricky though at times. Here are a few tips I learned that have helped me to capture better photos.

  • keep your elbows in
  • lay down if you have an opportunity to
  • use your knee as a tripod

Printing Your Photos

I usually print from either Shutterfly or upload them to my Walgreens photo app and send them off to the store. The convenience about Shutterfly is that they will mail it right to you, unlike Walgreens you have to go yourself to pick them up. Always google coupons for these two stores, they always have some available. Gosh…I love google! Here is another helpful website that really goes in-depth explaining the process of printing your photos from your iPhone. 

If you are printing very large images, you’ll have to understand that it may be a little grainy due to the tiny pixels that are used to capture the colors of the image. Also, the iPhone is a jpeg file, unlike a raw file. Meaning that the camera is already processing the features in the jpeg file and it is more difficult to edit certain attributes. I cam across a great video that explains the difference between a jpeg file and raw file. You may want to view it just to understand what type of file you will be shooting in and the advantages and disadvantage of it.

Congrats! You made it to the end…

I hope this information was useful! I know I have learned so much, and with just following the 5 tips I have captured some great photos! I love learning about photography! There is so much to understand, but when you take it slow and focus on just a few features at a time, you’ll start to understand just how it works. Don’t forget to keep practicing! I listened to a podcast that stated once you get into photography you won’t truly get any better until you start taking your first “10,000 photos”! Well, I sure am on my way to that!

Now, go capture those great moments…

Happy Photographing!

P.S. If you have any other tips you would like to share, please comment below. I would love to hear about them!


Bonus Tips!

  • find anything with a textured look (the outdoors works great for this:trees, grass, flowers, fences, stone, brick, walkways, basically anything with a type of pattern)
  • make sure to look at your captured shots every now and then to see if any adjustments need to be made with positions, perception, or angles
  • take multiple photos in one session
  • DO NOT edit until you’re done capturing the photos
  • DO NOT focus on perfection (sometimes the best photos turn out to be the ones you thought would be put in the “trash bin”)
  • LESS IS MORE- sometimes just one simple prop makes for a great picture. Don’t over load your picture with too many things.
  • change the scenery up if you can
  • HAVE FUN doing this! There is no right or wrong way, you may even surprise yourself! I know I sure did!



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