One of the most important things determining the quality of a photo is the angle from which it was taken. Even if you have a really interesting subject and you follow the most important composition guidelines, you still need to find that unique and interesting angle to really make your photo shine.
In this article I’m going to share my 9 best tips for finding the perfect angle so that your iPhone photos really stand out and look as great as they possibly can…
1. Move around to improve composition
Whenever you’re trying to pick the best angle for a photo, you should always think about balancing the composition, and the angle that you shoot from makes a huge difference for the horizontal and vertical balance of the photo. Let me show you what I mean with an example.
In this photo my subjects are the tree in the foreground and the mountain in the background. The photo is balanced horizontally as the two subjects are at the opposite sides of the frame. However, it’s not balanced vertically as there is nothing of interest in the top half of the frame, and all visual weight is concentrated at the bottom half of the frame.
Now let’s look at the same scene from a different angle. The next photo was shot from the same location with the iPhone positioned higher and the lens directed more towards the ground.
Here you can see pretty much the opposite – there’s nothing of interest at the bottom half of the frame, and all visual weight is concentrated at the top. It’s tempting to think that the best solution would be aligning both the tree and the mountain centrally, but then all visual weight would be in the middle, and the top and the bottom would then look empty.
However, I was able to balance this image by walking closer to the tree so that the shadow is also included in the composition. Now the tree takes up the top and central parts of the image, the mountain is in the central part, and the shadow fills up the bottom third of the image. I hope this example shows you how easy it can be to adjust composition by just moving around a little.
2. Shoot from the height of your subject
We look at the world from the height of our eyes, and thus it’s only natural to also take photos from the same height. However, in many photography situations – such as taking photos of children, pets or plants – shooting from the height of your eyes will almost always result in bad photos.
When photographing children and animals, you should take photos from their height and thus capture the world from their point of view. If you just shoot from the height of your own eyes, your subjects will literally look like they’ve been tossed on the ground.
3. Get close… and even closer
A great way to make your photos more intimate is to get closer to your subjects – even closer than you would feel comfortable. That way your photos can convey the kind of intimacy that is normally only found in real life.
Did you notice that this photo is shot from the height of the cat?
4. Add perspective to your photos
When possible, try to choose an angle that will show perspective in your photos. There are a few different ways you can do this. If your subject is far away, one simple way to show perspective is to juxtapose it with larger-looking objects in the foreground as seen below.
If the view extends into the distance, you can show perspective by shooting from a higher angle as seen in the next photo. I took this photo from a staircase so that my main subject – the silhouette of a women – is situated against the street extending far into the background.
Another great way to show perspective is to get really low with your iPhone. That creates an exaggerated perspective by making the objects in the foreground look massive, which can be used to emphasize details on the ground level and make the image more immersive.
5. Include interesting reflections
An easy way to greatly improve your photos and make mundane scenes exciting is to include reflections in your photos. While you can find reflections on many different surfaces, water is perhaps the most obvious medium for interesting and unique reflections.
In general, I prefer to include both the actual subjects and their refections in the photo, and I like to make the reflections equally or more prominent than the other parts of the photo. Often the only way you can do this is by placing the lens of your iPhone just a little bit above the water. If the iPhone is even an inch higher, you probably won’t be able to frame the photo as needed.
Another great reason to place the iPhone within an inch above the water is that even the tiniest waves – which you can also create yourself – will look massive and distort the reflection, which of course also adds perspective to the photo. This is something you can only do with a smartphone since in traditional cameras the lens is placed much higher from the bottom of the camera.
6. Include shadows in the composition
Many photos can be greatly enhanced by also including shadows in the composition. This works particularly well if you shoot within the so-called golden hour, which is the hour before sunset (or after sunrise) when the shadows are longer and much more pronounced.
To make sure that the shadows fit in with the rest of the composition, treat them like you would treat any other photography subject. Quite often it means that your photos with shadows should be shot from the top with the ground taking up a large part of the composition.
7. Shoot from the hip
Shooting from hip height is one of the best ways to improve your street photos and other photos of people that are not portraits. By changing the angle like this you can make the photo more dynamic and interesting just because we normally don’t look at other people from that angle.
You could either get down on your knees to maintain full control over the process, or you can just lower your iPhone and literally shoot from the hip to add some randomness to your photos.
8. Tilt your photos for a more dynamic look
Who said you should always keep your iPhone straight and take perfectly horizontal photos? For some reason that’s exactly what we end up doing 99% of the time. However, there are situations when tilting the iPhone a little will result in a far more interesting and unique photos.
This is one of my favorite iPhone photos, and it’s made much more interesting by the subtle but perceptible tilting of the frame. Of course, the subjects couldn’t walk like this in real life, thus making this photo a bit surreal.
9. Always keep experimenting
You should always keep experimenting and looking for a unique and interesting angle for your photos. Don’t just take a photo the way you see the scene, try to change the angle and see how that changes the photo. Don’t just settle for the first version of what could be a great photo.
Maybe you want to get down on your knees, maybe you want to climb the nearby stairs and take the photo from there, or maybe you want to get closer to your subject. Always keep experimenting with unique shooting angles, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Emil Pakarklis is the founder of iPhone Photography School, a website that helps people take better photos with the iPhone.
All photos in this article were shot and edited with iPhone 4S.