How to take great photos of reflections with your iPhone

Reflections are all around us. Mirrors, glass, polished metal and stone, pools and fountains, even wet pavement can create great reflected light. Even average compositions can be improved with a bit of reflected light. Here are some tips for building a great set of reflection images.

Early Bird: Not only is the light better in the morning, but pools, ponds and lakes are often completely glassy. Set your alarm clock and head out before the breeze picks up.

Break the rules: Here’s a great chance to break the ‘rule-of-thirds’ and shoot with perfect symmetry. Set up your shot with the reflection’s far edge directly in the middle of your frame for a 50/50 split composition.

Weather vane: Look for puddles just after the rain, then get in close and down low. The contrast of reflected sky against the wet ground can be absolutely stunning.

Drought-proof: No water around? Find some glass. Store-fronts, skyscrapers and cafés are great locations for finding reflections. Try shooting from both sides and at angles to get different results and moods.

Perspectives: Sometimes flipping your image upside-down will give a surreal distortion to your final photo. Experiment with different angles while shooting, as well as orientations when editing.

You’re so vain: Find a large mirror and shoot people looking at their own reflections. It’s more discrete than a direct portrait, and you can get some really interesting and funny shots.

Hold the Mayo: Worried about getting your camera wet? If you’re going to be out in the rain, seal your phonecam in a plastic sandwich bag. You can still use the touchscreen, and your images will turn out fine if you keep the plastic up against the lens. Just remember to make sure it’s *clean* first.

Scary Monsters: How to take great Halloween photos with your iPhone

Halloween is an amazing holiday for photos, but also presents some real challenges because of the low-light. Here are some tips for taking great Halloween photos.

News Flash: So the first tip is this: Turn off your flash! You don’t want brightly-lit, flat, colorless monsters and jack-o-lanterns. Try and find other light sources like incandescent and candle light if you can. Flashlights also make excellent ‘ghoul’ lighting when shining from below. Use flash only as a last resort.

Golden Hour: If you’re capturing kids in costume for trick-or-treating, try to have them ready just as the sun is setting. The light at dusk sets a perfect Halloween scene and preserves a lot of the detail you’ll miss later in the dark.

Devilish Details: If you want great costume shots, you’ll want to focus on specific details. Masks, fangs, scars, hats, etc. Get in close and fill the frame. And don’t forget to shoot things like decorations and the candy loot. They don’t move around much and capture the true flavors of Halloween.

Process: If possible, try to document kids (and adults) as they get their costumes prepared. It helps tell the story, and also makes it possible to identify years from now just exactly who was hiding behind that mask.

HDR Spirits: Use a High-Dynamic-Range camera application like TrueHDR or HDR Fusion to capture ghost images. Here’s how: Just hold absolutely still and as the first frame fires, then have your subject walk through as the second frame is taken. Instant ghosts!

Post Processing: Want to turn the spooky volume up? Try editing your pics in an app like LensLight to add effects like a full moon or lightning.

Fall color: Autumn is such an amazing time for rich colors. Capture the entire season in your photo set with a trip to the pumpkin patch or a farmers market. Cloudy days and early/late hours are best for capturing these hues.

Dont forget to download Time Warp Camera for iPhone. It’s the perfect app to share and print your Halloween photos.

Now lets get our spooky on!

Photo Project: In and Out

Doors and windows are great subjects for photography. Open or closed, they can tell stories about what’s on the other side. Their rectangular shapes create beautiful symmetries and framing for composition.

Here are some tips and things to think about when photographing doors and windows.

Balancing Act: If you’re shooting with your iPhone or a camera with a wider angle lens, beware of barrel distortion, which will curve the straight lines of your door or window. You can mitigate this effect by moving away from the door and then cropping your photo later.

Lost in Translation: You can define your concept of a door or window in very broad terms. How about an arch or a gate? A hole in the wall? Use your imagination to stretch the meaning for some creative results.

Found in Transition: Try choosing some doors that have regular use. If you can capture people entering and exiting you can get some great portraits.

Into the Light: Doors are often recessed into walls, so tend to be shadowy. Or, if they are open they may reveal a much darker or brighter light source emanating from within. Keep your exposure in mind when you are setting up your shot. Are you focusing on the door, or what’s behind it? Or both?

Check out more examples of of Door & Window photography in this shared photo set

Photo Project: Standing Room Only

How often do you stop and take a look at where you’re standing? Beaches, forests, lawns – and especially city streets – can visually communicate a sense of location in an artful way. Taking photos of your feet is a fun and quirky way to capture an anonymized self-portrait. So take a moment to look down and see what’s around you. Here are some tips and ideas:

Street Style: If you’re in a city, keep an eye out for decorative elements that most people would normally miss. You’ll be surprised how many towns use elaborate design elements on things like manhole covers and drainage grates. Also check intersections for street names inlaid in metal in the pavement.

Bend the Rules: Your feet don’t actually have to be on the ground. Prop them up with a view. Take a ride on a Ferris Wheel. Maybe leave some footprints in the sand.

More is More: Add more feet and make it “Where We Stand” shot. Crowded buses and train platforms are perfect. It’s more fun when it’s more than just *your* feet.

Calling Ms. Marcos: If you have a thing for shoes, this is a great way to document your collection.

Get inspired: Check out the “from where I stand” collection on Flickr.

Shadowland: How to take great silhouette photography with your iPhone

Silhouettes are a beautiful way to capture the lines and form of a subject. Best of all, you can take silhouettes almost anywhere. All you need is a bright source of light. Hint: A large ball of flaming gas in the sky that rhymes with “fun”. 

Ready to get started? First, download the Keepsy app, and click the “+” to start your own Silhouette photo set.

Here are some tips for shooting great silhouettes with your iPhone:

No Flash: Turn off your flash. The whole point is to darken your subject, so don’t point light at it.

Framing: Silhouettes require a lot of contrast so remember to put your subject between you and your light source. If you imagine standing at the center of a clock dial, if your subject is at 12 0′clock, you want the light source somewhere between 11 and 1.

Exposure: Set your exposure to the brightest area on screen so your silhouette is as dark as possible. This will also properly expose the areas surrounding your silhouette.

Monochrome: Experiment with black and white filters, as well as sepia and cyan to get different effects. If you’re using the Keepsy app camera, try applying ‘Concorde’ filter for a stark contrast.

Split Focus If you are using Camera+ to shoot, use the split focus/exposure feature by spreading your fingers on the screen. Place the exposure indicator on the brightest area of the frame, while placing the focus indicator on the subject. This will ensure your subject has crisp lines while preserving the juicy contrast you’re after. 

While you’re at it, invite some friends to add their silhouettes to your photo set and make it a group project. 

Want to see some more silhouettes? Here are some samples.

How to take great photos of clouds with your iPhone

Clear skies are nice for picnics, but for great photos give us a big juicy Cumulonimbus cloud to chew on any day. Are there any forms that exhibit such a range of emotion and drama as clouds? Here are some tips for getting better cloud photography:

Brace yourself: You’re shooting something very far away. Don’t ruin the fine details with blur from camera shake.

Exposure: Make sure your exposure is focused on the clouds, not the sky or the foreground. That way you’ll get more contrast and depth in the shapes. To set your exposure and focus, just tap the cloud if you’re using the iPhone camera. If you’re using an app like Camera+ you can split your focus and exposure controls by ‘zooming’ (spreading) your finger and thumb apart while in the camera. It’s a very nice feature.

Horizons: Experiment with skylines and landscapes to give your shots a sense of scale. Birds are also great subjects if they’re flocking nearby. So are trees, particularly in winter when you have exposed branches that have fine detail.

Wait for it: Clouds are always moving and changing shape. What looks boring one moment may change for the better in just minutes. Be patient and see what unfolds next.

Airborne: The next time you’re flying, try for a window seat, preferably away from the wing. Take-off and landing usually have the best angles for composition, but you can get some great shots at altitude, too, depending on the weather.

Cool Hack:
Those fancy sunglasses propped on your noggin? If they are polarized, you’ve got an awesome lens filter to play with. Just hold the glasses close to your camera and rotate until you’ve caught the sun at 90-degrees. You’ll know when you’re there because the clouds and sky will practically pop off the screen. Grey (neutral) lenses are best, but even if your sunglasses are another tint, you can still get some great shots, albeit a bit warmer in tone.

Want to win a free photo book of your cloud photography? Share your photo set with or on Twitter via the Keepsy app. We choose book winners every week.

How to make a Calendar or Scrapbook with your iPhone photos

How to make a Calendar or Scrapbook with your iPhone photos

If you’ve already downloaded the Keepsy app, you already know how fast and easy it is to make photo sets and order Pocket Books right from your iPhone.

But what if you want to make a full-blown coffee table book or calendar with your iPhone pics? It’s also super easy… but kind of a hidden feature. Here’s how:

(1) Once you’ve created your photo set in the iPhone app, you can upload the photos to the servers by tapping “Share”

(2) On the Share page, tap “Email”

(3) Tap Ok

(4) You’ll see your photos begin to upload.

If you don’t want to share with anyone, you can just cancel the email and your photos will continue to upload. Once the upload is complete, head over to your computer and log-in to

(5) After logging into your account, click on “My Stuff”.

(6) You’ll see your Photo Set appear in your library. Click to open it.

(7) When your Photo Set loads, click either the “Book” or “Calendar” button. (In this case I’ve chosen “Book”)

(8) After selecting your style, you’ll see on the “Select Photos” see that the Keepsy tab is loaded, and all your iPhone photos from the set are there!

Just “Select All” and continue – You’re on your way to building a gorgeous album or calendar with your iPhone pics!

How to make cool color panel images on your iPhone

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create the color panel above, using two of my favorite iPhone apps: PictureShow and Diptic. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes once you know the technique, and you can get some really great results if you’re willing to experiment a bit.

Step 1. Choose your photo
Selecting a black & white shot from your camera roll. For the best results, try picking something that has some strong elements of linear composition. I chose this photo because I like the receding perspective of the street, as well as the subject that is facing away from the camera.

Selecting a black & white photo will usually enhance the contrast and make the final colorized photo more appealing.

Step 2. Create color versions of your photo in PictureShow
PictureShow is a fun post-processing application for adding color, effects, noise, artifacts, etc., to your photos.

After you’ve loaded your black & white photo, select at least 3 or 4 shades from the menu at the top of the screen, such as ‘BluePlastic’, ‘GreenGel’, ‘Holography’ and whatever else you think might make an interesting palette of tones to choose from. Save each of these to your camera roll. (Note: PictureShow will often load preset, random effects to your photos, so you may need to turn these off in order get just the color applied to your photo. For example, under the ‘style’ menu, I’d recommend choosing ‘no frames’).

Using PictureShow on the iPhone to colorize a black & white image.

Step 3. Load your photos in Diptic
Once you’ve saved your colorized versions, fire up Diptic and choose a template pattern that will work for your photo. This is going to depend on the composition of your photo. For example, I’ve chosen the 4-panel vertical because I want to accentuate the subject that will appear in the second position from the left. If I were to choose a 3-panel layout, the figure would get lost in the white border area we’ll be creating. Also, I chose the vertical over the horizontal because I want to break-up the strong horizontal lines of the original photo’s composition. The horizontal template was less clean and visually confusing when I tried it.

Tap each section of the template to add one of the colorized versions of your photo to the template.

Once you’ve loaded the photos, arrange them by dragging in the template panels. Tip: Be careful adjusting the size of any of your panels because it can make it very difficult to position the photos so that lines are continuous from panel to panel.

To get the rounded effect, tap the ‘effects’ button and adjust the border to the settings in this screenshot:

Save to your camera roll, and voila!

If you like this effect, you can also try this mind-bender: In Diptic, change your layout style to horizontal, and now add your freshly-saved vertical version into the four horizontal panels. Adjust by dragging, and now you have a grid-style view of your shot!

Tips for better landscape photos – Part 2

This post is part 2 of Daniel Berman‘s landscape tutorial for mobile photography. Dan is a fine art photographer, filmmaker & digital artist with a specialty in landscapes, abstractions & people. He is the founder of the Mobile Photo Awards. With a background as a producer of music & nature programs for television, Daniel brings a lifelong passion for the imagery of the natural world to his photographic art. He lives in the scenic hills surrounding Milton, Ontario.

In our last post we discussed how to improve the landscape shots you take with your mobile phone. We touched upon when to shoot, what to shoot, and how to shoot. This week we are going to expand upon those ideas and talk a little bit about what iphone photo apps to try and how certain filters work. Also, we will check out what look for when deciding whether to process in Black and White or Color.

1. Apps: What App Did You Use?

Asking someone what apps they use, or what camera they have is a little like saying to a chef “…wow, that was delicious, what kind of oven do you have? And where do you get your knives?” The point being that a photo, much like a great meal, is the vision of the artist and using the same tools as someone else will never bring you their results. That said, there are certain methods you learn so that you are able to create images with logic and precision and not just with luck. To use another analogy, like a great golf swing, if you learn how certain apps work your results become planned and you’re not just hacking around hoping to hit it straight. Although, hole-in-ones are lucky no matter who hits them! Ok, enough comparisons, let’s check out some apps to try when processing your landscapes.

One of the beautiful things about creating images for yourself is that you are free to do anything you want. That is to say, if you’re creating images professionally for a client you must meet the needs they require. If you’re shooting a baseball game for a newspaper it’s not a good idea to make the sky yellow, the batter green and the rest of the field black and white. It might look cool but the photo editor, who is presumably looking for “reality,” isn’t likely to be pleased with your artistic touches. Likewise, when shooting a wedding the couple who have hired you probably don’t want to be autopainted and made to look like they’re in a Van Gogh image. Well, they might, but somebody’s Mother-in-Law might not so be careful if you try. But when you’re doing iPhoneography for yourself then do as you please. All this is to say that the notion of an image being “over-processed” is relative. If you’re the “client” then do whatever you want. You want a yellow sky? Go for it. One way to achieve that look is to use the cross-process filter in the app CAMERA+.

Cross processing was discovered in the 1960′s when certain types of film were developed using chemical solutions intended for a different type of film. The results are unnatural, with slightly surreal colors and high contrast. The results vary but often the whites in your image will become more yellow. So, if you shoot a pond on an overcast day and the picture is kind of blah, try calling up CAMERA+ and applying the cross process filter and watch your sky take on an appealing yellow character. For slightly different results try the cross process filter in other apps such as Iris Photo Suite, Tiffen PhotoFX and Cameramatic. Try combining retro effects with a cross processed look to achieve even more interesting effects and colors.

2. Monochrome: or When to Go Black & White

Why would we shoot landscapes in Black & White when color seems to be so much a part of what makes the natural world beautiful? Well, it’s been said that shooting people in color shows their clothes and shooting them in black & white shows their soul. The same idea applies to landscapes. There is something about a great monochrome landscape that really draws you in, in a way that color can not. The details and shadows take on a character of their own. Objects stand with power and dignity. The eye is drawn to the impact of the subject matter and not distracted by the interplay of colors. A quick look at an Ansel Adams print will confirm these ideas.

For me, black and white landscapes work best when there is a single subject as the centerpiece of the image. Try and look for a strong focal point, little details like a heavy contrast in textures, or shapes that jut against one another in silhouette. The best thing to do is experiment. I use the app NOIR on my iPhone to control the light and isolate part of the frame that most interests me. NOIR gives you a great deal of control over how the light and contrast are spread throughout the image. I also use FilterStorm to black out parts of an image to draw the eye to the central subject. Other apps to look at are MonoPhix, Dramatic B&W and even some of the “films” in Hipstamatic (although if you must use that app please crop out those awful frames!)

One of the great things about shooting with filters is that they allow the photographer to have more control with their aperture and shutter speed. Neutral density grad filters are my favorite because they let me “stop down” the sky and get a more even exposure between the top and bottom of the frame. Most likely, you’re not fitting your phone onto a tripod and attaching a matte box with $200 filters. No matter, that’s what apps are for! Let’s talk grads.

Graduated filters are ones that have a darker hue starting at the top of the frame and gradually become lighter until somewhere around the middle they turn clear. This lets you darken parts of an image so that more of your frame is exposed properly. The app PhotoFX by Tiffen has a whole range of grads you can apply in post. Have an ugly white sky? Snap a Grape colored grad on your image, adjust the opacity to your liking, move the position around a bit and voila´! A lovely sky! Now, you can then take that image and process it in other ways without having to think about whether you are going to be stuck with a less appealing top half of your frame. Experiment with different colored grads and even try stacking them upon one another to create a new palette of colors. The world is your oyster with a handful of grads on your phone!

I hope these suggestions have been helpful. Remember, the best way to learn anything is to do it!

Daniel Berman

Tips for better landscape photos with your mobile phone

This guest post was written by Daniel Berman aka @reservoir_dan on Instagram. Dan is a fine art photographer, filmmaker & digital artist with a specialty in landscapes, abstractions & people. He is the founder of the Mobile Photo Awards. With a background as a producer of music & nature programs for television, Daniel brings a lifelong passion for the imagery of the natural world to his photographic art. He lives in the scenic hills surrounding Milton, Ontario.

In many ways, landscapes are the hardest kind of photography to produce with a mobile phone. Most landscape shots taken with a DSLR have the advantage of filters, depth-of-field control and ultra-long exposure times. Mobiles have none of these advantages. Yet stunning images of the natural world are produced everyday by mobile photographers. Here is the first of a two part series of tips on how to improve your mobile landscape shots.

1. When to Shoot: Magic Hour

In landscape photography when you decide to shoot is as important as what you decide to shoot. Early in the morning and just prior to the evening sun going down are the landscape photographer’s favorite times of day. The light is softer and casts a glow upon the land that is fleeting, ethereal and, well, magic. Hence the term magic hour!

It’s also important to recognize that the type of light is as important as where the light is positioned. When lighting people, for example, we never would place a light directly over the head, we typically try and start by placing the light at a flattering 45 degree angle and then get creative from there. It’s the same thing for landscapes. When the sun is lower in the sky it sends light across the land instead of shining a harsh light directly upon it.

When you’re out in magic hour take a look around and notice how the light works, how it reflects upon the water or dapples behind the trees when it’s lower in the sky. Look to shoot directly into the sun sometimes but also use the sun as a sidelight – let the light come from your left or right and spray across a field. You’ll notice that the grass has more depth and character when the sun isn’t hitting it directly from behind. Beyond magic hour, look to shoot during a foggy morning or try and catch that mist in early spring after an afternoon rain just before the sun pops back out.

2. What to shoot: Vantage points.

With a DSLR, one has the advantage of using long shutter speeds and filters to make the clouds wispy or water have a silky sheen. Those techniques just aren’t possible with mobile phones. There is no control over shutter speed, iso, or aperture. You need to find things of interest because it’s harder to create things of interest with technique. Be willing to pull the car over and get that sunset on the side of the road! Trample through that farmer’s field to snap a shot of the statuesque tree after a summer day’s rain. Look for points of interest in the landscape like animals, a solitary tree in a field, or rain water in a puddle reflecting the sunset. Be creative and keep your eyes open!

3. How to shoot: Composition

Often, people forget to incorporate the whole scene into a shot. One little point of interest becomes even more so when juxtaposed against it’s natural background. So, a tiny duck in a pond can offer a sense of scale when seen next to a gazebo against a backdrop of trees. We sense the whole world of the duck, where he’s going and where he’s been. It tells more of a story if we can see a micro-environment instead of just the water and a duck.

Pay attention to the rule of thirds and use it with your horizon. Use the grid lines in your camera app to place your horizon on the top or bottom third and not in the middle. This directs the viewer’s eye to what is important in the composition. Is the main subject on the land? Then put the horizon closer to the top of the frame. Is the sky spectacular that day? Then give it more space in your shot.

You can break this rule when doing reflection shots. In that case, try placing the intersection of the land and the water closer to the middle to give the image a mirror-like sensibility.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment when Dan talks about color, black and white, and recommends some apps to use to improve your mobile landscape photography!

Oh and make sure to enter the Landscape category in the Mobile Photo Awards!

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, drop us a line at support (@) keepsy (dot) com!


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