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.


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.


Photo Project: Alphabet Soup



Letters, words, signage – everywhere you look. So much so that we usually take it for granted. In this photo project, stop and take a moment to capture some of these interesting, abstract, and often beautiful shapes.

Ready to get started? First, download the Keepsy iPhone app, and click the “+” to start your own Alphabet Soup photo set. Then invite some friends to join you in the treasure hunt for text.

Delight is in the details: Think about the design elements of the the letter you’re photographing. Is it block text or script? Heavy or light? Off-set or embossed? A strong mix will add a richness and balance to your collection.

If it feels good: To give your collection some depth and variety, look for different kinds of textures, like wood, stucco, paper, metal, plastic, concrete, etc.

Simplicity: This project is great for honing your composition techniques because unintended visual noise can be a great distraction. Be thinking about what is creeping into your frame.

The “I’s have it: Challenge yourself by shooting as many examples of a single letter that you can find. Good luck finding Q.

Head on: Taking photos of signage printed on shiny objects like glass or metal may result in an unintended self-portrait. See if you can use this to your advantage.

Imagineering: Instead of literal letters, do an abstract set of found objects. For example, things that start with “A”. Or create an A-Z photo book for a toddler.

Want to check out some more samples? Check out this photo set.


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 contests@keepsy.com 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 Keepsy.com 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 keepsy.com.

(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!


Project 365: How to start a daily photo journal (and keep it up)


I love the idea of a diary, but I’m way too lazy, busy, distracted… (pick any excuse) to actually do it. That’s why I keep a daily photo journal. With the Keepsy app, it’s a really fun way to document my life, and the iPhone makes it ridiculously easy since it’s always with me.

What’s the best way to get started? Here are some tips:

Pick a time you’ll be free to take photos. This might be when you are brushing your teeth or maybe when you’re winding down after work. The key is to you choose a time you’re not busy (e.g. driving, in class, or in a meeting).

Set a daily alarm: Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your iPhone makes an excellent alarm clock. Set an alarm – or a few – so that you’ll remember to take the photo. When the alarm goes off, just fire up the Keepsy and add your photo to the 365 Project that appears when you install the app. I have two alarms set – one for 10:20am and the other for 7:15pm. That way If I miss the morning shot, there’s always time for a make-up later.

Share with friends: It’s fun to see what other friends are doing and where they are at the exact same time. So invite some friends to add their photos by sharing the project with them. Be sure to tell them to set their alarms, too! 

Walk the Plank: Push the limits of your creativity by adding a theme. Maybe your daily photo always includes the same object in different location. Maybe it’s a self-portrait in a new pose or facial expression each day. Tebow-ing and Planking come to mind… but we’re sure you can improve on that.

Best of all, at the end of the year, you can print your best shots in a photo book, and voila, you have your journal.

So go set your alarms and get snapping!


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