Five Photography Tips with Chris Cody

Chris Cody is an Austin, TX based photographer who has worked with brands such as VSCO, Mashable, Daniel Wellington, Timberland, and was feature on Apple's Shot on iPhone World Gallery. Most of his professional career has been built around capturing highly polished images with his iPhone. Because of this unique experience we wanted to better understand how he utilizes his smartphone to take professional grade images. Here’s the advice he gave:

I’ve spent a large part of my career as a photographer solely taking photos with my iPhone. Most of this comes from necessity, I wanted to further my career but I didn’t have the gear I thought I needed. I just started to document my life in the most unique way I possibly could and over time I’ve learned a few things on how to make your photos look great just by using the native camera app on your iPhone or other smartphone.

1. Natural lighting is your best friend: Good lighting is what makes or breaks a photo shot with a smartphone. If you’re shooting indoors look for natural light coming through a window. I even go as far as turning off any overhead lighting (if possible) because I prefer the softer light and most smartphones will handle it really well. If you’re shooting outdoors your phone will handle lighting situations differently. Cloudy/foggy weather is great for portraits; direct sunlight can deliver some really interesting light/shadow play.

     2. Manipulating exposure: On an iPhone when you tap your screen to focus you can press and hold to lock the focus on a certain point in the frame and then adjust exposure by moving the slider up or down. I use this feature all of the time and almost always under expose just a bit. It gives me a little more room to play around with the edit and the highlights save better. Most smartphones have a similar feature to adjust brightness/exposure.

    3. Night photography: Shooting at night is totally possible and something you should be doing! Using your iPhone at night is totally different than taking pictures during the day. In this case artificial light is your best friend. Some of my favorite places to take pictures at night are at gas stations (I know it’s weird, just trust me) or near any interesting neon signs. One problem you can run into using your iPhone camera at night is that sometimes the image can be grainy, but if you switch your camera to video mode and take pictures while you’re recording then the images come out clear. Don’t ask me how or why this works, I just know it does.

    4. Candid photography: Shooting on smartphones gives a kind of anonymity you don’t have holding a film camera or DSLR. Smartphones are such a big part of our everyday life so you can essentially take photos of anyone at any time and they won’t think anything of it. This works to my benefit because I love candid photos. Wandering the city offers up a lot of interesting scenes that I can capture easily because the camera in my hand basically goes unnoticed. Use that anonymity to your advantage and step out of you comfort zone to explore a scene more than you would normally, I guarantee you’ll like the results.

    5. Personal Perspective: This one isn’t necessarily a tip for smartphone cameras but more or less just a bit of advice in general. Inspiration comes from all over the place at all times. Do your best to take it in and then create something unique to you. It can be tempting to take a photo similar to someone else because you think it looks cool, but that sort of affirmation is fleeting. When you stumble upon something truly unique to you there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with that that can’t be duplicated. Do your best to pay attention to the little details in your life and you’ll be surprised at what presents itself

    BONUS: My favorite apps I use to edit are VSCO and my little secret weapon RNI Films. In my opinion if you have those you really don’t need anything else. VSCO gives you more control, but I love RNI's filters. When it comes to editing I like to keep it pretty subtle. My goal is to make the colors as true to reality as possible. When you use a filter try bringing down the intensity a few notches and go from there.

    Learn more about Chris Cody
    Follow on Instagram: @chriscodyyy