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A self portrait iPhone tutorial.
by Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman
Owner, JellyBean Pictures.It all started just a month ago when I pledged to not bring my pro camera on our family vacation. I refused. I needed the break. I did NOT want to edit when I got home. I did NOT want my family screaming at me. A vacation should be a break from the norm, right?On our beach trip to Montauk, I started to really teach myself about the ins and out of the iPhone and it’s capabilities. I started experimenting with what worked and what didn’t. This year, I find myself in front of the lens more than ever before thanks to the Project Life 365 daily themes,
so I figured why not embrace the iPhone once and a while! {Besides, I cannot always have my big honkin’ D3s with me at all times.}Challenging myself in photography is what it’s all about and what keeps us all fresh. Adding tools to the tool belt is never a bad thing.Disclaimer: There are a ton of amazing iphonographers out there where every picture they post is truly a work of art. I  use my iPhone to capture personal quick moments without the ‘pressure’ of having to use the pro camera. Translation: By no means is my feed always rocking.
However, I do know so many struggle with self portraits and based on the questions I’ve received, so I wanted to share what I do know about getting a better selfie. All of the below images were shot with the iPhone 4s.As of late, all my iphonography questions have to do with the self portraits I snap mainly on my sunrise walks with my dog Skip.  It’s awesome to do them in solitude to avoid people looking at you like you are insane AND you cannot beat the morning sunrise light.The first thing I urge you to do when trying to get a ‘good’ iPhone picture, is treat your iPhone like a real camera.  So a lot of what you do with your dslr needs to carry over mentally when you are framing an iPhone picture.Where do you begin?To do an iPhone self portrait justice (and I am NOT talking about sticking your arm way out there while trying to a. keep it out of frame and b. try to look natural while your neck is strained to a point of passing out), I first had to find a camera ap with a self timer/reversible camera.I adore Pro Camera for 2 mega reasons:1. Expert mode (go to the three lines bottom right and you will find it there.) That mode helps you get two circles you can drag- one for focus and one for the ever so important exposure. Drag the exposure bubble to darkest portion of screen to brighten the image, drag the exposure bubble to lightest part of image to darken. It’s like a poor man’s metering system.
TIP: for me I always drag it to the middle exposure of the image so I get a pretty accurate overall exposure.2. The self timer.  I love it because it gives you up to 20 full seconds to get your act in gear {you can set how long you want the self timer to be by going into the settings menu.}  It also starts beeping 4 seconds before it shoots and gives you a friendly little high pitched, drawn out noise right at point of the shot being taken. So for me, who loves to show the whole scene, it gives me enough time to run into it and get where I need to be!So now that you have your ap, now time to perfect your technique.Grab a focus point {then run like heck.}As I mentioned earlier, treat the iPhone like your regular dslr. In order for you to get an in focus shot with your big camera you must give it something to focus on, right?  Obviously it cannot be you if you are setting up a shot and running into it. That said, pick something for the camera to focus on, then run to that exact spot.It can be a person, or an inanimate object like a chair etc.  I’ve been known to scare the bejesus out of my dog by flinging chairs to the side in the house.{For this beach selfie, I had my husband stand in and then as I approached him, he jumped out of frame} {In this shot, I focused on Skippy my dog, first. He stayed, I ran back, focused, hit the timer then ran back and thankfully he hadn’t moved}Use what you got!Much like in my pro shooting, I cringe at the thought of bringing ‘stuff’ that has to be lugged to shoots. I’m a documentary photographer, so I don’t use props but ‘stuff’ also relates to reflectors, tripods, timers etc.  I’m a total minimalist when I shoot. Camera + lens =I do not use a mini tripod, or any device to prop up my iPhone. Rather, I experiment with my angles by propping my phone up on whatever I’m given in that situation/location and what is available to give maximum impact.  I’ve been known to use chunks of wood, tress, mini sand dunes, fences to get it propped up.{I use the ground a lot. If you place your phone horizontal it stands on it’s own as in this image.}{I made a little sand mountain here and propped the iPhone against it. I also pulled over a piece of driftwood to stabilize it.}
Get some distance.

I love storytelling in my everyday work, and with the iPhone it’s no different. Utilize every second of those 20 seconds to get into the place you want to be in and present the whole scene in your selfies.  Selfies don’t always have to be so ‘in your face.’

Getting daring with the light.
I love love LOVE sunrise shooting but alas, my little girl is never up then so it’s generally me just wanting to capture those rays anyway I can. Everyone loves a good ‘bouncing light off your body’ shot- we can see that because so many Instagram profile pics have those delicious rays. It’s a bit of a crap shoot to try and do those when you only have a 3 foot high dog to grab focus on,and so it may take a few attempts but it can be done.
For this shot I set the phone up on e bench and put some distance in between me and it.  I could still see the screen and where I needed to position myself to have the sun bounce off my head thus producing the ray. I put a rock in that spot,  hit the timer then went to back the rock. It took 2 attempts to get the look I wanted.  I did not ‘add’ rays or flare as you can see from the below ‘before’picture, but I did edit it with pictapgo to get more of a silhouette/color enhanced look.
Other quick iPhone tips to make your images in general stand out:

Follow the light and include the sun.

As a 100% natural light shooter, I live for experimenting with the light. All qualities of the light that I work with on my D3s, I now work with on my iPhone. My fave captures are where the sun is included. These have to be shot late in the day or early in the morning.

{A sunrise walk on the beach with my daughter collecting shells. Sun was low enough in the sky to capture the ball of fire.}
For natural sun rays, where the rays are super pronounced, my number on tip is find trees that have the sun filtering through the branches.  Since we cannot really control aperture which also controls how defined rays are, I rely heavily on big trees.{Shot during golden hour, the big trees really helped get those defined rays.}
My favorite aps.
PicTapGo- I’ve been a fan of radlab for a while for my regular shooting, so I was thrilled when those folks launched pictapgo.
VSCOcam- *sigh* I would use this for everything if they just would add a self timer! I adore this camera and the filters and the editing options. It’s like a playground for me. But alas, I cannot do a selfie with it.
Afterlight- in addition to the filters, I love the editing functions on this ap like sharpen and adding grain.
Lighttrac- this one has nothing to do with editing, but if you shoot all the time in natural light it is pure awesome. It tacks light for you and lets you know optimal conditions and how rays fall based on time and location.
The beauty of shooting an iPhone picture in general be it selfie or otherwise, is that editing is lightening fast and the overall process is far more simple.
As with all shooting, practicing will get you to that next level.
Have fun and experiment. Happy shooting.

Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman, owner of JellyBean Pictures, is a documentary children’s photographer based in NY. She lives to capture the ‘real’ of children, because real is awesome. Her work has appeared in Professional Photographer Magazine, New York Family Magazine, Lemonade and Lenses and more. Her editorial work has appeared on strollertraffic.com and scootertraffic.com. She published a manual in 2012 titled {don’t} say cheese, which was written to address the importance of real smiles and is chock full of other tips + tricks for just starting out photographers.  You can see more of her work at www.jellybeanpics.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jellybeanpictures and on Instagram
at jellybean_pictures.

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