How to stay creative at home – photography

Reading time: 4 minutes
This week Sam Sills, Photographer at Whitedog Photography, shares her top tips for kicking your photography skills up a notch.

Well if you’re anything like me, you will have started this lockdown with great intentions of learning new things, finishing old projects and using the time in a productive way. However, after a couple of months in quarantine, my ukulele is still getting dusty and the bathroom tiles remain in a box under the sink untouched. So much for new skills!

But there is one piece of equipment that – rightly or wrongly – we are never far away from that could be used to brush on one new skill relatively easily. Our smartphones. Not only have they become our main source of keeping in touch with friends and family but our phones are also most people’s cameras these days and by following a few simple guidelines this is one area we can improve on pretty quickly.

Pre-smartphones, to make images you needed a full size DLSR and, more importantly, the knowledge how to use it. Whilst phone cameras still have certain limitations over a DSLR, the portability and simplicity of use redress the balance. When I shoot commercially, I always have my full kit with me to carry around so having the ability to create punchy and sharp images from something that fits in my back pocket has injected a lot of the freedom and fun back into photography. In fact when I go on holiday, it’s is more often than not my iPhone that records it these days.

So how do we shoot Insta-worthy images or elevate bland snaps from those that clog your photo library waiting to be deleted, to photos that you display digitally or even print out?

1. Clean your lens

Sounds simple right? But it’s a good start. That phone has been in your pocket, hand bag, nearly dropped down the toilet… just give the lens a quick wipe with a soft cloth. (Confession: I use my t-shirt.)

2. Rule of thirds

This applies to most imagery and is the concept that an image be split into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Where the lines cross is where to place things of interest/focus point. This has long been accepted as what is pleasing to the eye. There is even a grid function on most phone settings now so you can find that sweet spot even easier. Also give your point of focus to one ‘star’ of the shot and give it space within the frame.

3. Use leading lines

Think about making the eye move around the image. By making use of any natural pathways or lines of perspective you can lead the eye to what you want your focus point to be. Don’t be afraid of getting low down or changing your level of viewpoint to exaggerate this. Which brings us on to point four.

4. Change your perspective

Try out different angles and viewpoints. This can be looking from ground level or get high up and look directly down. Basically any view that isn’t the one you get from looking straight forward from head height. Look for repetition of patterns or colour. Get creative and play.

5. Move, don’t zoom

Zoom functions on the majority of smart phones are not that great. They tend to diminish the quality of the image and pixelate or make it look out of focus. Much better is to get close to the subject. Get moving and go abstract if needs be. You will be amazed at the quality of the close up detail most phones will record.

6. Use available light

As with Zoom function, Flash mode is still relatively poor. Use available light sources whether that be the sun or street lights or whatever naturally occurs in your environment. Think about what effect the position of that light source will have. If you want detail in a portrait, keep the light behind you or to the side. Unless you want a silhouette, which can be used to great effect for a more creative look, then you want the light to fall on your subject.

Now here is the rub, once you know all of this and have gained a bit of confidence, go out and break the rules. Make mistakes, take bad shots to realise how to make great ones. You have nothing to lose and the most important thing is to have fun being creative and documenting memories.

Will you be giving any of Sam’s tips a try – let us know how you get on! Send us your snaps to