In Focus: 5 Tips from Andrew Kearns for Shooting Better Phone Photos

Words by Andrew Kearns
Photos by Andrew Kearns

From tracking your location and ordering food with touch of a finger, to shooting RAW photos and 4K video, smartphones are more powerful than ever. With this photographic and filming potential, smartphones are quickly becoming a part of many photographer’s daily kits. As a photographer who has made a name for himself shooting with full frame DSLR’s as well as his iPhone, Hawaii-via-Pacific Northwest photographer, Andrew Kearns, was the perfect person to hit up for some phone photography tips. Andrew does a great job of using every tool in his tool belt to shoot some amazing photos, capture breathtaking video and vlog quite a bit of his process along the way. Beyond the standard “rule of thirds” and “keeping a level horizon” tips, Andrew dives into aspects many photographers and photo enthusiasts could easily skip right over. Go ahead and pair up Andrew’s tips with a high-quality lens and case from our friends at Moment to get started on the next level of phone photography. 


1. Shoot Raw

The iPhone 7 and up can shoot in DNG (Raw) but for some reason they don’t make it a feature in the Camera app. I use VSCO & Lightroom to shoot Raw, you’ll be amazed at the difference when editing. The files are bigger, so if you shoot a ton of rapid fire shots it’ll use up your storage real quick.

2. Use Multiple Apps to Edit, or Don’t

My editing process always changes, but most of the time it usually goes: shoot the raw in Lightroom, basic edits in Lightroom, more edits in Polarr, final touches in VSCO. But lately it’s been simple: just shoot Raw in VSCO and edit it in there. It’s up to you!


3. Get VSCO X

Nah, we don’t get commission for saying this, but I truly love VSCO X. In short, its presets/filters within the VSCO app emulates film. It has options within the selection to tweak it a bit more too, and they’re pretty dang accurate to what the film looked like. VSCO X is a quick and simple way to get nice tones.


4. Portrait Mode is Dope

I started using portrait mode when the beta came out and it’s come such a long way. For the most part it does a really good and emulates depth of field pretty well. Mess around with it and don’t stick to just people, try objects too. Have your subject’s face well lit, keep the background less cluttered and they should come out pretty clean.


5. Clean and Touch Up

There’s some apps out there great for spot healing, and there’s someone out there that can probably give you better advice on this subject than I, but I like to keep things simple. Snapseed is a great app for touch up’s and a good one to maybe add to your editing workflow. Its spot heal tool is as easy as touching the screen and little things disappearing. I recommend it.



Bonus Tip – Better Filming

It’s actually possible to get (much) better quality footage from your iPhone than the standard camera app puts out. Check out the app Filmic Pro. If you change the resolution quality to Filmic quality or Filmic extreme, your footage quality will be much better. Plus there’s a bunch more features on that app you can burn hours finding and messing around with.


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