HOW TO TAKE AMAZING CAMERA PHONE PHOTOS


I’m thrilled to welcome Kelly Sweda here today from Kelly Sweda Photography. Kelly hails from the beautiful beach-infused town of Santa Barbara and her style is fresh, natural and un-posed, filled with storytelling moments. As parents, we’re often found snapping shots of the kids with our camera phone. It’s simple, accessible and effortless. Today, Kelly shares her tips on taking amazing phone camera photos, her favorite app and editing process. I think you’ll agree, that the below images are so breathtaking, that it’s hard to believe they were taken from a phone. Thanks for sharing your tips with us Kelly!

(All images: Kelly Sweda Photography)

My photography journey began in 2000 when I was a graduate student in photojournalism. I shot film with a Canon Rebel, learned to develop B&W in the school darkroom and worked with a color lab in town. But the whole time I never felt confident in my abilities or passionate about anything I did, so when school ended I put my camera down all together.

Fast forward 11 years to 2013 when my sister introduced me to mobile photography, Instagram and an app called VSCO Cam®. I became hooked immediately. I hadn’t owned a camera in years, so I shot everything with my iPhone 4s, which I love and still consider my camera of choice

Not only did mobile photography reinstate my lost passion, it pushed me to really pay attention and see life unfolding in a way I think can only come from having a camera with me all the time. As a mother whose favorite subjects are her children, it’s also allowed me to document the minutia and “in between moments” of their lives, which has crossed over into how I shoot for clients.


My favorite client work, therefore, is gritty, candid and un-posed, and I’m drawn to images that feel like quick snapshots. I think my overall shooting style is indicative of my foundation in iPhoneography, and I love that. I have a whole gallery of mobile work on my website, here.

I love my iPhone for its size, instant sharing capabilities and overall ease. I’m the type of person who works best with the fewest number of choices, so for me there’s a lot to be said for composing, tapping once to focus and once for the shutter.

I use the built-in iPhone camera and still edit exclusively in VSCO Cam. My favorite and most commonly used filters are B5, M3, A6, SE3, HB1 and HB2. My objective when editing is that the finished photograph is as indicative of the raw file as possible. Therefore, when choosing which filter to use, I select the one that best matches the natural tones of the image. As a rule of thumb, I like a nice white balance and—unless it’s a certain type of B&W—nothing too contrast-y, and never over-saturated. No blown highlights and definition in all my shadowy spots.

My editing formula is the same every time. If the image needs to be straightened or cropped (I rarely crop but straighten every crooked horizon) I do that first. Then, after selecting my filter, I adjust exposure, contrast, saturation and sometimes highlights and shadows.


I love working with VSCO because it’s easy. I can save my images to my camera roll as well as upload to Instagram and Facebook right from there. I also enjoy uploading my favorite pictures to my VSCO grid. VSCO’s curated grid is full of exceptional mobile photography and serves as an endless source of inspiration for me.


Kelly Sweda is an on-location, natural light children and family photographer living in Santa Barbara, Calif. and serving Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. She also offers travel sessions frequently. Her images are natural, carefree and unposed. Kelly’s work has been featured by numerous blogs, magazines, fashion brands, social networks and other creative projects. Aside from photography and her children, she enjoys the beach, hiking, traveling, reading and healthy eating. Follow her on her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Google+.

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