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Ask Chicago Experts: How To Take Better Pictures With Your Phone

(Photo Credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Taking a photo with a phone can be dicey. You might have a finger over part of the lens or you might not see everyone in a group shot. While lugging expensive camera equipment to your best friend's wedding may not be an option, you can take some great photos using only your phone. In honor of National Photography Month, two photographers based in the Chicago area offer their tips on how you can up your picture-taking game with your phone.

Sarah Severson
Sarah Severson Photography
Evanston, IL
(847) 707-7132

When it comes to photography, Sarah Severson tends to take family photos near Lake Michigan or in parks or forests. Severson's work includes portraits of newborns, children and families, and some weddings. "I do my best not to get posed pictures, and look for ways to create more genuine, candid moments," Severson said.

Nate Mathai
Nate Mathai Photography
Arlington Heights, IL
(224) 659-3566

Nate Mathai is based in the Chicago area and focuses primarily on weddings and family photos. "I focus on doing the storytelling, so it's more photojournalism. I capture emotions," Mathai said. He works in both the greater Chicagoland area and travels nationwide.

Take A Great Selfie With A Little Bit Of Practice

How can you take the perfect selfie with your phone? Severson has a few tips to keep in mind. "What I see a lot of times is people shooting from a super high angle, thinking it's the most flattering. I recommend doing more above the eye line," Severson said. Don't take a selfie from too low, either, as Severson cautioned that if you can see the underside of your nose, you're shooting too low. She also recommended taking a selfie at an angle rather than straight-on. Consider turning your face a little bit. "Try experimenting and find out what looks best for you. Take 10 minutes and take selfies at different angles and see what flatters you the most," Severson said.

Remove Distractions From The Background

Whether you're taking a selfie or a picture of your newest hobby, you should do some quick decluttering before reaching for your phone to take a photo. "Remove distracting things in the background. If you can't do that, adjust your angle a little to hide some of the distractions," Severson said. "Be aware of your surroundings. If you're trying to capture your child playing in the dirt, think of what background elements tell the story," she said.

Try Not To Use The Flash On Your Phone

If you're taking a photo in a dark room, reconsider your options. "If it's too dark to take a picture, then you need to move to a better spot with lighting," Severson said. "If that's your only choice, then that's OK. The flash washes people out, it's not a flattering photo.

Include Everyone In Your Group Photo

Picture this scenario. You're ready to go out for the night with your friends and you want to take a picture of the entire group with your phone. How can you make it work? To ensure everyone gets in the picture, Mathai recommends taking a horizontal group photo. "Get people close together and get everyone's faces close together," he said. "Don't waste space in the picture. If you take the picture vertically, you get more details you don't really care about." Mathai also stressed the importance of having enough light. "You need good light and enough light," he said. "If it's late night, get to a well-lit room where the room itself is pretty bright. Get as much help from outside light sources."

Get To Eye-Level With Children And Pets

Instead of towering over your child or four-legged friend while taking a photo, Mathai recommends getting to eye-level for a different perspective and then taking a picture. Remember to be patient while waiting to take that picture. After all, pets and small children can move around a lot. Mathai suggests holding down the button on your phone's camera and take a few pictures at once. "You might get a few where the animal is in focus," he said.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at
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