Watch CBS News

Ask A Bay Area Expert: How To Take Better Pictures With Your Phone

Suzie B Photography (credit: Suzie Biehler)

Suzie Biehler is a San Francisco-based fine arts photographer whose work highlights natural environments and everyday life, causing viewers to see beyond the obvious and to reflect. Her work can be found in hospital environments, public spaces, individual and corporate collections, as well as online. Biehler adds new shots to her online photo galleries every day, because she feels that an underlying aspect of the art form is sharing.

Suzie Biehler
Suzie Biehler
San Francisco, CA 94118

As we're so regularly armed with a smart phone these days, that easy accessibility levels the playing field, opening photography to many more people. Having the phone as an appendage of ourselves, we have another way of creating art. "We're such a visual society. We can capture beauty, bring a smile, share humor all the time, which is great," Biehler says about phone cameras.

Trust Your Instinct

Listen to both your instinct and your intellect. Use your intellect to guide you in composing and framing the shot. Trust your instinct to bring the most distinctive moment forward. "You're creating art," Biehler counsels. "So, the bottom line is, don't rush!" Biehler recalls some early advice she received was to not be intimidated by others. Her mentor suggested that if the learning curve looks overwhelming, just learn one new thing every week and by the end of year one, those 52 skills add up to quite a lot of knowledge.

SuzieB Photography

Lighting Is Paramount

What time of day is it? Is it cloudy or sunny and how are the shadows falling? Biehler says, "It's all about the light. Your attention to this will make the difference between a very rewarding picture and a forgettable, dull one." Become conscious of available light, which can change during the duration of your session if you're going for more than one shot. Shoot subjects in shadow facing north, and as good as your smart phone camera is, don't rely on the flash.

Stay Level

When shooting pets and children, get down on their level to make certain you avoid distorting the perspective and shooting the tops of their heads. By bending your own knees to shoot at a child's level, you can focus on their expression. Lie down on your stomach or your back if necessary, it will pay off in the facial expressions you can capture this way.

The Rule of Thirds

Remember the rule of thirds. This concept originates back to 1797 by John Thomas Smith, an English painter and engraver who noted the balance of light and dark in a painting. He expands on this theory, coming up with the rule of thirds. "Basically, imagine your screen divided into thirds vertically as well as horizontally," suggests Biehler. Place your subjects where the lines intersect, which becomes easier all the time. "With practice, this will become a natural way to shoot, and even give you a point of departure for bending the rules," according to Biehler.

Download Apps

Biehler is a fan of Instagram as well as the image stabilization and Camera Plus functionality on her large screen iPhone Plus. Regardless of the phone's make or model, she suggests experimentation with free editing app tools. Biehler encourages having a look at free app tools, playing around and experimenting with them, such as VSCO Cam®, Snapseed and others. "Edits will transform your photo into a signature shot," she says. "And that's really rewarding. Besides, if it makes us happy, it's going to make other people happy when we share it. In that way, all art heals us."

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she's writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.