Make Your Smartphone Pics Pop: 7 Pro Tips From a Fashion Photographer


Anna-Alexia Basile is living her creative life. From Banana Republic to J. Crew, the San Francisco photographer has amassed a stellar list of clients and a huge Instagram following since starting her job with Refinery29.

Basile taught a class on how to create “Pop Portraits” with your iPhone as part of the return of Apple’s Today workshop series at Apple in-store on creative topics such as branding or design. .

Basile gave The Standard some tips on how to produce smart photos anytime, anywhere. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have.

“It’s a very special gift to carry these tools with us all the time […] it doesn’t have the weight of a really heavy DSLR,” he said.

Here are some of his top tips.

Keep your eyes open at all times

San Francisco is one of the most photographed cities in the country. Basile encourages budding photographers to pay attention to their surroundings, and if you see something interesting, record it by dropping a pin on your map app.

“I always tell people to keep doing photography, keep looking at the world around them, be happy and have fun,” he said.

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The San Francisco photographer encourages amateur and professional photographers to keep an eye on backgrounds and settings. | By Anna-Alexia Basile

Sorting out these locations will help you find specific places to photograph. And don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path.

The Painted Ladies may be an Instragrammable favorite, but “sometimes it’s nice to find some quiet time around town,” Basile said. He especially loves the POPOS of San Francisco, or public parks in special places.

Play with Light and Color

Speaking of light, be careful. Be sure to capture the ephemeral movements of the light, or “play of light,” as it is known in photographer’s parlance.

“Light play is special because it’s short-lived. It can be 5 minutes or it can be 5 seconds,” Basile observed.

For color, try one of Basile’s favorite techniques of layering similar colors together for a “pretty monochromatic look” or try another technique called color blocking for something wrong “different.”

San Francisco photographer Anna-Alexia Basile likes to experiment with color in her professional fashion photos. | By Anna-Alexia Basile

Also, don’t be afraid to bring fabrics, fun patterns, embroidery, or crystals into your bow. Basile recommends placing a glass in front of your lens to create a kaleidoscopic “magic eye” effect.

SF resident Rachel Nevers tries to put glass in front of her smartphone’s camera lens at Apple’s Union Square store in San Francisco. | Christina Campodonico/The Standard

Clear your Focus

But before that, clean your lens! Everyday dirt, makeup and hand oils can make photos look weird and blurry, so Basile recommends always cleaning your lens and your hands before shooting.

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“Sometimes the simple things make the biggest difference,” he said.

Set Focus and Exposure

Focusing is a simple but effective way to up your photography game. On the iPhone, for example, it’s very easy to set the focus by simply holding your finger down on the area you want to focus on.

“You’re saying to your camera, ‘Hey, I want you to focus on this scene,'” Basile says.

An artist’s view of San Francisco’s City Hall with the landmark in focus | By Anna-Alexia Basile

Adjusting the exposure on your smartphone camera is another easy way to take sharp photos, especially if your environment is dark.

“You can just drag your finger across the screen, and you’ll get more exposure and a clearer image before you take a photo,” says Basile.

Expand Your Screen

Instead of following the camera’s rules by working with a tighter focus, Basile encourages photographers to use the widest possible lens on your camera and get closer to your subject—like perhaps they reach out to you—to create “a more layered and dynamic. image.”

“Rules are meant to be broken,” Basile said.

And while Basile says it’s best to get closer to your subject, don’t be afraid to try different zooms or lenses if you have them.

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“Multiple lenses on the phone is a real game changer,” he said.

Go Vertical

Imagine you can take a panoramic photo from left to right. Think again! Basile encourages budding photographers to switch out their smart cameras and try the vertical panoramic mode to capture the full extent of an object. For example, maybe you want to show the scale of a large tree, but it doesn’t fit in the frame. When that happens, don’t be afraid to turn the phone horizontally and scroll. Basile says this is a great way to pack a lot of information into a photo with a very small tool.

By Anna-Alexia Basile

Throw caution to the wind!

While most people think that San Francisco’s signature fog can make or break a photo, it’s the city’s actual fog that most photographers struggle with, say said Basile. Instead of giving a nice bounce to the dress or a nice twist to the hair, the wind sends a dress flying in the wrong direction.

“I think San Francisco’s photography problem is always the atmosphere,” he said.

During these times, be kind to your subjects and help them fix a stray hair or tie.



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