Category Archives: photography tips and ideas

photo focus on background

How to Add Depth of Focus to Your Photos

Adding depth of focus to your photos: 16MP smartphone cameras have leveled the playing field. Combine your digital camera with today’s tips on how to add depth of focus to your photos and you’ll be creating professional quality images in no time.

So what exactly is depth of focus? It’s how much of the photo you choose to have in focus.

Most of the time you’ll want the whole photo in focus, but not always.

Sometimes you’ll want the background blurred or softened in order to bring more attention to your subject. This gives you the ability the focus the viewer’s attention where you’d like it to be.

How Depth of Focus Works

Focus depth is changed by adjusting the aperture settings on your digital camera.

The aperture is a hole inside the camera lens that works like the iris in your eye. Adjusting the aperture lets in more or less light.

The larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of focus. This means a smaller portion of the image will be in focus. Conversely, the smaller the aperture the deeper the depth of focus, meaning a large part of the image will be in focus.

Changing Aperture on Your Camera:

adjust aperature camera

Aperture is measured in f-stops. The numbers are a bit tricky because a low aperture setting means a larger aperture and vice versa.

Think of it this way – low aperture number equals low focus depth.

To adjust aperture, your camera must have aperture priority or a manual mode. All SLR and DSLR cameras have priority and manual modes. So do micro four thirds cameras and some advanced point and shoot cameras.

Point and shoot cameras typically have a smaller aperture sensor which means you can’t achieve extremely shallow focus, even with manual control.

DSLR and most point and shoot cameras have a portrait mode, which lowers the aperture setting. This allows you to change the depth of focus to some degree.

Many DSLR cameras also have an ‘A’ setting for Aperture Priority Mode. This allows you to control the aperture while the camera handles all other settings.

Other ways to change the aperture on your DSLR camera are to use a zoom-less, or buy a new lens entirely.

Now you know the basics of changing your camera’s aperture. But how do you know how much depth of focus should be in your photos?

depth of focus camera

How to Choose the Right Aperture:

Let’s start with a portrait.

If you’re not using portrait mode, you’ll want a shallow depth of field so the focus in on your subject’s face.

The great thing about a shallow depth is it’s useful any time you’d like to separate on object from its background.

At other times, you’ll want a deep focus. This works especially well for landscape photos and product shots. Anytime you need to see the foreground and background equally well, a larger f number is best.

That’s it for the basics of depth of focus. Now it’s time to learn how you can create these same types of effects with your smartphone.

Depth of Focus in Smartphone Photos

Smartphones don’t allow you manual control over aperture while taking a photo. However, there are ways to edit photos you’ve already taken to simulate the effects of both shallow and deep focus depths.

This is done through the use of different iOS or Android applications.

Remember, the best way to decide the app for you is to try several and keep the one that provides the best combination of ease of us and results.

Let’s take a moment and review a few of the more popular apps.

Big Lens (iOS or Android)

($0.99) This app was designed with focus depth editing in mind. It’s powerful yet easy to use.

Big Lens uses a masking brush where you can apply blur effects to parts of your photo. Apply the blur then use other settings to control how much blur you’d like.

The one difference with Big Lens is you use the “brush” to cover what you’d like to have in focus. The rest of the photo gets the blur effect.

Filterstorm Neue (iOS)

Filterstorm Neue is a full-featured editing app with an excellent depth of field tool.

The blur capability offers a great range of effect than Big Lens. It’s also more difficult to learn and requires slightly more finesse.

Unlike Big Lens, you’ll use the brush to paint the area you’d like blurred.

If you have an iPhone 7 Plus and have taken the iOS 10.1 update, you now have the new Portrait Mode photo format which does a great job creating desirable depth effects.

Portrait Mode (iPhone 7 Plus w/ iOS 10.1 update):

depth of focus

(portrait mode on left) Photo credit:

First of all, the reason you can only get Portrait Mode on iPhone 7 Plus is because of the twin-lens rear camera. This is a new feature for the iPhone 7 Plus.

The twin-lens camera allows you to put the subject in focus and blur the background.

Access Portrait Mode from the rotating swipe menu at the bottom of the Camera app’s interface. One cool thing is the app will offer tips on lighting, position and composition.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of Portrait Mode.

  1. Make sure the subject is close. No further away than 8 feet is ideal.
  2. Make sure the background is quite a bit further away. The larger the gap, the greater the depth of focus effect will appear.
  3. Lighting is big. Early morning sunlight does rather well. Indoor artificial light, not so much. Professional Jeremy Cowart suggests putting the sun behind your subject as a back light.
  4. Look out for small items in your shot. A recent test showed they may confuse the depth effect.
  5. Find a space that isn’t too busy or distracting.

*More: iPhone Portrait mode –

Portrait Mode – Other Cool Stuff:

depth focus potrait mode

Two versions of each photo taken are saved. One has the effect applied, the other doesn’t. The photo with the effect is labeled in the top left corner.

To save the Portrait Mode image and discard the other, open Settings (when in Portrait Mode) and scroll down to the sixth screen of options. Tap Photos and Camera. Scroll down more and find the Portrait Mode section.

Tap the green slider, where you see Keep Normal Photo, until it becomes white.

Are you addicted to taking photos, especially from your smartphone? Share your photographing experience with us in the comments section below. Also, check out our latest coupons for photo printing sites like Shutterfly and Walgreens Photo!

snapfish kids gift idea

Snapfish: Gift Ideas Using Your Kid’s Art!

snapfish logo blue squareUse your child’s artwork in prints and photo gifts: Looking to make a really memorable, thoughtful gift for a parent or grandparent? You’re not limited to just using family photos!

Why not use your kids’ artwork to make beautiful wall art or photo gifts? It’s also a fun idea for family Thank-You cards. Here’s how: (video)

More Gift Ideas Using Your Kid’s Art

Remember, you aren’t limited to just wall art or canvas prints. You can take photos or scan your child’s drawings or paintings to make other gifts like:

  • iPhone Cases
  • Mugs
  • Thank you cards
  • Magnets
  • Mousepads
  • Pillows
  • Photo Puzzles

They also have a number of coupons including free shipping and up to 60% off today!

snapfish kids art gifts

Not Just Snapfish!

Of course, you can use any top photo-printing site to make fun gifts from kids’ artwork. In fact, Shutterfly has dozens of gift ideas that your child’s paintings and drawings would look great on.

Shutterfly also has a number of promo codes for up to 60% off!new

Need a gift today? Walgreens Photo (click for coupons) has a number of options that can be printed and picked up in-store later today!

More ideas:

how to turn on iphone camera grid

iPhone: Why You Should Use the Camera Grid (Turn It On Now!)

Why you should turn on your iPhone’s camera grid, and how: Want to take professional-looking photos with your iPhone? Wondering how to take your snaps to the next level?

There’s one cool iPhone camera feature that you’ve probably been missing, and it’s called the, “camera grid.”

It’s surprisingly simple and requires no extra downloads. Scroll down to learn more about the iPhone camera’s hidden secret and how to use it.

iPhone Photography

Gone are the days when we all carried digital cameras around with us. Smartphones are now starting to dominate the photography world.

In 2016, 48% of all photos uploaded to Flikr were taken on a smartphone. Of those photos, 47% were taken on an Apple device. And for good reason.

iPhones are known for having fantastic cameras. As well as an ever-increasing number of megapixels with each model, there are numerous features that make them a rival of DSLRs.

One of those is the camera grid.

What Is the iPhone Camera Grid?

iphone camera grid enable

The camera grid is a feature which divides the frame of your photos using four lines which run horizontally and vertically along the screen.

When activated, it shows 9 squares overlayed across the screen. It looks like an empty tic tac toe grid, but there’s much more to it than that.

Placing objects in your photos at the points where those lines intersect can make them much more visually striking.

How to Turn on the Camera Grid: (settings)

iphone settings camera grid

In order to start playing with the camera grid, you need to know how to use it. Here’s how to activate it.

Enabling the camera grid:

  • Open Settings
  • Select Photos & Camera
  • Select Grid and turn it on
  • Open the Camera app and you’ll see the grid.

*If you’re using a version of iOS earlier than iOS7:

  • Open Camera app
  • Select Options
  • Find Grid and turn it ON.

Benefits of the iPhone Camera Grid

The iPhone camera grid can add a lot to your photos. Here are the top reasons why you should be using it.

It’s Based on a Technique Used by Professionals

The entire premise of the camera grid is the rule of thirds.

It’s a technique commonly known amongst professional photographers, which has been used in art since the 18th Century.

To most photographers and artists, the rule of thirds is second nature. To untrained iPhone photography enthusiasts, it’s not so obvious. That’s where the camera grid comes in handy.

With the camera grid, anyone can take photos like a pro.

The rule of thirds is the concept of dividing your shot with a 3 x 3 square grid and matching the subjects up to the lines on that grid.

As a result, you end up with much more captivating photos. Add in a great iPhone filter, and you are set. It’s really that easy.

camera grid settings on iphone

It Makes Your Photos Level

The camera grid enables you to make your photos level by matching objects up with the straight lines on your screen.

You can avoid wonky, uneven photos and line things up perfectly. This means there’s no need to rotate or angle the photos when editing.

The camera grid Improves Your Landscape Photos

The camera grid is especially useful for landscape shots, as it shows you where to frame the horizon in order to get the most interesting picture.

Putting the horizon right in the center of the photo is just plain boring. Anyone can do that.

You can match up objects of interest in the foreground to the lines, making sure they complement your shot and draw the eye into the scene.

The area of the photo that is most interesting to you should take up two-thirds the frame. The grid makes it incredibly easy to place it that way.

It’s Easier to Frame Your Subjects

When we take out our phones to snap a photo, we usually put the subject right in the center and think nothing of it.

The subject is the entire focus of the photo, so, therefore, should be in the middle, right?

According to professional photographers, that’s not the case. Not only is that method bland and unimaginative, it’s not even the best way to display a subject.

Using the camera grid to match the subject up with lines on different sides of the screen actually draws more attention to them in more subtle, artistic ways. That way, you get the most out of your pictures.

When shooting portrait photos, align the subject’s eyes with the grid; they’re usually the most important part of the shot.

It Improves Photo Composition

iphone camera grid how to use

Activating the grid highlights different areas of your photos to show the exact composition of the frame.

It forces you to focus on the entire frame rather than just the subject alone.

By placing points of interest along the lines of the grid, you create a much more balanced photo and avoid using a lot of negative space.

This results in a picture which is much richer in composition.

It Will Get Your More Likes

300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day.

With so many photos on social media, you want to make sure yours are getting their share of attention.

The camera grid is a sure-fire way to do that. If you start using it, you’ll already be a step ahead of many others.

Get Creative with It

Use the camera grid to your advantage, but don’t get too sucked into it. It’s there to help you, not to dictate you.

The rule of thirds is a general guide and doesn’t need to be strictly followed. Subjects don’t need to match up with the grid precisely; placing them relatively near them could still do the trick.

If you feel it doesn’t complement your picture, throw caution to the wind and do it your own way.

What to Do with Your New Photos

With this newfound technique, you’re sure to be snapping some beautiful photos. Why not get them printed so you can admire your work?

  • Snapfish: Click here for discount coupons for Snapfish, a printing service which can turn your photos into prints, calendars, wedding invitations, notebooks and more. We also have their latest shipping times.
  • Walgreens Photo: A hugely popular way to print your 4×6 and 4×4 digital photos. Coupons here
  • Shutterfly – Probably the best place to print photos online – coupons here ,

Now, get out there and give it a try!

best iphone photo apps

The Best iPhone Filters (2017) to Make Your Photos Go, “POP!”

Best photography apps / filters for iPhones: Do you want to turn a good photo on your iPhone into a great photo? You’ll need to discover the best iPhone filters, then.

Whether you want to have a little fun, cover up a flaw or create an unusual effect, there’s a filter to match your needs. For this reason, we are taking a look at the best free or low-cost filters on the App store to put a unique twist on your iPhone snaps.

VSCO Cam Is One of the Best iPhone Filters:

vscocam iphone app

“VSCO has quickly emerged as the premier mobile photography app.” – The Verge

If you’re looking for a range of iPhone filters to choose from, you need to take a look at VSCO Cam.

It offers the largest collection of unique filters and effects, which you can crop and edit as much as you like. There are various readily-available free filters, but you can also buy extra filters, too.

VSCO Cam also often update the app with new effects and filters. Don’t expect to become bored with the same-old filters, because you won’t have time to be.


litely iphone app

Litely is similar to VSCO Cam in that you can choose from free and for sale filters.

The extra filter packs are updated on a regular basis, so it’s great if you want to avoid filter boredom. It also offers a handy library that contains all your photo edits, so you can go back to recover an image.

One of the biggest benefits is Litely’s editing tools, as you can improve exposure or vibrancy with ease.

You can also see how the edit compares to the original with the split screen feature.

It’s one of the best iPhone filters if you want to make subtle changes rather than fully-enhancing your photos.


afterlight iphone photo app

Another filter app that allows you make subtle changes is Afterlight.

You can choose from more than 50 filters and 60 textures to create tasteful snaps. It also offers basic editing tools to transform an image.

What makes Afterlight stand out is its ability to layer photos over each other. So, if texture is important to you when selecting filters, look no further than Afterlight.


snapseed best photo iphone app

If you are looking for iPhone filters that offer endless possibilities, download Snapseed by Google.

It provides so many different effects and filters that you could spend all day altering images.

What’s great about Snapseed is that you can use multiple filters on one photo. Once you have achieved your desired image, you have the option to either export it to your camera roll or share it with your friends.


mextures best iphone photo app

Another app allowing you to combine filters is Mextures.

You can tone layered images by adding editing or film presents, such as:

  • Fade
  • Exposure
  • Tint
  • White balance

Also, as you can layer on top of layer, you will be able to restore the image to its original state by deleting a layer or two.

It’s the perfect app for those looking for dramatic iPhone filters with many layers.


Instagram is more than just a photo filter app.

It has become one of the most popular social media platforms due to its flexible photo capabilities.

More than 500 million people use Instagram to share photos with their followers. The free app allows you to use free filters to alter brightness, saturation and contrast.

Once you’re happy with your photo, you can share it with your followers, who can like or comment on the image.

You can even tag locations onto your photos – or search for other images or members on the app.

Click here to learn how to print your Instagram photos.

Rookie Cam:

best photo iphone apps rookie

Rookie Cam offers a live filter camera to maximize picture quality.

As well as its 116 custom filters, it also features:

  • Geo-tagging
  • Anti-shake
  • Self-timer
  • Shutter interval control
  • Grid and leveler
  • Mirror Mode
  • plus more

You can also create stunning collages to capture many moments in a single photo. It allows you to add 9 photographs into one frame.

Choose from 10 unique filter themes to have a little fun and show off your creativity. For instance, you can use an elegant mode or a film camera to create superb shots.

Not only that, but you can crop, rotate, brighten, straighten and contrast your pictures.

Whether you want to have a little fun or create professional shots, you’ll have a great time playing with the Rookie Cam app.

Adobe Photoshop Express:

photoshop express iphone filter
If you want to remove any flaws from your photos, you should download Adobe Photoshop Express.

The free app can remove facial blemishes, dirt or dust from your photo in an instant.

You can also adjust the image’s exposure, contrast or white balance at the click of a button.

It makes editing photos a doddle, and it offers 20 unique effects to make your images a little more fun.

For instance, you can choose from various borders and frames that will make an image pop.

It’s a great way to edit photos for social media, email or texts.


eyeem iphone filter

EyeEm is more than a filter app. It’s more like a community.

Not only can you transform your photos with many features, but you can find inspiration.

The app allows you to learn how other EyeEm photographers edit their photographers. You can then apply the new-found knowledge into your own snapshots.

So, you’ll be able to alter a photo by effectively using exposure, format, contrast, sharpen and more.

How to Print Your Photos

Smartphones have made it easier than ever to take professional looking photos. While third-party apps have made it simple to transform images in an instant.

Yet, you don’t only have to use the images online.

If you have a photo you love, print your favorite snaps using websites such as Shutterfly or Snapfish (get coupons) .

You can use the images for a photo canvas, wall calendar or you can frame your best images.

It’s a great way to showcase your beautiful photos using your filters, and they can also make great gifts, too.

If you are a photographer, consider having some cheap business cards on hand, as you never know when you might get a gig.

Vistaprint has a deal for 500 business cards for $10 + shipping, so cost is no issue. You know that sounds good!

Just taking photos for personal use? You can even save money by using a Shutterfly coupon codes, which will allow you to print off more photos for your cash.

Do you have any tips for using iPhone filters? Share your advice in the comment section below.

staged theme park photo hershey park

Funny Holiday Cards Idea: Staged Theme Park Photos

Idea for Funny Holiday Cards: Theme Park Photos – If you’ve been to any theme park, your familiar with how they take photos of your group on the rides; hoping you’ll buy it when the ride is over. Sure, you’ve probably posed for these photos before; maybe a thumbs-up to the camera just as you’re on the biggest drop on the roller coaster.

So, since your getting a family photo anyway, why not stage it, and make it your holiday card? People get dozens of predictably pleasant Christmas and Holiday cards a year with kids in button down shirts smiling. So, why not take the opportunity this year to do a funny staged photo at a theme park for your annual holiday cards?

Getting a Good Staged Theme Park Photo

funny holiday cards roller coaster

It doesn’t take much in the way of props to get a great group photo. You’re probably walking around Disney, 6-Flags, or Hershey Park with a bag or two anyway. So, why not throw in some props while you’re at it? Masks, glasses, or wigs are always a good option to consider.

Board Games on a Roller Coaster – How About Jenga or Chess?

funny theme park holiday card roller coaster jenga

Roller coasters are probably the worst place in the world to play a board game like Monopoly, Jenga, or Chess, so it ends up being a funny photo if you can get it.

How do you get a good picture on a roller coaster with one of these unsteady games? You’re going to have to use glue! You might even need super glue if you’re going to fold up a board game or hold Jenga together. Don’t risk ruining the whole thing if your Elmer’s glue doesn’t hold up to splash of the Flume ride, or the 60 mph roller coaster turns!

funny hanukkah card theme park

More Funny Staged Theme Park Photo Ideas

theme park holiday card 6 flags funny

Ok, so your staged photo didn’t turn out like you thought, or maybe something went terribly wrong. That’s alright, it’s all part of the fun. When my family and I tried to stage a funny photo for the first time, we went on a roller coaster three times in a row. If you didn’t get a perfect shot, consider working one or more of them into a multi-photo card, or put the series of them on the back of the card as out-takes!

Funny theme Park Photos; Not Just on Holiday / Christmas Cards – How About Save the Dates or Invitations?

I think these photos are a great idea for the Holidays, but would certainly work for other occasions as well. For example, how about a photo like this on your save the date cards?

marry me save date card funny


dog shaming pic

12 Ideas for Photographing Dogs: Include Your Dog in Photo Books

dog photo book ideaRemember to include your dog in family photo books: We don’t take a lot of video in our family, but whenever I look back on old videos, I can’t help but notice how often the dogs are present. Whether it’s one of the kids taking their first steps, the kids dancing, or a birthday party in the backyard, the dogs are always there.

So, this past holiday season when I was finishing up a photo book to give to the grandparents I was shocked when I realized that the dogs weren’t in it! That’s like leaving one of the kids out of a family portrait, and it’s ridiculous that our photo book almost got printed without the inclusion of our furry kids.

As I went back though our digital photos on, I realized that I had dozens of great pictures of our dogs, but I had just overlooked them. Do you need ideas for photographing your dog?

Check out these great Instagram (webstagram) photos for inspiration! (click to view larger)

Tips and ideas for photographing your dog:

Now that I’m aware that these shots might end up having prominent places in our house and in gifts, I want to share some ideas for photographing dogs:

  • Get candid photos of your dog – Pets do some funny things on their own, so when you observe them as a “fly on the wall,” you’ll get great candid pictures
  • Photograph them at their worstDo they look guilty after eating a shoe? Maybe they just scattered trash across the kitchen, or have to wear a lamp shade after a trip to the vet. Remember the saying, “one day you’ll look back and laugh?”
  • Take a photo of them in the bath – There is nothing like the look of a dog mid-way through a bath!
  • Take a picture of them asleep – Especially if they sleep with one of the kids
  • Keep a treat handy if you want them to look at you – If you aren’t taking candid photos, you’ll soon realize that dogs and cats don’t turn and give you a frozen smile like the kids will. (sometimes?) Have a treat handy, and you’ll have their full attention
  • Take lots of pictures of them as puppies and kittens – There are no do-overs after your pet grows up, and when they are young they change every day. A fun idea would be to get one picture a week for your pet’s first year to collage on a few pages of a photo book (look for a coupon)
  • Natural light is best – Flashes can’t compete with the rich natural light that the sun gives off. If you are photographing your dog or cat, try going outside or shooting near a window. Rooms with southern exposure are usually well-lit
  • Lighting from the side or above emphasizes detail – If you want to show off your dog or cat’s fur, wrinkles, and color, then don’t light them from the front. If you take a flash shot from straight on, your going to lose detail and texture
  • Check online for inspiration – Sites like webstagram have millions of photos organized by tags (like, #dog) that you can search, which is where most of the pics came from above. You can even search by breed
  • Before placing an order, don’t forget to use a coupon for Shutterfly photo books here.

dog photo book

Any family photo calendar or book without your dog is incomplete. Remember that they are part of the family, and make a wonderful addition to any photo gift. I even have my dog on my personalized iphone case!