Studio vs Phone - Modern Portraiture - Capturing Candid Photos

Studio vs. smartphones: Modern day portraiture

Often we’ll experience a moment and afterwards think:

“Oh, I wish I’d taken a photo of that!”

Whilst some moments are best enjoyed without being photographed, it can be so nice every now and then to feel prepared when there is a true kodak moment. However, for young parents we know that keeping any child, pet or partner still for long enough to take a good photo, can almost be mission impossible! Some people seem to just have that ‘knack’ for always taking great photos, even if it is on a smartphone- so, what’s their secret?

We want to help guide you in exploring some of the ways in which you can take gorgeous, candid photos using your smartphone. Utilising knowledge from our highly skilled team of photographers, we put together a how-to guide for taking beautiful at-home photographs, sharing our top hints and tricks for that effortless, candid imagery we know you want filling your camera roll!

So, where is the best place to begin…?

Start with a clear lens.

One of the best ways to ensure you are going to take clear, beautiful phone images is to check if your lens is clean! As many of us keep our phones in our handbags, pockets or similar, the lens on the back of the phone can easily become cloudy or smudged. Give your lens a once over with a soft cloth, making sure it’s smudge-free before you begin.

Using the cloth and spray from your glasses (if you’re a glasses wearer!) Is a handy hack to get it sparkling!

Getting that perfect light.

The well-known phrase “lights, camera, action.” starts with ‘lights’ for good reason!
Lighting is super important when using any type of camera, so you will need to ensure you have some great lighting for creating clear, focused photographs.

Great light is really a key element to getting a great image, as your camera processes light quite differently to the way your eyes do. This means what you see, vs. What your camera sees is not the same at all.

So, what sort of light should you be taking photos in?

Firstly, try and avoid direct sunlight. Sharp lighting can be quite unflattering in photographs, as it emphasises shadows and imperfections, and also creates harsh lines on faces. Go for softer, natural lighting such as afternoon light, or ‘golden hour’ lighting as it is often referred to in the photography world.

This is that hour of the day where the sun is setting and the light becomes a more golden, warm hue. This creates really flattering, soft colouring for capturing photos, a beautiful time of day to take out the camera and capture some portraits!

Also try a room with nice daylight flooding in, and then ensure your kids are facing towards the window, as this will act as your lighting source. If you have sheer curtains you can create a soft lighting effect by keeping them down, if you are shooting in the middle of the day.

Portrait mode.

There’s a fabulous feature on more recent smartphones called ‘portrait mode’. For those that may not be aware, portrait mode is where the phone applies something called the ‘bokeh’ effect, in order to keep the subject of the image in focus, whilst giving more of a fade to the background.

This mode can be used on almost all smart phones, and adjusted to suit a variation of lighting , such as ‘natural light’, ‘studio light’, etc. Simply select the lighting within settings that is suitable for your scenario, and you’re ready to go!

Taking candid photos.

Long gone are the day of stiff, stuffy formal shots. People nowadays are learning towards natural, effortless imagery that captures candid moments, full of genuine emotion.

Some of the best candid photos can be created in the most unassuming of moments.

It may be whilst your children are helping to cook dinner, and you get a great shot of them stirring the pasta pot- it might be that they are assisting in the garden and you get an image whilst they are planting some flower seeds…There’s no need to keep everyone still or ‘pose’ them as such, simply capture what you are seeing. Keep in mind, it may take some practise to capture these types of moments. A great image tells a story, and often keeping it simple can make for a powerful photograph.

Using your phone timer.

It’s difficult when taking photos on your phone, to get everyone in the photo.
We’ve all had that moment, whilst attempting to take a group shot on a phone, where we look around for the friend with the longest arms to get the best chances of including everyone in the frame! A much easier way to capture everybody, is to set your phone timer and have the phone take the photo for you. You will need a stand, a ledge or something to hold the phone for this particular trick- or, you can buy phone tripods from most leading retailers, they will hold onto your phone for you, and will make taking timed photos a breeze!

Complementing the family images you’ve captured.

When following the advice above, you will find you begin to start building up quite a collection of family images that capture your family memories. It takes perseverance and patience, especially when photographing children, pets and multiple people!

If you don’t have the time for creating these types of photos at home, or simply if getting creative isn’t your thing- then you could book a verve shoot and let us take care of all the fiddly details for you. These fun shoots are a great way for parents/carers to be featured too, as they will often be the one at home taking the photos!

These sessions also become a beautiful opportunity to not only capture moments already taking place, but to also have the family all come together, and spend a few precious hours of quality time with one another.

Phones have come a long way and there are many incredible things we can do with our smartphones in 2020, however there is also a lot they can’t do. No matter how advanced they may become, a phone will never be able to replace the experience, emotion and talent of a true photographer.

We love this quote from Dorothea Lange, an American documentary photographer and photojournalist:


“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”

No matter how quickly they grow-up, or how fast those moments go, those precious memories you capture will be with you, long after the moments themselves have passed.

We hope you have found these at-home photography tips helpful, and we hope you can create some gorgeous family images you are truly proud of, best of luck!

-Team Verve x

  • smiling child - kids photography