Embrace the grid

Snap Me Happy is a series featuring tips on how to take great photographs with an iPhone.

So tell me – did anybody do their Snap Me Happy homework from my last post? (Grace, I’m looking at you!)

In this second part of my Snap Me Happy series, I want to talk about – The Grid. (Sounds a bit like a Hollywood action movie.)

If the grid on your iPhone is turned off, turn it back on now. Seriously, the grid can revolutionise your photos. Don’t just use it – embrace it! That’s right, give your phone a mini hug right now. Now try doing that and taking a photo of yourself at the same time. Just kidding.

If you surveyed a small group of people, chances are they all use the grid in different ways and for different purposes.

Here is my number one reason for embracing the grid: to create lines in my photographs that are either parallel to the bottom of the photo or the side of the photo (or both).

What on earth are you going on about Ronnie?

Hear me out.

Take a look inside a home interiors magazine. Have you ever noticed that the ceiling or the floor usually runs horizontally across the page (rather than being sloped)? Or that vertical floor lamps and pillars usually stand up straight (rather than at an angle)?

There’s a reason for this: It looks good.

There’s another reason for this: It looks GOOD.

So good in fact that I suspect our brain takes those horizontal and vertical lines for granted when we look at professional photos like the ones in magazines, but strangely enough, I don’t think it’s how we instinctively take photographs ourselves.

This is where the grid helps. When taking photos…

Try to align the things that should be vertical in your photo to the vertical lines of the grid (e.g. the side of a door frame, the legs of a table, the side of the couch, the candleholders on the table). In the photo below, the sides of the chalkboard decal are vertical, ie. they are parallel to the sides of the photo.

Similarly, try to align the things that should be horizontal in your photo to the horizontal lines of the grid (e.g. the horizon, the edge of the table, the skirting board). In the photo below, the line where the splash back meets the bench top is horizontal, ie. it is parallel to the top and bottom of the photo.

An even trickier thing to do is to try and get perpendicular lines in your photo that are in turn parallel to the side and bottom of the photo respectively. In the photo below, the sides of the frame are (more or less) parallel to the sides of the photo and perpendicular to each other.

The key to all this is to hold your camera/phone straight – on both planes. By that I mean: it shouldn’t be rotated to the left or to the right, and it shouldn’t be pointing slightly up or slightly down.

Which means:

  • If you’re taking a portrait photo, the bottom edge of your iPhone should be parallel to the floor, whilst the front (and back) of the iPhone should be parallel to the wall.
  • If you’re taking a landscape photo, the side edge of your iPhone should be parallel to the floor, whilst the front (and back) should be parallel to the wall.

(Chances are your hand won’t be steady enough to get those lines right the first time, so I suggest taking multiple shots to get the right one.)

Naturally there are exceptions to the rule. Here are a few that I can think of:

1) When your photo has no lines running in it whatsoever, you can disregard the grid altogether (e.g. close-up portrait shots, macro still life shots.)

2) When you specifically don’t want to have perpendicular lines in your photo, because you’re hoping to achieve a more artistic shot.

3) When you’re photographing a particular object at an angle, which makes it impossible to capture both vertical and horizontal lines.

Ultimately, it’s up to you the photographer to decide when it’s appropriate to capture those vertical and horizontal lines in your photo.

And remember – the more you do it, the easier it gets.

(And there’s always the straightening tool.)

How do you use the grid when you take photos on your iPhone?

* * *

If you should feel so inclined, here’s some homework for you (yay!):

1) Take three interior shots incorporating vertical and/or horizontal lines.
2) Take three outdoor shots incorporating vertical and/or horizontal lines.
3) Take at least one photo anywhere that shows both vertical and horizontal lines.

If you have Instagram, upload your shots with the hashtag #snapmehappy and also leave your username below so we can all follow each other and see how we’re progressing (mine is @pinkronnie).

* * *

For more tips on how to take great photographs with an iPhone, you can read all the Snap Me Happy posts here.

27 comments

Grace July 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Ha! You got me, Ronnie! LOL!
And yes, yes! I did my homework! On a couple of occasions I took 3 shots of each scene, tapping on that little square in different places to capture the light differently. That was the homework, right ? :) It’s becoming habit now that I tap that square a few times before I decide when to snap. I didn’t use the hash tag on IG, though…sorry!
The homework for this post looks tough! But I will persevere! Oh, and I’ll make sure to hashtag this time too :)
Love your work xxx

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Oh Grace, you’re the best! I’m so stoked that you actually did the homework – my star student! :) It’s cool that you do use the square now to change exposure.
Ronnie xo

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Chantel August 1, 2012 at 1:05 am

Ooh, what a fun series! I’ve got my little grid all ready for some shots! I’m chantelklassen on IG (real creative, I know).

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Just added you! Hope the grid treats you well!
Ronnie xo

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rooth August 1, 2012 at 2:09 am

I am really really really loving this series. I did my homework too and tapped those squares – I’m going to try and remember to tag them on IG. My IG is roothers. Can’t wait to try this new tip

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Thanks Rooth, that’s real encouraging. Half the time I don’t know whether or not to keep going with this series (after just one post, ha!) but it’s fun putting it together and even nicer to know that at least a few people find it helpful. :)
Ronnie xo

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qin August 1, 2012 at 4:08 am

babe can i have your email?

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

You can email me at hello@pinkronnie.com.
Ronnie xo

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jennifer young August 1, 2012 at 7:28 am

great tips. :) i’m not sure if i subconsciously use the grid but i need to pay more attention to it–thanks to you!!

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Thx Jen, your lovely comments mean a lot!
Ronnie xo

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Pati Mo August 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Oh my gosh, such good advice! I never noticed that about the lighting in interior photos. I’m gonna start practicing it for sure!

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm

That’s so encouraging Pati – I hope it helps!
Ronnie xo

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Geraldine Tan August 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Appreciate the sharing. Lovely blog :)

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Geraldine – appreciate you visiting.
Ronnie xo

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Irma August 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Thank you sooo much for your lovely comment on my blog…and the even more lovely compliment. You made my day! ;-)
Lots of sunshine – Irma

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

It was a pleasure, Irma! Thanks for stopping by.
Ronnie xo

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Paris Rendez-vous August 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Looovvvve your blog Pink Ronnie…I’m your new follower. I’ll try your tips too. So lovely to have someone from Sydney, Australia comment on my blog too.

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Pink Ronnie August 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Wow, thanks for such a sweet comment. So lovely to have you here!
Ronnie xo

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Katherine Ross August 6, 2012 at 11:55 pm

This is great! As a designer, I think I naturally have a sort of photographic grid in my mind. I’m always trying to align things properly in my compositions, but I never think to actually turn the grid on in my phone! I bet that would make things so much easier haha! Now I just need to buckle down and find time to do this homework!

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Pink Ronnie August 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Yes, the grid is pretty awesome. The only other thing then is to develop a non-shaky hand… :)
Ronnie xo

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Mari K. February 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I have an android phone but tried these out on my phone anyway and they work! The tip about choosing light or dark spots of the photo was a tremednous help! Most of my photos for Project Life are taken on my phone so getting better phone photos is awesome!

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Pink Ronnie February 5, 2013 at 8:45 pm

No worries at all Mari – glad this has been helpful!
Ronnie xo

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Pink Ronnie February 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm

p.s. Really cool to know that the tips work for the Android phone too.

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I love hearing from you!

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