Summertime means more road trips, more hikes, more backyard barbecues—basically, more reasons to Instagram. To ensure your posts aren’t overshadowed by your friends’ shots, we asked Roddy MacInnes, a photography professor at the University of Denver who also teaches courses on iPhone imagery at Snowmass’ Anderson Ranch Arts Center, for advice. Here, he outlines how to take dazzling, frame-worthy pictures with your camera phone.


You’re no Ansel Adams, so make composition (how objects are arranged in a photo) easier by enabling the grid function on your phone. This will cut the frame into thirds, horizontally and vertically. Then simply employ the rule of thirds to emphasize your chosen focal point (such as these hikers) by targeting it with one of the four intersections.


The iPhone is a great tool for detail. Just be sure to hold the camera a few inches away instead of zooming in, which makes the image grainy. Also, the free Snapseed app provides more control over color saturation and contrast than Instagram’s standard filters. That enables you to perform some post-production genetic upgrades to the ultimate close-up: the selfie.


Light is great—just not at high noon, when the overhead sun erases fine details. Wait until sunset or sunrise, when you can position the sun behind or beside you. You can also place the sun behind your subjects to avoid glares and wash-out. And never use the flash, unless you’re looking for that fresh-from-the-morgue vibe.

Action Shots

You can craft really cool photos by outsmarting your iPhone, which is programmed to create sharp lines. The Slow Shutter Cam app ($2) reduces shutter speed, enabling trippy swirls and light trails, or—as in this image of summertime revelers crossing the street near Union Station—blurred action.

—Photography by Sarah Boyum