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Lauren Bacho

Fully Focused: Bad lighting doesn't have to ruin iPhone photos

Photo editor and columnist Lauren Bacho reveals a new trick for snapping pictures all iPhone users need.

As good as technology is these days, cell phones still haven’t mastered the art of taking photos in low light. Today, most phones are capable of recognizing when there isn’t enough light and using the front flash, but it doesn’t produce very impressive results. I’m constantly disappointed when I’m out at night or in a dark restaurant and my iPhone photos don’t turn out well.

Whenever I’m somewhere cool I never seem to have my nice DSLR camera and I’m whipping out my iPhone to attempt to take a photo of my dinner or drink or my friends and myself. That front flash on my iPhone just ruins the photos. They get so blown out and they’re never in focus because my phone can’t autofocus when it’s dark. I like to keep my Instagram pretty artsy, and sometimes one iPhone flash just doesn’t cut it. However, using two iPhone flashes is the secret.

Recently, I’ve discovered a great use for all my friends who also have iPhones. When I need to take a picture of my fancy drink at dinner I will have one of my friends turn on their iPhone flashlight while I take the picture on my iPhone. This brings in some nice sidelight to your photo without ruining it with your own front flash. You don’t have to worry about getting a reflection of the flash in the glass and it brings in a lot more detail.

Lighting the scene from about a 45-degree angle instead of straight on adds nice shadows and another element to your photos. The front flash often blows out the scene and makes everything seem very dull and flat. Side lighting is a pretty common practice with photographers, but it’s a skill everyone with iPhones, and friends, should also know about.

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Side lighting is something I like to do when I take portraits on my nice DSLR camera with an off camera flash, but I don’t always carry all that equipment with me. I treat my iPhone like a small second camera, which is something everyone should do. I’ve been able to create beautifully lit high quality photos using two iPhones with this easy trick.

Even if you aren’t the type to go make artsy photos or take a nice portrait, you can use this trick to take better photos of you and your friends when you’re out. All those poorly lit bars and house parties could be improved by having one friend hold their iPhone to the side to light your picture instead of the person taking the photo using the front flash.

Sidelight is much more flattering on people than front flash. It shows the contours of your face and doesn’t make you look like a ghost. Everyone is obsessed with being tan and that iPhone front flash really takes away from all the hard work tanning during the summer. We have all been out before and seen the hundreds of girls taking pictures wherever they are. Well, next time you need someone to take that group photo of you and your friends, ask someone to hold up the iPhone flashlight and impress your friends on Instagram with how good you all look.

Lauren Bacho is a sophomore studying photojournalism and a photo editor for The Post. Did this photo trick work for you? Tweet her @Visual_Bacho or email her at

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