Anna-Alexia Basile is living her best creative life. From Banana Republic to J. Crew, the San Francisco-based fashion photographer has amassed an impressive roster of clients and a large Instagram following since starting her career at Refinery29.
Basile recently taught a class on how to create Pop Portraits with your iPhone as part of Apple’s Today at Apple store series of workshops on creative topics like coding or design.
Basil gave The Standard some tips on how to show off your smartphone photos at any time and in any setting. As they say, the best camera is often the one with you.
“It’s a really special gift to have these devices on us at all times […] without the weight of a super heavy DSLR,” he said.
Here are some of his top tips.
Always keep your eyes open
San Francisco is one of the most photogenic cities in the country. Basile encourages amateur photographers to pay attention to their surroundings, and if you see something interesting, mark it by dropping a pencil on your map app.
“I always tell people to just keep taking photos, keep noticing the world around them and just enjoy it and have fun,” he said.
Listing these spots can be helpful when you’re looking for a unique location to take a photo shoot. And don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path.
The Painted Ladies can be a great Instagrammable backdrop, but “sometimes it’s nice to find a quieter moment in the city,” Basile said. He actually likes San Francisco’s POPOS, or Public Gardens in Private Spaces.
Play with light and color
Speaking of light, pay attention to it. Engage in the fleeting movements of light, or “light play” as the photographer calls it.
“The play of light is so special because it is temporary. It could take 5 minutes or it could take 5 seconds,” notes Basile.
As for color, try one of Basile’s favorite techniques of layering similar colors on top of each other for a big and “cool monochromatic moment,” or try another technique called color blocking, which is more “contrastive.”
Don’t be afraid to bring fabrics, funky fashion, sculptures, or even crystals to your shoot, too. Basil recommends placing a crystal in front of your lens to create a kaleidoscopic “magic eye” moment.
Clean your lens
But before that, clean your lens. Everyday dirt, makeup and hand oils can easily give your photos a weird, blurry effect, so Basil recommends always cleaning the lens with your arm before shooting.
“Sometimes it’s the simple things that really make a big difference.” he said.
Set Focus and Exposure
Adjusting focus can be another simple but effective way to up your photography game. For example, on the iPhone, it’s very easy to focus by simply pressing your finger on the area you want to have sharper relief.
“You’re basically saying to your camera, “Hey, I want you to focus on this,” Basil said.
Adjusting the exposure on your smartphone camera is another easy way to take a sharp-looking photo, especially if your surroundings are a bit dark.
“You can actually just drag your finger up on the screen and it will increase the exposure, make the image brighter before you even take the photo,” Basile explained.
Expand your horizons
Instead of following the usual camera rules by working with tighter lenses, Basile encourages aspiring photographers to use the widest possible lens on your camera and get closer to your subject, perhaps even letting them reach you, to create a “more layered and dynamic. image”.
“Rules are meant to be broken,” Basile said.
And while Basile says it’s always best to get close to your subject, don’t be afraid to experiment with different zooms or lenses if they’re available to you.
“Having multiple lenses on a phone is a big game changer,” he said.
Think you can only take panoramic photos from left to right. Think again! Basile encourages amateur photographers to turn their smartphone cameras and try the panorama function vertically to capture the full frame of the subject. For example, maybe you want to show the scale of a large tree, but it doesn’t fit in the frame. When this happens, don’t be afraid to flip the phone horizontally and move upwards. Basil says it’s a great way to get a lot of information into a photo with one very small device.
Beware the wind.
While most people might think San Francisco’s signature fog can make or break a photo, it’s actually the city’s awesomeness that’s the bane of most photographers’ existence, Basile noted. Instead of giving a beautiful tone to the dress or a nice pull on the hair, the wind can blow the dress in an awkward direction.
“I feel like the problem with San Francisco photography is always the wind,” he said.
In these cases, be kind to your subjects and help them adjust the stray hair or ribbon accordingly.