How to incorporate cool lighting into your iPhone photography

If you're someone who likes to shoot photos with your iPhone, then you probably know how tough it can be to spice things up without running your images through 400 editing apps or feeling defeated and making a Boomerang instead of trying something new (coughMEcough).

Incorporating different types of unique, fun lighting techniques and tools and turn your boring old Instagram selfie into something worth double-tapping, and it's really not even as hard as you think it is!

Here's how to incorporate super cool lighting into your iPhone photography.

Play with lights you normally wouldn't

It seems like a kind of obvious answer to the solution, but it's difficult to see a regular beside-table lamp as anything other than a regular bedside-table lamp, or the solar-powered lanterns that line your garden in the backyard as anything other than the solar-powered lanterns that line your garden in the backyard, or the nightlight in the hallway as anything other than the nightlight in the hallway.

By shooting with lighting that you normally wouldn't (ie, your regular window selfie lighting, a ring-light, an external flash), you not only force yourself to take different photos than that which are scattered across social media and Flickr accounts, but you also force yourself to change up your perspective and shoot your subject or yourself from different angles, at different distances, and with, ultimately, different, more unique results.

The next time you have access to a string of christmas lights, or a line of delicate, copper lighting that you ordered off Amazon to hang in your apartment for decoration, or even the glow of your MacBook in the middle of the night, try setting up your photo and snapping something: you never know what kind of strange magic you capture with your iPhone unless you try.

Project, project, project!

If you're someone who's ever been in elementary school, you've probably watched your teacher roll out a projector, slap on a couple of translucent sheets with scribbled-on math problems, and project a blinding image onto the whiteboard ahead of you. If you're someone who lives in the modern world, then you've probably heard about projectors that you can buy for your home — but did you know you can use them for things besides watching your favorite Marvel movies on the big screen in your basement?

Using a projector to play around with lighting and make your iPhoneography look more interesting is a really simple, fun, and super creative way snap better photos, stand out on your social media feeds, create stunning artwork for your house, and more!

By projecting images and sequences like starry nights, sprawling forest landscapes, vivid kaleidoscope patterns, moving images from your favorite films (for a more artsy approach), and even different outfits like ball gowns and tuxedos onto your subject's bodies, you create different optical illusions with the lighting from the projector.

All you need is a little bit of a projector, your iPhone, and a little bit of imagination.

A photo posted by on

Mess around with your flash (and flashlight!)

If you walk across my camera, I will flash the world your story (Woody Guthrie)

Using the flash on your iPhone isn't always ideal for photography situations: the flash can sometimes make portait shots a bit too contrast and harsh, it can often enhance features in photos that are unflattering, and it's difficult to edit down the amount of light when it's so apparent in a darker photo.

Despite all the negatives that come along with using flash, it's also worth mentioning that messing around with your flash and playing with its features could very well take a 'meh' looking iPhone photo and turn into something that's poppin'.

Subsequently, using features like your flashlight tool while someone else is shooting can make for some pretty interesting and often very well-lit iPhone photographs. You could put your flashlight on strobe mode for an interesting-looking GIF or Boomerang, shoot flash of a subject in the dead of night and add some funky edits to make things look a bit surreal, or you and your friends could use your iPhone's flashlights to help illuminate your BFF taking a beautiful bite of pizza.

Shoot at different times of the day

A kind of golden hour one remembers for a lifetime... Everything was touched with magic (Margaret Bourke-White)

If you're someone who takes a ton of selfies with their iPhone, then you probably know what time is best to get that ideal lighting that'll make your eyes and makeup pop (no? Just me? Moving on…)

It can be really easy to fall into the same lighting routines day-in and day-out, and whether you're someone who strictly shoots selfies, someone who wants to shoot portraiture, or someone who loves to snap nature shots, you probably have an idea of what the best time of day is to get the 'perfect' lighting for your shot.

Rather than aiming to shoot at the golden hour every single time you pick up your iPhone and swipe left to open the Camera app, try shooting at different times throughout the day! Step out on your lunch hour and explore your city's downtown area for some cool urban shots. After you take a pee at 4am, pull back the curtain and snap a shot of the sun creeping up over the houses.

Step outside of your comfort zone and shoot as often as you can at as many different times as you can!

#ChangeYourPerspective: Try shooting through something

Whether it's a ringlight, an old translucent crystal toy from a Happy Meal 13 years ago, a sheet of glass with water on it, or the peep-hole in your apartment, shooting your iPhoneography through something else will not only manipulate and change the lighting in cool, funky ways, but it'll also make your photography a bit more interesting to look at!

You can start experimenting by shooting through different colored glass or even the glasses you have in your kitchen, glass doorknobs around the house, or glass vases and bottles.

Try positioning what you're shooting through at different angles to pick up varied streaks of lighting from either natural light sources or artificial ones. Not only will you be able to capture stunning mobile photography if you're patient enough, but you can also film short, artsy, fun little video clips, too!

A photo posted by on

How do you light up your iPhoneography?

Is there a particular tool or light that you simply cannot get enough of while you're shooting your mobile photography, or is there an editing app or technique that helps the true beauty of your photo's shine on through?

Let us know the different ways that you incorporate lighting into your photography in the comments below!

Cella Lao Rousseau

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau