9 Malaysian photographers, 27 amazing tips to take better photos with the iPhone


By Rachel Au

9 Malaysian photographers, 27 amazing tips to take better photos with the iPhone

If Chef Gusteau said, “Anyone can cook,” then we say, “Anyone can take a photograph.” You just need to pick up a camera and snap. After all, art is subjective. Of course, it always helps to have a particular set of skills. Luckily, nine Malaysian photographers are more than happy to share their set of tricks to snapping that Instagram-worthy shot with one very simple camera: The iPhone’s. We tagged along with them on a photo walk in the bright and colourful George Town in Penang for a better view of how they see the world through the lens.


Zarnizar — @zarnizar

A veteran photographer in the industry, Zarnizar has been using Instagram as one of his means of showcasing his work for the past seven years. He started by taking photos every day before it eventually grew into a full-time job as a freelancer where he specialises on travel and lifestyle photography.

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Photography tips:

1. Familiarise yourself with the concept of composition. Think: Rules of third and subject placement. You can adjust the focus by pressing on the screen for a few seconds.

2. Try experimenting with different angles or perspectives. For examples: Capturing a photo from the top or including the reflections from water puddles or mirrors. You can also try to explore shooting in different light conditions such as utilising shadow play and sun rays to add interest.

3. iPhones are definitely a more versatile ‘camera’ that can be used at any time. They are particularly convenient when you need to be “stealthy”; especially when shooting portraits for street photography or travelling in high-risk places where it wouldn’t be advisable to use a DSLR.


Jason Goh — @smashpop

Best known on Instagram as @smashpop, Jason picked up photography on his own more than ten years ago and has since been building on those skills and improving his techniques. He currently runs a boutique social media agency and manages content for his own self-titled YouTube channel, and another co-owned channel called TricycleTV. On the side, he does graphic design work, reviews tech gadgets and runs photography workshops.

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Photography tips:

1. Alignment is key. Be sure to always switch on ‘Grid’ from the camera settings to enable the ‘tic tac toe’ lines on the camera interface. It’ll help guide you on horizontal and vertical perspectives. When you are able to align the subjects following the lines, your photos will instantly look more appealing. Framing is always important. This relates to the Rule Of Thirds as well. Try placing subjects on the four cross junctions in the Grid then you will be good to go.

2. Go really low or really high. Try to capture a scene from an angle that not many people can see. Eye level photos are the most common, hence will render your photos ‘ordinary’. If you are able to capture your shots from an angle that people rarely see, it will give your work a ‘wow’ factor.

3. Try to create a story out of your photos. Get someone to do something in your shot—for example, a hand holding a cup of coffee—so it doesn’t look like just another ‘scenery’ shot. Adding even the smallest touch of a human element will give life to the photo. You can also try Portrait mode to capture expressions better. Photos usually look nicer when there’s an intentional placement of people but if a space is too crowded, it might have the opposite effect.


Anwar Yusli — @nuar_yusli

Mohamad Anwar bin Mohd Yusli, also known as Nuar, is a recent university graduate and has a Bachelor of Business Administration(Honors) Finance. You might recall seeing his gorgeous travel photo diary on Northern India with the iPhone X. In fact, he’s no stranger to the iPhone, having been a user since 2014 with a deep penchant for experimenting with mobile photography. He feels Instagram is the perfect platform for him to share his experiences worldwide.

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Photography tips:

1. Rule of Third: Try to use the rule of thirds technique to create interest. You can use the grid on the camera to help ensure you get the right proportions for your subject and the background.

2. Include a Focal Point: A photo should include a main subject or point of interest. This focal point gives your photo meaning and offers your audience a place for their eye to focus at when they are looking at the photo.

3. Use Leading Lines: Including lines in your composition is a great way to naturally draw attention to your image’s main focus. Ideally, the lines should lead towards the main subject, and they usually work better if they run diagonally rather than horizontally or vertically.


Amsyar Naaif Shahmaruddin — @amsyarnaaif

Currently in his final year studying Information Security, Amsyar strongly believes that one does not need great equipment to share one’s perspective of the world. He currently uses an iPhone XR and capturing street shots, cityscape, landscape, nature, and portraits are his forte.

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Photography tips:

1. Have an idea: Explore, experience and expand the idea. Before you snap, make sure you have a plan of what, when, where and who you want to shoot. This will help with creating a story in your photos.

2. Composition: Next, consider the composition. Look at the framing of the photos. Try using the rule of thirds with the help of the grid on your phone’s camera and take note of the placement of the subject in the picture itself.

3. Editing: It’s not that tricky to learn. You can use mobile editing apps such as Lightroom Mobile, Snapseed, Vscocam, SKRWT and Retouch, to name a few. You can then learn how to use all of these apps by joining mobile photography classes or watching YouTube videos. Alternatively, you can play around with them and experiment. Practice makes perfect.


Trisha Toh — @trishates

As a food stylist and photographer who often works in a controlled environment where the lighting and shooting amenities can be adjusted to create the imagery she envisions, street photography is new territory for Trisha. While her subjects are often still with little to no motion, street photography taught her to be steadfast in chasing after light as the day passes, observing the ever-changing environment and its story-building possibilities at every corner, and most importantly, having a great deal of patience for the right moment to tap the shutter button.

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Photography tips:

1. Frame within a frame. Instead of keeping to the rectangular or square frame, using unexpected frames such as doors, windows, plants or paper-cut decorations can add visual interest to an otherwise straightforward photo.

2. Keep it simple. Picture a scene where your subject can stand alone without too many distracting elements.

3. Take lots of photos. During my walk, I photographed almost anything and everything. Not only is it great practice, but knowing what I like in a photo makes future outdoor shoots easier as I know what I should look out for.


Azmeer Iskandar — @aazmeeriskndr

Born and bred in Terengganu where he is now working as a police officer (six years and counting!), Azmeer uses his spare time to take photos with his iPhone (and continuously enhance his talent), travel and, like most Malaysians, hunt for some of the best food around.

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Photography tips:

1. Point of interest: I always focus on a subject so that the outcome of the photo is not too boring. For example, when you want to take a landscape picture of the beach, include some trees or ask a friend to walk into the frame.

2. Composition and lighting: This is the most essential must-do when you shoot. Always turn on the Grid in the camera settings so you can easily see if the composition is or isn’t out of the frame. As for lighting, if you want to shoot in low light, search for a place where the light source is very strong such as a busy city street or an outdoor theme park at night. This will make the photo stand out.

3. Editing: There are so many apps that you can use to edit your photos but be careful. Using a lot of apps on one photo can reduce the quality of the photo. Try to minimise the use of these apps and only edit the essentials. I always use Lightroom Mobile to edit my photos or sometimes, Instagram’s set of tools alone to either edit or for the final touch-up.


Shaz Sharif — @moksva

Formerly a graphic designer by profession and currently a full-time stay-at-home mother, Shaz extended her creative side to mobile photography as a hobby back in 2014 with the iPhone 5. She has since perfected her street and architecture photography where her favourite elements in a photo include her children, bright colours and minimalism.

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Photography tips:

1. Play with composition to make the photos more interesting/impactful. Don’t be afraid to keep your photos simple in order to make the subject pop out.

2. Pay attention to details that can add more value to the photos, e.g. shadows, colours, leading lines, etc.

3. Don’t feel pressured to follow a certain photography genre just because it is popular. Stick to what inspires and interests you.


Ahady Rezan — @huxsterized

Hux, as he likes to be known, is many things. He is a Creative Director, a real estate agent, an iPhone photographer, a father of two, and most evidently from his Instagram, a minimalistic wall aficionado. He took up photography back in 2014 and used Instagram as a platform to promote his work. A quick glance, which could easily turn into an endless scroll, at his Instagram feed and you’ll find a world where reality and fantasy meet. Think striking, minimalist compositions, bursting with beautiful colours and essentially, ordinary things looking extraordinary.

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Photography tips:

1. Learn about composition and how to frame your shots nicely. Experiment using the grid on the camera and see what works best for you.

2. Be observant. You’ll need to be watching carefully to captures those special moments.

3. Be different! Try several angles and master the art of seeing through your surroundings to find what will translate into a beautiful picture.


Khairul Amin — @k__amin

A keen photographer and a 25-year-old student who’s currently studying chemical engineering, Khairul Amin has six years of experience in mobile photography—and he won’t be stopping anytime soon.

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Photography tips:

1. Think of some great ideas to shoot and what kind of end-product you would like to achieve. Then, challenge yourself to do it. Always, always take different kinds of photos and of different subjects. 

2. Find the perfect lighting. Whether its daylight, sunset or nighttime, try to find the light that works best for the shot you want to capture. Make use of the Smart HDR feature to get the best photos.

3. Go out and explore. Step out of your comfort zone and look for unusual shots or subjects. You might surprise yourself.


With all these tips and tricks we learnt, here’s what we managed to achieve with the iPhone XR:


Our top three observations from joining these talented photographers:

1. Reflections are a great way to add depth to any photo. It can be from water puddles (place your phone close to the ground and at a 45-degree upwards angle) to another smartphone’s reflective display (always bring a friend if you don’t have a second phone).

2. Look for a physical frame (a hole of a fence or through thick foliage) to place your lens through. That way, you’ll create a nice vignette effect and add a third “layer” to your foreground and background.

3. Always tap to focus on the brighter part of the photo when in a mixed lighting environment. You can always adjust the darker areas but an overexposed section of the photo will lose the details. Case in point: Slide #2 above. Tapping on the skies retained the cloud shapes in the photo, which otherwise would have been blank.


For more things related to the iPhone, head over here.

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