Cherry Blossom Festival: 5 Easy iPhone Photography Tips

Cherry Blossoms DC
Jess Moss
The Cherry Blossom Festival is on in Washington, DC, and after a long winter the white and pink flowers are blooming. The blossoms are expected to peak this weekend, and if you visit the Tidal Basin you'll see more cameras than at a Hollywood red carpet. But you don't need fancy equipment to capture memorable cherry blossom photos. Here are five tips for taking awesome cherry blossom pictures using only an iPhone.

1. Get There Early

Arrive before the sun rises (around 6:30 a.m.) and you'll have a good shot at a parking spot before the droves come in (there are cherry blossom parking lots at East Potomac Park). The early morning light is great for photos, and as the sun rises you'll see the blossoms lit at various angles (which can give you very different looking photos from the same place). You can lighten and darken parts of the image by tapping different areas on your iPhone screen. To keep the sky's sunrise colors from getting washed out, tap the sky on your iPhone screen. To lock in this exposure and re-frame the picture, simply hold down on the screen until you see a blinking yellow box, then move your camera to the shot you want.
Cherry Blossoms DC
Jess MossiPhone photo with Instagram "Hudson" filter and max contrast

2. Don't Be Afraid to Filter

Do you like Instagram? Of course you do! There's nothing wrong with using filters to make your pictures more interesting. Some filters can soften or boost the pink hue of the flowers, and the Instagram focus tool can help highlight a specific feature or create a 3D effect (you can use two fingers to pinch the focus tool smaller or larger, and one finger to drag it to a specific part of the frame). In the photos below, the left shot is the original iPhone photo, and the right is the photo Instagrammed using a "1977" filter and circular focus on the foreground flowers.
Cherry Blossoms DC
Jess MossLeft: iPhone photo, no editing. Right: iPhone photo with Instagram "1977" filter and circular focus

3. Pay Attention to Light

Sometimes the most interesting shots aren't the quintessential "pink blooms framing Jefferson Memorial" pictures. Instead of taking the same pictures as everyone else, walk around a little and watch how the light changes the way the cherry blossoms look. Your iPhone camera is great in bright light situations -- and you can always tap the screen in different places to change the focus or exposure.
cherry blossoms dc
Jess MossiPhone photo, not edited

4. Try a Panorama

These shots aren't as Insta-friendly, but rather than taking separate shots of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, remember that your phone camera has a panorama function. In your camera app, left swipe until you get to pano-mode, then hold up your phone on the far left of what you want your shot to be. Slowly pan the phone to the right, trying to keep the middle arrow guide as centered as possible. When you're happy with the length of your picture, just tap the shutter button again to stop the recording.
Jess MossiPhone photo with panorama mode

5. Experiment with HDR

Experiment with what? HDR is that little setting at the top center of your iPhone camera screen (the default is "HDR off" -- simply click that to change to On or Auto). It stands for "High Dynamic Range" and allows you to highlight both the light and dark areas of your photo (a little like the contrast button on Instagram). In photos where the foreground is silhouetted, turning on HDR can lighten details, like the flowers and Jefferson Memorial in the photo below. Note: HDR works by taking three photos very quickly, and splicing them together, so if you have moving subjects, like people, they can become distorted. It's best to use HDR on static subjects.
Cherry Blossoms DC
Jess MossiPhone photo with HDR

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