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Javier Reyes is the owner of Sundial Creatives, a Lakeland-based photography company that specializes in capturing magical wedding moments. His interest in photography began in a classroom right before he graduated from Southeastern University. He was a business major, but one class sparked a passion for photography that spurred him to discover how to capture moments in ways that made them timeless. He was hooked. 

So he purchased a camera and started his journey as a photographer. Through trial and error, he learned the art and mastered his craft to get to where he is today. 

What he loved the most was that he got to explore and meet new people, which led him down a rabbit hole he didn’t want to leave. He wasn’t planning on making this his career, but he’s used his business background to develop his own brand and share his knowledge with upcoming photographers who share his passion.

Javier Reyes, owner of Sundial Creatives.

Reyes was more than willing to share with fellow Lakelanders some of his favorite tips for taking stunning photos with the cameras they carry around in their pocket everyday. Enjoy some easy ways to take smartphone photos people will think you took with professional equipment.

1. Practice is Everything

The first step is simply getting out there and practicing taking photos. Your skills won’t progress unless you’re putting the effort in. You will make mistakes in the beginning, but that’s fine. It’s a learning process that will make you explore and try to capture every moment that interests you. Get yourself out there, and take pictures of your friends. Offer to take photos for as many people as possible, and even venture out to offer to take photos for small businesses. The results won’t always be optimal, but the practice is essential for improving your craft.

2. Find Someone Who Inspires You

Find someone who does what you want to do and learn from them. Take what they do best and emulate their style while developing your techniques on your phone. This includes finding out what kind of pictures you want to take. Better yet, try reaching out to them to see if you can get a first-hand look at their process. More people than you can imagine take your favorite Instagram shots on phones just like yours. The more you interact with others who have similar pursuits—no matter how much more advanced they are at it—the better you will become.

3. Locate Even Lighting

Shade is your best friend when taking pictures. Find even lighting with nice shadowing. If you’re looking for a great beginner’s shot, try taking portraits near sunrise or sunset—often referred to as “golden hour” by photographers. Don’t shoot specifically with harsh lighting, which is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during this time of the year. It’s also true that the better your equipment is, the greater flexibility you will have to work with different lighting—so if you can splurge on a newer, more advanced phone, your results are likely to improve. Newer phones are built to accommodate portraits and some include the “bokeh” effect that enables a photo to pop out for a 3D-like effect.

4. Control Colors and Background

It might sound obvious, but the better you plan, usually the better you will shoot. These factors come down to the aesthetic of the picture, from what the scene or the people are wearing. It’s all about what the focus is in the picture. Don’t wear or include sharp lines or patterns. Solid colors and minimal patterns look clearer in pictures. Also, finding a good background to be your backdrop, especially for portraits, is essential to create images that pop.

5. After Experimenting, Move On

Take about six months to take photos of different things around you. Explore your city or places you’re familiar with, take pictures of all the exciting scenes and shoot the best views you can. After some time, look through your library, see what photos you like to take, and learn how to master them. Notice the kinds of photographs you’re gravitating toward and research apps and tools that can take you to the next level. And someday, just like Javier, you might trade in your smartphone hobby for a professional level camera.