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5 photo sticks that you can try with your iPhone while you are bored in quarantine this autumn


It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

If you are self-insulating at home due coronavirus, do not think that there is no way to flex your photography muscles – there are many ways to sharpen your creative photography at home with just your phone, whether you shoot a iPhone 11 Pro, Galaxy S20 Ultra, Pixel 4 ($ 500 at Back Market) or another, older phone.

It can be tempting to sit and watch Netflix all day, but trying out new creative challenges can not only help you keep your mind focused, it can also teach you some new skills that you can use later. If nothing else, it can only ward off boredom a little longer.

I have compiled some of my favorite ideas for creative challenges that you can do with your phone without having to leave your own home.


Composite photography can take a while, but it’s worth your time.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

1. Create a creative composite

Composite photography means that different photographic elements are mixed from several images into a finished image. At the basic level, it can be used to simply replace a sky on a landscape image, but with some experiments it can offer endless possibilities for creativity.

In my case, I wanted to gather in the same scene several times – almost as if it shows all the different things I could do throughout the day in one picture.

Putting it together was pretty easy. Here’s how:

1. Place the phone on a stand.

2. Frame your tag as needed using the lens options, if available.

3. Either set the phone to a 10-second timer or use a Bluetooth remote control.

4. Enter your scene and take a picture.

5. Move to multiple positions, taking one picture each time.

6. Mix the images in Photoshop by stacking them and deleting the areas you do not want.


I took this selfie with the iPhone 11 Pro’s forward-facing camera, in portrait mode, opposite my living room window to create the mirrored effect. I edited in Lightroom mobile.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

2. Practice portraits

Being stuck at home can be a great time to fine-tune your portrait photography. Whether you are taking a photo of a partner, a family member, an apartment buddy or even your pet, there are interesting topics around you. Living alone? No problem, turn that camera on and use the selfie mode, or even add the phone to a tripod if you have one and start robbing for the camera – or work on your still life (more on that below).

Look around your house and see where you think can create an interesting scene. Maybe you have an old leather chair that someone could pose in. Maybe you have an unusual rug that you can leave your subject on so that you can shoot from above. You can also try some pictures that look sad through the window.

Experiment with the lighting as well. Natural light coming in from Windows is the best option, so taking pictures near them is a good place to start. But maybe there is a cool lamp that you can use as a single, moody light source to lend some artistic drama to the image. You can also take an LED light panel from Amazon and try to add your own lighting.


Okay, it’s not the biggest picture of food in the world, but I’m pretty limited in what I can cook right now and this omelette was at least more attractive than the baked beans I had yesterday. I put the plate on an attractive table top near a window and shot down directly with my iPhone.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

3. Still life scenes

Still life can contain many different types of shoots – from light and airy shoots from top to bottom of a delicious salad or frozen meal you have made, to product photos of your laptop, game controller, new shoes or anything else you think can shoot well. You can even just take a nice selection of things from your whole house that, when they are strangely arranged, can give a nice picture.

The lighting principles are about the same as with your portraits. Use windows where possible as these are likely to provide the largest, brightest light sources in your house. Food photographers regularly use natural light in their images to maintain their realistic lifestyle appearance. Play with where you place your subjects and try to photograph from different angles to get the light in the right place.

4. Make a short film

Making a short film can be a lot of fun because you have to think of several different production elements. First, of course, is what your film is about. Maybe you want to try to film a serious crime drama with your family as a player. Maybe it’s about your pet and the things they get up during the day.

My short film was about creating a wonderful cup of tea. After deciding which film I wanted to make, I then thought about what steps would be involved in the filming of the process. For your crime drama, it would be when you write a script and figure out what pictures you need to put everything together.

Making a cup of tea is a very formal process, so it was easy to know what to film: filling the kettle with water, waiting for it to boil, pouring the water and so on. I added some extra stage shots in the beginning and a final shot of enjoying the tea I had made.

It’s shot entirely on my iPhone 11 Pro, with an Edelkrone slider that lets you create a smooth, sliding motion to your photos and an anamorphic lens from Moment, to give the cinematic wide aspect ratio look. I edited it in Adobe Premiere on my MacBook Pro ($ 900 at Back Market), but you can easily edit your own movie in iMovie directly on your iPhone or use Adobe Premiere Rush on your Android phone.

I really liked the process because it forced me to think not only about angles and lighting that I would do in my normal photography, but also about how I visually tell a story that made sense to someone who was watching. It was great fun trying to be more experimental with my photography and editing style as well, so it was definitely a great way to spend a few hours at home on a quiet afternoon.


The unedited shot (left), next to the final version (right). I used the iPhone’s long exposure mode to blur the water and then used various color tools in the Lightroom mobile to create the look you see here.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

5. Work with your editing

You may not be able to go out and shoot a whole series of new photos, but that does not mean you can not take advantage of photos you have already taken a lot.

Both Android and iOS app stores are full of apps that offer a variety of creative editing options for your photos, with a seemingly endless number of filters, frames and funky style you can use.

Snapseed is my favorite and it’s free on both platforms. It has a variety of color filters available (including those that give your scene a cool “HDR” look as well as more vintage tone options) but it also provides more in-depth editing tools such as the ability to selectively paint brightness to just areas you want. You can also get more creative with apps like Photofox and Bazaart, both of which used to create self-portraits at the top of this article.

My advice is to browse through your gallery on your phone and look back at the weeks, months or years of photos you took. Mark the ones that really stand out as your favorites, then lie down on your couch with your drink of your choice, launch some editing apps and go to town on your photos.

Not only can you breathe some creative new life into images you long ago forgot, but you can also learn some valuable new techniques to implement when you can finally get out and shoot again.

Read more: 5 Masterclass classes to become a filmmaker: Learn from Martin Scorsese, Jodie Foster and more

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