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I’m a photography enthusiast and there’s almost never been a sunset that doesn’t steal my heart. Luckily, I always have my iPhone 5 handy, and I get some great shots.

We’re living in a golden age of photography for those of us who love it but don’t want to go pro and spend thousands on equipment. Have you got the bug? Why not start putting more of your photography on your walls?

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Today’s smartphone takes some stunning photos, and there are companies making a killing off of converting smartphone photos to canvases.

Now that’s the sticking point. If you were to print smartphone shots in large format on paper, the “noise” would probably be a little too “loud”. Noise is the low, grainy distortion you find in things like the clouds. These companies, like CanvasPop, are taking these noisy photos, using some digital techniques, and making it possible to take your largest smartphone photos and blow them up as large as 20 x 30.

Ordering & options

Like the saying goes, the best camera is the one you’ve got with you.

Some of the greatest photos, and most important, ever made are ones that aren’t perfectly focused but instead catch an amazing moment in time.

Whether it’s a photo of your favorite holiday, your kids in a candid moment, or abstract items you’re getting artsy with, there’s something powerful in surrounding yourself with images reflecting your life and your worldview.

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When you order your prints online, most companies should offer you a digital proof. Ensure you choose this option because it’ll give you more control over the final image and a chance to pull the plug if you think of something better.

Most canvases also come with a variety of frame options. This isn’t the around-the-picture frame but rather a wooden frame the canvas is stretched to cover. There is no visible frame. You can choose to have the image wrap around the sides or not. I like that full-wrap look.

Never pay full price!

Never pay full price! Companies like CanvasPop, which anyone can use, and Instragram-only Twenty20 are constantly offering up to 50% off. Sign up for their emails and stay on top of their offerings, pouncing when it’s best for you.

Beyond that, color-fastness is a concern. Does the company assure you of fade-resistance? You don’t want your artwork fading in the sunlight. (Never hang artwork in direct sunlight anyhow; always mount it out of the direct rays.)

Now to Pick the Right Photo

You want an image that has the right colors, mood, and feel for your space. You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t worry about the pictures other people like, it’s all about you.

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It should be something that evokes great feelings in you. Whether it makes you smile at a memory, makes you want to get outside for a walk, or gives you a reminder of things important to you, it should be a photo you’re connecting with.

For me, that means nature — trees, clouds, sun, ocean. Anything like that is what I want in my home.

Edit for your eye

From Photoshop to Hipstamatic and Snapseed, there are a lot of app options you can install on your phone to get the right look, color, depth, and contrast.

Always, always edit your shots. This “no filter” trend is ridiculous. As someone who was both a commercial photography lab manager AND a college darkroom supervisor, there is very, very rarely any perfectly exposed photo on the first try. Professionals and artists edit pretty much all of their work. It’s not some kind of lie or falsehood to edit a photo, it’s simply enhancing the beauty you’ve already caught.

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When I see a sunset, it’s majestically rich and dramatic. My phone, however, tones those colors down because it’s a computer, not a human eye. Editing is how you bridge the gap from what you saw to what is possible through adding filters.

There is no “right” final treatment to a photo. Maybe you like a vivid HDR filter. Maybe grainy black and white gets you going. Maybe you’re into the retro/vintage muddy brown photos. Art is subjective, find a look that makes you happy. Try different programs, different combinations of filters and tweaks.

Never shoot just once

My friends don’t understand how I always get really beautiful sunset shots. Obviously part of it is about how I see the world and what I want to capture. It’s also because I always edit my photos, and because I never, ever make just one picture.

I have a 64 gig phone I can fill with literally thousands of images. Every time I see a sunset, I guarantee I’m taking 20-50 shots. iPhone now “brackets” shots. This means if you hold on the shutter button in iOS7, it will take back-to-back-to-back shots as fast as the amount of daylight will allow, meaning you could get one shot with your kids blinking and a split second later their eyes are open and a smile’s spreading over their face. Take multiple shots every time you shoot. One shot will be better than all the rest. Always.

Details count

Look for things that wreck the effect — powerlines, someone walking through the background, garbage on the foreground.

Try different angle of the same shot. Lie on the ground, stand on a boulder, turn the phone vertical versus horizontal, and so on. Even tilting your phone forward and back can make a difference in the shot.

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Then there’s the rule of thirds, and it’s why most phones and apps like Instagram offer the “grid” background. You want to keep your subject on the “third” lines, not in the center, and this is because the human eye wants it off-center for perspective. Look at all the great movies, like Lawrence of Arabia, and shots are almost never centered.

Make your home more yours

Once you start filling your home with large-format, beautifully-printed photographs you’ve made from your own life experiences, you’ll be surprised how much more emotionally connected you become to your space. You’ll be proud that you see the world the way you do, and that’s no small thing.

Stop buying mass-marketed art from big-box stores, and start making your life have a starring role in your home. You’ll love it.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.