Frank Stewart Photo-a-Day Challenge: July 1-6

Thank you to everyone who is participating in the Frank Stewart Photo-a-Day Challenge! We love all the creative submissions. Here are some of our favorites. Follow @phillipscollection on Instagram to see more and join the fun with #phillipsphotochallenge through July 31.

See photos from the other weeks: July 7-13, July 14-20, July 21-31

July 1: Silhouette





July 2: Mirror




July 3: Love




July 4: Lines





July 5: Black & White





July 6: Portrait





Capturing the Perfect iPhone Photograph

Did you know your iPhone is capable of taking professional quality photos? Here are some settings and techniques that will instantly improve your iPhone photos. We hope you’ll put your photo skills to the test with our upcoming July 1-31 Frank Stewart-inspired Photo-a-Day challenge. Follow @phillipscollection and share your results with us using #PhillipsPhotoChallenge!


Turn on the Grid
Grid lines are key for photo composition. They help you level the horizon, center the subject, and balance your photos.

Mirror Front Camera for Better Selfies
While you’re in settings, switch on “Mirror Front Camera” so your selfies will turn out how they appear when you press the shutter (and aren’t flipped).

Turn on “Grid” and “Mirror Front Camera” in your camera settings

Set the Focus
Look for interesting colors, textures, and patterns in your subject and shoot them up close. To set the focus on your subject, simply frame your shot, then tap the screen where you want the camera to focus. A yellow box will appear to indicate the focus area.

Use the yellow square to help focus your image

Adjust the Exposure
After you tap the screen to set the focus, you’ll see a yellow box and a sun. Hold your finger on the sun and drag up for more light to make your image brighter. Drag the sun down for less light to make your photograph darker.

Slide the sun icon up and down to change the exposure

Get Closer Instead of Zooming In
Zooming in degrades the quality of your photograph. If you want more of the subject in the photo, take a few steps closer. Or take the full scene and then crop your image later.

Use the Leveling Tool (+) for Overhead Shots
Trying to take a photo of your picturesque meal? Go for a bird’s eye view with an overhead shot. When you hold your phone above your subject, two plus signs (one yellow, one white) will appear on your screen. When the two + line up and turn into one yellow +, your camera is level.

Use the leveling tool to straighten your shot

Use Portrait Mode for Portraits
Portrait mode has features to add depth to your photos. You can add more focus to your subject by blurring the background. To use Portrait Mode, open your camera and swipe over to “Portrait.” Tip: make sure you’re standing far enough away from the subject (the screen will tell you) and tap the screen where you want it to focus.

The f-stop decides how much the background is blurred in a Portrait Mode shot. To do this, go to Camera > Portrait Mode > “f” in the top right corner of your screen. From there you can slide left and right to find the right amount of blur you want. Tip: You can also change this after you take the photo!

In Portrait Mode, f-stop turned all the way up on the left has a sharp background, compared to the blurry background in the right where f-stop is turned all the way down

Use the Timer Mode for Steady Shots
Sometimes using your thumb to tap the shutter button can make the camera shake at just the moment you’re taking the picture. In addition to using the timer mode for a no-hands selfie, you can use it for any shot to keep both hands on the phone when the shutter opens. Check the top of your camera screen for the timer icon!

0.5x vs 1.0x vs 2x
To use the widest lens, tap 0.5 (at the bottom of your photo screen). Tap 1.0x if you want to capture a scene that has a moderately wide field of view. And if your phone has it, 2x is your telephoto lens.

The 1x lens on the top shows a tighter crop than the 0.5x lens on the bottom


Shift Your Perspective
Try taking photos from outside your regular standing or sitting position. You can shoot your subject from up high or down low. Taking a photo from a slightly higher position is flattering for your subjects. Shooting from a lower angle is great for a few reasons: It makes your photo look intriguing by showing a unusual perspective. If you’re outside, it also shows your subject with nothing but sky in the background, which makes your subject stand out. It can also show interesting details in the foreground.

Try a low angle to capture foreground details

Create Depth
Use leading lines in your composition like roads, paths, railway tracks, rivers, and fences. At the beach, you can use the water’s edge or ripples in the sand. Compose your photo so the lines lead from the foreground into the distance. This draws the viewer into the scene.

Use leading lines in your composition to create depth


Editing your Photo
In addition to editing apps than can help clean up your photos and adjust the lighting, you can do plenty with the tools already on your phone. From the photo, click “Edit” in the top right corner and you’ll see a menu in the bottom. Play around with the magic wand and other features to get comfortable with what editing options you have. Below the photo you’ll see options like “Studio Light,” “Contour Light,” “Stage Light,” and more that will add professional studio light effects and make any photo look professional quality!

Straighten the Horizon
A straight horizon is key to a good composition. If you don’t quite get it as straight as you want it in the moment, you can open your photo and click edit. Then select the crop tool at the bottom and the first option is “straighten.” Slide your finger left and right to rotate the image just how you want.

Ellsworth Kelly Centennial Celebration: Visit to Spencertown

To pay tribute to the artist’s centenary and his lasting legacy, the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation organized a trip to Kelly’s longtime home and studio in idyllic Spencertown, in Upstate New York. Museum directors, curators, and other art professionals who championed Kelly’s work—the Phillips included—were invited to spend a day at the studio and grounds, view exhibitions of rarely seen work and ephemera and the newly open Ellsworth Kelly Library, and enjoy a luncheon, all in celebration of the artist’s life and work.

Vesela Sretenovic—who in 2013 curated the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004-2009—and Bridget Zangueneh—who facilitated the conservation grant for Untitled (EK 927) from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation—represented The Phillips Collection. Vesela and Bridget share their experience.

Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled (EK 927), 2005, in the Phillips’s Hunter Courtyard, Commissioned in honor of Alice and Pamela Creighton, beloved daughters of Margaret Stuart Hunter, 2006. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Installation view of Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings, 2004-2009. 

Vesela Sretenovic, Director of Contemporary Art Initiatives and Academic Affairs:

“While walking around Kelly’s studio, the indoor galleries and outdoor grounds, it struck me that the key to experiencing the artist’s work is through a set of interrelationships, first within his own art among shape, color, volume, and space, and then outside of it among the object, oneself, and the surroundings. Being on the site of his creative life, in the midst of art, architecture, and nature only further enhanced that experience. The glorious spring day—May 16, 2023—will be remembered for the lifetime. It also brought back memories from 10 years ago while visiting the studio and meeting the artist in preparation for the Phillips exhibition that marked his 90th year. I remain grateful for these extraordinary opportunities.”

Ellsworth Kelly Studio grounds in Spencertown, NY

Bridget Zangueneh, Director for Foundation, Government & Corporate Affairs:

“It was the light that struck me. The Hudson River Valley sun filtered through precisely-placed windows, skylights, and scrims, above, below, and around, infusing the space with the clearest, brightest light. And the spaces. Open rectangular boxes filled with the bright light. And the art, the works that Ellsworth Kelly created in these spaces, seeing them as he saw them. It was profound. His creations—most finished, some not—were indoors, impeccably placed on walls; outdoors, emerging from the grounds as part of the landscape; and on screens with dancers in motion re-creating Kelly’s iconic shapes with their bodies. All of Kelly’s works, no matter where they were displayed throughout the estate, incorporated the same minimal elements of line, form, and color that are so uniquely his.

Bridget Zangueneh at Ellsworth Kelly’s studio in Spencertown

It was moving, personally and professionally, to be in his studio and on his estate in the presence of his widower and champion, Jack Shear, museum directors, artists, curators, and colleagues. Everyone there was a part of Kelly’s life and entrusted with carrying on his legacy.

Soon after I joined the Phillips in 2012, the museum was planning Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004-2009 (June 22–September 22, 2013), an installation of seven large-scale works featuring a spectrum of colors and geometric forms that have dominated Kelly’s prolific career in celebration of the artist’s 90th birthday. It was featured in the gallery with 18-foot ceilings, the only Phillips space that somewhat resembles the artist’s studio—an open rectangular box with windows that shepherd in natural light—though I didn’t know that at the time. I’m not an artist, curator, or art historian, and much of “The Art World” was new to me. I appreciate minimalism and, on the surface, enjoyed the exhibition. And then I kept looking. And visiting and revisiting the panel paintings on each walk to the library, courtyard, or offices to look some more. At one point someone recommended that I also look at the space between the paintings. I’d never considered that approach and was astonished. How can anyone evoke artistry from “the space between the paintings”? Kelly did it masterfully, and I’ve never looked at them the same.

One of my stops in the gallery was less of a visit and more of a peek: Ellsworth Kelly was visiting. He was right there in the gallery with natural light observing the exhibition—his exhibition—and conversing with then director Dorothy Kosinski and exhibition curator Vesela Sretenovic, an excerpt of which was posted here on the blog 10 years ago. On the recent trip to Kelly’s Spencertown studio, Vesela underscored that with the Panel Paintings exhibition, and really all of Kelly’s installations, that placement is down to the millimeter. Unfortunately, because of his health at the time, he was unable to be present for the installation at the Phillips. His expert team, our expert preparators, and Vesela installed it with guidance from Kelly via Skype (Zoom wasn’t a “thing” yet), and piece by piece he perfected the precise placements his art required—and the spaces between, “using the wall as part of the painting,” he says. I didn’t stay long. I didn’t dare interrupt. I didn’t say hi. But I was there in my quiet way observing. That experience made a mark on me.

Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation to secure and steward generous grant awards with Phillips colleagues and keep the foundation folks apprised of Phillips activities. But to be at the Foundation, experience Kelly’s studio and spaces, and hear from those who were part of Kelly’s life was deeply inspiring in a way that no museum visit, conversation, or letter could be. It was a full-circle moment, thinking back to my experience peeking into Panel Paintings 10 years ago. Though not an artist, curator, or art historian, I’m grateful to work with those who are, especially as we celebrate and steward legacies like Kelly’s.”