My 10 tips for iPhoneography
I have put together my top 10 tips for iphoneography below because I have a lot of people who say apologetically that they just have an iPhone or camera phone and don’t have a proper camera. But if the image is powerful, does it really matter what it is taken on? There are some limits to photographing on a phone, but there are also some benefits. One is that it is always with you and you are more likely to take more images as a result. The weight and bulk of cameras often mean we can leave them at home and miss photographic opportunities when they suddenly present themselves.
iPhoneography opens up the world of photography to everyone which is surely a good thing. I would love to encourage more people to enjoy photography and to show you that it is possible to create powerful and beautiful images on the phone. It is also possible to create highly artistic images and have a lot of fun in the process.
Another bonus is for small businesses it is possible to take social media and marketing images on the phone for your Instagram, stories and blogs. I often take images for my blog on my phone and shoot all my Instagram and Facebook stories with it.
It is simple and effective when you understand some basic principles and spend some time getting to know your camera. Most of the ideas below are based around iPhonegraphy but it is very simple to find the equivalents for other camera phones and all the techniques still apply.
1/ Take it seriously
Don’t treat iPhoneography as throw away photography. Take your time to consider, compose and shoot. Hold the camera steady and stop walking! Take the image consciously. So often we see people snapping and running resulting in badly composed and shaky imagery. You can create some beautiful images with a camera phone so just think of it as a bigger camera in your hands and slow down to consider your photography on the phone a little more. All images on this page were shot with my iPhone.
2/ Grid & composition
One simple way to quickly improve your iPhoneography skills is to switch the gridline on which shows a series of lines on the screen-based around the rule of the thirds. A simple photographic composition principle which is easy to use and understand when beginning in photography and helps keep images that are balanced and pleasing. Just simply keep the main subject at the intersection of the dividing lines or along the lines.
Go to Settings > Camera > Switch on Grid
3/ Portrait mode
I am putting portrait mode high up on this list as it is the single best advance in technology for iPhoneography! I use it all the time and it can transform your images into professional-looking shots very simply. You can just switch it into portrait mode ( iPhone 7 Plus onwards ). It uses the twin cameras on the phone and creates the depth of field where the subject is in focus and the background is blurry. Essentially emulating professional cameras depth of field capabilities. I use this mostly to photograph details in nature as it is something I love doing anyway. So it’s not just for portraits. I also sometimes shoot lifestyle images such as my juice or coffee cups for my social media stories etc!
4/ Exposure & Focus
Tap on the screen and you will see a box appear. This indicates the focus point which can be locked on the point you want in focus. The easiest way is to tap on the screen and then the camera automatically focuses on the point you have tapped.
Exposure: if you slide your finger on the screen you will see that you can change the exposure to brighten or darken the image.
Once you have set the focus point and exposure it’s best to lock this or the phone will automatically revert as something changes. Tap and hold and you will see AE/AF LOCK appear – no matter what happens now the focus and exposure is locked.
5/ Use Natural light
Light – once we start taking iPhoneography a bit more seriously and realise we can create some beautiful and powerful images with the phone, we need to start with the basics of photography. That starts with noticing where the light comes in.
I would never advise using the flash on a camera phone. You can set the flash to be permanently off and you will always get a better image this way. Always look for natural light and try to use it effectively. iPhones can also create lovely silhouette images if shooting into the light. If it is darker, then try and hold the camera still or use a tripod to keep the camera steady. You will see a few images from India on this page. The reason for this is that whenever I travel to India, I just shoot with my iPhone and leave my big cameras at home!
Get down on the level of the subject – find different perspectives and shooting from an unusual angle can sometimes work. Getting low is a perfect example. You can also try shooting directly down onto the subject – this works well for stylised lifestyle or food photos. Embrace negative space and consider minimalistic images where there is a lot of space in the image which often makes the subject more striking. Use leading lines to draw the viewer into the image. This can be curves or straight lines and these serve to lead the eye into the image.
It is easy to want to zoom in using the iPhone but best to avoid doing so. This can reduce the quality image considerably and make it appear grainy and pixelated.
Instead of zooming try and think about using the iPhone at the correct distance from your subject – ie move your feet and get physically closer instead!
8/ Editing and Apps
Don’t forget to edit your images – just as you would your images from your camera. You can either edit these on your desktop computer or use in-camera apps. Even the generic editor in the camera is very powerful.
Within the camera app itself you can choose >Edit > Adjust / Filters or Crop
Adjust has a really good range of tools so you can tweak exposure/contrast and add a vignette and tweak warmth for example. These are the basics that I would normally do. The filters in the camera app aren’t so good but some are ok and can be used at varying strengths. You can use the crop tool to crop or straighten up the image.
There are plenty of apps out there that are fun to use. Snapseed is a fanatic app for processing on the phone. With a variety of filters as well as manual processing and selective editing. I have also used Slow Shutter to take longer exposures on the phone.
9/ Slo-mo / Video and Timelapse
I film regularly on my iPhone and the quality is great. You can adjust the resolution in-camera settings for video. And have some fun with slo-mo footage and time-lapse as well. The iPhone does a really good job of all these types of filming. There is a whole world of information on iPhone filming but that is maybe for another post as it is quite in-depth. For a start, you can set the quality of the footage quite high in settings if you want good footage and use the camera app for filming. I use Flimic pro for my films as there is slightly more control.
Maybe an unusual one, but the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were the first water-resistant phones. Any models after these are rated as IP67 which means they are resistant to splashes and can be submerged in 3 feet of fresh water for up to 30 mins. They do not declare to be fully waterproof though so I keep mine in a waterproof case as well. A great way to capture great quality underwater photos!
Technical quick tips:
1/ Swipe left to open your camera app really quickly if the phone is locked.
2/ Use the volume button on the phone to take a photo.
3/ Use the volume button on your headphones to take candid photos.
4/ Remember to clean your camera’s lens.
5/ HDR – I generally turn HDR off as I do not like the look!