Improve Your iPhone Photography

Apple recently launched an ad campaign focusing on stunning photography shot with an iPhone. The ads running in both magazines and billboards largely feature a photograph with a very small line stating “Shot on iPhone 6”. Additionally you can see a selection of the shots on their world gallery here.

This campaign got me thinking about how prominent the iPhone camera has become in my life. Having shot weddings and portraits in the past, I have a nice selection of professional camera equipment. I still use this gear and love the results I can achieve with a DSLR, but I am finding myself shooting more often with my phone because I always have it with me and it easily fits in my pocket.

This post will teach you some basic principles getting better shots, as well as showcase my favorite editing apps and printing companies.

 

Shooting

It isn’t new information that our smartphone cameras are getting better with each release. They surpassed the technology in my first digital camera about 3 generations ago. But no matter what version of the iPhone you have (or android), you can improve all of your photos by taking these basic principles into account.

Lighting

Natural light will produce the best results. Try to find a window or go outdoors when shooting to get that natural light. And watch closely as you move about a scene to see where the contrast and shadows provide the most interest. The photo on the left is the lighting in our living room while the photo on the right is using natural window light from our back door.

lighting_iphonography_dadsigner

If natural light isn’t readily available, try converting the picture to black and white when editing so you don’t have to worry about the color temperature of the light.

Quantity

When shooting with phones especially you should take more than one shot each time. Some at the same angle then more at a different angle. There is a greater chance that you will move slightly and blur your image since your phone is so lightweight. By taking multiple shots, you can make sure that there is at least one in focus. You can always go back and delete the extras after.

The most recent version of the iPhone camera has a burst mode that will take sequential shots very quickly. All you need to do is hold down the shutter button and the burst will start. This is very helpful when trying to capture a baby’s expression or freeze their constant movements. My wife and I find this feature a necessity as we attempt to take Juniper’s weekly photo as she break dances on the floor.

Processed with Moldiv

Composition

Pay attention to how your shot is set up. Look for pleasing foregrounds and backgrounds that draw attention to what you want. Also, take note of the rule-of-thirds when shooting to achieve well-composed photos. The iPhone camera allows you to turn on a rule of thirds grid in the “Photos & Camera” settings that will assist you in seeing where your subject lines up.

Another great idea is to move around to get a better perspective. I wrote a bit about that in my “Get Up, Get Down” post a few weeks ago.

Simple

Keep the images simple. Too much going on and the photo can distract the viewer more than grab their attention. The use of symmetry or scale in this situation can draw the viewers eye to the subject quickly.

 

Editing

Now that the groundwork is set for taking better photos, it is time to edit those shots. You will probably need to make some adjustments to the photo to really refine it to “the awesome level”. There are two apps that I would recommend that do a great job editing photos while maintaining a natural look.

VSCO Cam

This is my all-time favorite app because of the editing simplicity and presets that look like film. The interface allows you to make all the basic adjustments like cropping and exposure as well as more complex features like altering the highlight and shadow tint to get the perfect color balance. Once you get the basics finished you can then apply presets (filters for those used to Instagram) that look natural and enhance your photos rather than destroy them.

I also want to mention that VSCO has a built-in camera with a feature to select separate focus and exposure points (a very powerful feature for the more advanced shooter – this is the camera shown above in the featured image). If you are interested in seeing what photos edited with this app look like you can visit my “grid” at mesmithdesign.vsco.co.

Snapseed

I do not use Snapseed as often, but it does have a much more robust feature set. Allowing you to edit specific areas of a photo and apply edits to part of the image rather than the whole thing. It also has all the basic photo editing capabilities and its own set of filters (that I do not prefer).

If you ask me which one to pick I would say – both – because they are each good in their own way. And you can never have too many photography apps on your phone, right?

 

Printing

Now that you have beautifully composed photos that are tastefully edited you need to get them off your phone and into your hands as a physical product. Too often, we miss out on the tangibility of a printed photo so here are a few resources for printing your photos.

Artifact Uprising

Quality matte paper is used to print books, cards or prints and you can even do so directly from your phone.

Pinhole Press

In addition to the usual prints and books, this company has some unique offerings like a custom memory game and a book of names and faces.

Shutterfly

Because they are fast and inexpensive and you can get 50 free prints by clicking this link.

 

Learning how to shoot with your iPhone will allow you to never miss a moment with your kids or family. You know have a bunch of new tricks to try this weekend. I’d love to see and hear what you come up with in the comments below or email me on the contact page. Happy shooting!

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