Pocket Creativity: Making great iPhone pictures

The first thing I did when I got my iPhone was to take a picture.  I believe creativity is a muscle that should be exercised daily (it’s part of my fitness routine), making a photograph every day is part of how I develop creatively.  The photo above is an image of canvas awnings over a walkway at the mall.  I became frustrated at the quality of my iPhone pictures and remembered people talking about a photographer that created a coffee table book with his iPhone pictures.  So what were the secrets?  After looking into things, I learned the iPhone camera is not like a typical point and shoot, and definitely doesn’t have the flexibility of my DSLR.  I read a book to dive in deeper, Killer Photos with your iPhone.

Magnolias facing the storm

Three things to know about the iPhone camera:

  1. 1.   Basic camera settings are out of your control:  many stay constant or are changed automatically.  For example, the camera has a fixed aperture of 2.8 and shoots in Aperture Priority mode.  The camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed and ISO.  Tip:  Great subjects are those taken close-up with a simplified background.
  2. 2.  A high-ISO is used when light is limited:  the camera will significantly bump up the ISO in dark lighting conditions.  This results in noise (speckles in the picture).  Tip:  improve your results by taking pictures in bright light.
  3. 3.  You have an amazing amount of processing options….on the phone:  I believe the true power of the iPhone camera is how it supports image processing and tweaking.  There are many apps available to help you process your photos after you take them, from enhancement to creative effects.  No need to download and process photos on your PC, you can now do it all from your phone.  Tip:  take pictures of subjects that lead themselves to creative re-interpretation.

Tips for creating great iPhone images

Get close and get sharp.  I discovered there are many different camera apps that allow you to zoom in closer and take the photo when you stop shaking.  Getting sharp requires you and your subject to stop moving.  I have even bought a tripod holder for my iPhone, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.

  1. Take multiple pictures.  Instead of just one, take five.  Each time tweak the composition and simplify.  I often find the photograph I end up working with, is not the first one I took or the one I thought would turn out the best.
  2. Pile on the effects.  During processing, don’t just pick one.  Often I will process one photo two or three different ways and use multiple effects on each image.  I then show them to Peter and ask him to help me decide which one will be photo of the day.  Because creativity is personal and subjective, I often find we don’t agree (more on that in one of Peter’s upcoming posts).  Make sure your settings on each app allow you to save at the highest resolution possible.
Green rods in underground mall parking lot
Version 1: Parking lot version as yellow abstract
Version 2: Parking lot rods as green waves
Version 3:  Parking lot rods as sepia abstract
Version 3: Parking lot rods as sepia abstract

I’ve always found these green rods in an underground mall parking lot interesting.  I created three variations and still haven’t decided which one I like best.  What do you think?


My top iPhone apps for photography

If you asked me to recommend my top three apps,  it would be tough, I have almost 20 related to photography.  But if you really pushed me, these would be the ones I recommend you start with:

  1. Pro Camera:  This is a camera app which has three features I really like.  A 5x zoom, an anti-shake feature (it takes the picture when I stop moving improving my chances for a sharp picture), and the ability to move the focus and exposure points independently.
  2. Photo Studio:  I love this app for creative effects.  It has over 100 effects, a quick and easy preview window before you commit, and simple and intuitive sliders for adjustments.  I am now challenging myself not to go to this app first.
  3. Project 365:  I started my “picture a day for a year” project on November 1, 2010.  I am now almost four months into it.  A large part is due to this app, there is a daily reminder, and an easy calendar to insert your daily photos.  Last week I left my iPhone at the gym, as panic set-in my first thoughts were not of all of the information I just lost, or the hassle and cost of replacing the phone……they were of Project 365 and the fact I hadn’t backed up my photos in weeks.  Peter found my phone, and all was right with the world again.  Often, I like to go back through the months and see how my style technique, and preferences have evolved.
Serenity in the Target Parking Lot

What are your favorite apps?

To see more of our photographs, go to www.pamphotography.com.


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