A friend of ours recently suggested I write a post with tips for taking great iPhone pics. I’ve always been enamored with my iPhone, two days after I got my very first iPhone, I started Project 365. How I use my iPhone to support creativity and making photos has evolved over the last few years, but it really comes down to two things: tools and techniques.
If you do nothing else to improve your iPhone photography, then do this: download the ProCamera app and read the ProCamera App Manual. I know its old fashioned to read a manual, but this app is so powerful, knowing just a few of these techniques will make a difference:
- Move the Focus square with your finger to the place in your photo that is critical to get sharp
- Move the Exposure circle around your image until you get the “brightness” just right. Sometimes you will face a situation where one part of the image is very bright, for example the sky, and the other part of the image is too dark, for example your spouse. You may need to compromise one for the other to get the brightness right. In my example situation I would make sure my spouse can be seen, and will start by placing the exposure circle on them. What I like most is that you don’t have to be a camera geek to know anything about exposure, you can just move the circle around until your subject is properly illuminated.
- If you have too much variation in “brightness” around the frame, then use the HDR Vivid functionality in the app. I use this about 75% of the time. This feature takes multiple pictures at different exposures and then blends them together.
- Set the Anti-Shake feature to “on”. This tells the app to take the picture once your iPhone is still. Doing this ensures your pictures will be sharp. You may find this frustrating if you are trying to take a photo from a moving car or boat; in these situations you will need to turn it off.
- Lastly, I beg of you, please increase the resolution in your settings menu to the highest possible option. It kills me to see people capturing the memories of their lives with low resolution images that can’t be properly printed in the future.
For processing your photos, if you purchase only 1 app, then I recommend Snapseed. This app gives you the best starter set of processing options: basic tuning and cropping, creating filters, and black and white adjustments.
If you are going to use your iPhone as your “main” camera then I would encourage you to invest in buying iPhone lenses. The fixed lens on your iPhone is good, but does not give you the flexibility to get super close, or super wide. I started with an inexpensive set, that was difficult to use, then I upgraded to Olliclip. I have been using Olliclip for the last few years and have been happy with them. At some point, I may try the more expensive Moment lenses.
Now that we have the equipment information out of the way, when it comes right down to it, its the photographer not the equipment that makes great photos. Fancy tools are no excuse for poor technique; great photos can be made with disposable film cameras.
Here are four “must-have” elements to great photos:
Subject. Do you have a clear subject? Have you removed distractions and extraneous elements from your frame? Are you creating the encyclopedia, or one compelling sentence? For example, if you are drawn to a rose and the setting is not important, then eliminate all the other elements in your frame and focus on the rose.
Background. What background elements are necessary to tell your story? Are they placed in the frame so they don’t compete with your subject? For example, if you are taking a picture of your daughter with Coit Tower in the background, make sure the tower takes up less space in the frame and is not coming out of her head.
Light. Is the light competing with your subject? Do you have harsh shadows? Is the sky too bright? For example, if you are taking a picture of your spouse outside, move them into a shady spot. I have not met anyone who looks good in bright sunlight with the harsh shadows it creates on the face.
Moment. Try to capture the feeling of what prompted you to take this photo in the first place. Because its so easy (and cheap) to take pictures, too often people just snap away. Its capturing these moments that make an image memorable. For example, I could create a picture of Peter sitting in front of one of his favorite meals (a plate of barbecued pork ribs), but the photo is going to more compelling if I capture his face after he takes his first bite.
This is a longer post than I normally write. I find I have so much to say about iPhone photography. If you’d like to see some of my earlier blogs click here, as well as link to my Project 365 page.
Pocket Creativity: Making Great iPhone Pictures
Project 365: My Experience Making 1 iPhone Photo a Day for a Year