The iPhone stepped up its photography game with the latest 4S model. So much so that it now rivals many of the point and shoot cameras available on the market. There's just something so convenient about having one device that can take good photos and has internet access to share them instantly with friends and family.
I've got a two-year-old son at home, who just so happens to be the cutest kid on the planet. Naturally, I'm going to take a ridiculous amount of photos to fully document just how awesome he is, so I've learned a few tips to make iPhone photos even better.
General Photography Tips
Composition and the Rule of Thirds
Imagine dividing your photo into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, creating a grid that divides the image into 9 equal parts. The rule of thirds is a guideline that states that a photo is compositionally more interesting if the important elements lie on a grid line or their intersections. Notice how I said it's a guideline? There are times when you'll want your subject centered, or even further off center than the grids. But for the most part, the rule of thirds is great for portraits, landscapes, candid shots, and just about any other shot.
One great thing about the iPhone is that you don't have to imagine the rule of thirds - it does it for you. Turn on the built-in grid by tapping the options button. Unless you're an expert photographer, I recommend you keep the grid on at all times.
Get away from the sun
I'm sure you've heard someone say that sunny days are great for taking outdoor photos. That someone was very wrong. Bright sunny days are a photographer's worst enemy. They produce squinty eyes, harsh shadows, and overexposed areas. Cloudy, overcast days are far better for outdoor photos. If you do happen to be outdoors shooting on a sunny day, try going to a shaded area to get out of the sun.
Try to use natural light when possible.
Most cameras have a hard time interpreting colors and white balance when using indoor lighting, and the iPhone is no different. This is usually because there's more than one light source indoors. The best thing to do for inside shots is to turn off all the lights and open up your shades and curtains to let as much natural light in as possible. This provides one light source and lets the camera do a better job of getting colors and white balance right.
Holding the iPhone
With any camera, it's always best to hold it as close to your body as possible, with your elbows tucked in tight to your sides. The farther out from your body the camera is, the harder it is to hold it steady. With most cameras, it's best to have one hand underneath the camera and the other hand on the side where the shutter button is. The iPhone however, has its lens placed in a really awkward spot, making holding it properly very difficult. Instead, the best way to hold an iPhone for shooting photos is to turn the iPhone horizontally with the buttons on the BOTTOM. Put your right index finger on top, thumb on bottom, and middle finger on the back for support. Then pinch the top and bottom of the left side with your index finger on top and thumb on the volume up button on the bottom (the shutter button). Tuck your elbows in close to your sides and you're ready to shoot.
Simple snapshots can easily become rather nice portraits just by changing the position of the camera. As a general rule of thumb, it's better to get eye level with your subject. For toddlers, like my handsome two-year-old son, that means crouching down or getting on your knees. For babies, you can even lie on your belly. The same rule applies to people taller than you as well. You may need to raise the camera above your head for shooting a subject taller than you, and it's easier to do so with the iPhone since the viewfinder is actually the screen.
Because there's no optical zoom in the iPhone, Apple made it really easy to use the digital zoom just by pinching the screen. Go ahead... try it. Good. Now forget about it and never use it again. Because it's digital, you'll lose quality of the picture when zoomed in. It's much better to just take a few steps forward to get to the shot you want.
Apple has some decent editing features built-in to the camera software. It allows you to crop, rotate (90 degrees only), remove red-eyes, and even has a rather nice auto-enhance feature. To get to these options, select the photo you want from your photo library and tap the edit button in the top right corner. The controls are on the bottom of the screen. As a word of caution, don't always assume that the auto-enhance gives you a better picture. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. If it changes the natural look of the photo, don't use it.
Tap to Focus
One of my favorite things about the iPhone's camera is the tap-to-focus feature. The iPhone will automatically try to determine the subject for you and focus on that, but sometimes it misses the mark. To choose the correct subject, just tap the screen on where you want it to focus. You can use this feature to create some really cool depth of field effects.
With iOS 5, you can now get to your camera much quicker, which is something I've been wanting for years. When your phone is locked, simply double tap the home button, and a camera button appears next to the unlock slider which takes you right to your camera. One thing I'd love to see is the ability to choose the app that button launches. That most likely will never happen, but I can dream, right?
Oh, you already know about Instagram? Great, I won't mention that one then. While the default camera can do a lot, there's some third-party apps that can really help make your photos even better.
Camera+ really takes the camera up a notch. It offers a much better exposure/focus function, a timer, image stabilization, effects, filters, borders, social sharing, and more. In fact, it offers so much, that you can sometimes forget about many of the things that make it great. One downside of the app is that it's only for still photos, not video. Regardless, for only 99 cents, this is a must have app.
Snapseed is by far the best editing app around. Because I'm cheap, I'm always hesitant to pay over $2 for an app, but this one is worth every penny. Nik Software has years of experience in image editing, and it shows with this app. The interface is really easy to use, but gives you many of the same functionality available in Photoshop itself. If you just want some cool effects, try Instagram or Hipstamatic. But if you want to really create some stunning photos, Snapseed is the best option.
The best thing about Quickpix is that it lets you take video and photos at the same time. With a toddler, this is so useful. Even without toddlers, it's a really cool feature that I think Apple should add to its own camera app.
Very similar to Camera+, ProCamera provides some nice extended functionality from the default Camera app. The image adjustments and editing are better than Camera+, especially the stabiliztion feature. It does provide some cool effects, but I personally don't like them as much as the ones in Camera+. Bottom line, for $2 more than Camera+, you're getting an upgrade in adjusting/editing, and a downgrade in preset effects.
Lastly, there's some really cool hardware add-ons that can make your iPhone a pretty remarkable camera. Using the tips above will get you some pretty nice photos, but if you do want to take them to the next level, these add-ons can help you with that.
Easily the best camera accessory available for the iPhone, Olloclip includes a fisheye, wide-angle, and macro lens in one small, easy to use accessory. It's not going to give you the same quality as some pro DSLR lenses, but for $70, you can't really expect it to. The macro lens is especially impressive.
Fisheye, Macro, Wide Angle and Telephoto Phone Lenses ($49)
Not nearly as easy to use as Olloclip, but also $20 cheaper, these lenses provide basically the same thing.
GorillaMobile for iPhone ($40)
In my opinion, this is a must have for iPhone photography. GorillaMobile can wrap itself around a tree branch, stand itself up on a wall, and do just about anything else you can imagine. For only $40, it's a no-brainer.
Belkin LiveAction Camera Remote ($50)
If you get the GorillaMobile stand, this is the next logical step. Attach your camera to just about anything, and then let the Belkin LiveAction Remote control it remotely. These two accessories are perfect compliments to each other.
If GorillaMobile isn't what you need, try Glif. It's a simple stand that can be mounted to any tripod.
Jelly Camera Phone Filters ($15)
Don't expect the quality of these filters to match the Olloclip, but for only $15, these Jelly Filters do a pretty good job. They provide an extra cool factor to your images and allow you to get a little more creative.
The iPhone SLR Mount ($249)
OK, now I'm just getting crazy. Or am I? I bought an intro Nikon DSLR a few years ago for about $450. Today, I can get an iPhone 4S and the iPhone SLR Mount for the same price. My Nikon can't shoot video. The iPhone can, in 1080P HD. The Nikon is an 8MP camera. So is the iPhone. The Nikon can't connect to the internet to instantly share your photos. The iPhone can. With the ability to mount any SLR lens to your iPhone, this mount comes really close to turning your iPhone into an SLR camera. If you're wanting professional DSLR quality, get a professional DSLR camera. If you want to just do some advanced photography as a hobby, this is a pretty solid option for you.
The Phocus is a metal mount and stabilizer that gives iPhone owners a way to attach lights, tripods, and lenses. It comes with a 37mm wide-angle/macro lens to get you started. I find this accessory particularly useful for video since it makes holding the phone so much easier. If you really want to take advantage of the 1080P HD video that the iPhone 4S offers, this is the best way to do so.
How often do you use your iPhone to take photos? What are your favorite photography apps?Share Article