Just because you don’t have your DSLR with you 24/7, or you don’t even own a DSLR at all, doesn’t mean you can’t take great pictures anywhere you are. Considered to be one of the most powerful and robust mobile phone camera’s around, Apple’s iPhone has consistently produced amazing photo’s by photographers such as Greg Schmigel, Chase Jarvis and R.L. Morriswho did a complete fashion photo shoot with an iPhone 3Gs. (Below are a few final images from R.L. Morris and a video showing what all went into his shoot.)
So now you may be asking yourself, “How can I get great results with my iPhone?” Well I’m here to lend a few tips and tricks (15 to be exact) that should help you take better photo’s with your iPhone.
1. Hold the phone like you would a regular camera
Use two hands to hold your iPhone just like you would with your DSLR or Point and Shoot. This extra stability will keep the camera from shaking and give you more control of your shots. Also imagine your iPhone screen as the viewfinder, like the one on your DSLR. When you see people shooting iPhone pictures they are always holding their phone out in front of them at a ridiculous angle and doing some strange straight-armed, head back, robot style movements.
2. Light, Light, Light
Light with any camera is important, but a cell phone camera has such a small image sensor it is even more important. The lower the light the more grainy your images will become. Unless you are taking photos of the sun and the sea keep the light behind you and your subject well lit. Don’t let this stop you from shooting night and dusk photo’s those, sometimes with the right angle and light you can get some amazing darker shots.
None of these tips and tricks will be worth a damn if you don’t experiment and try things out. Spend a day and just go out and shoot. You will quickly learn how much light you need in certain situations, what produces blur, grain and a whole world of other problems that lead to your bad iPhone pictures.
4. Zoom in with your feet
If you want to shoot something close up actually walk up to it, get close and click. The iPhone starts losing quality even with a tiny bit of zooming and it becomes really grainy and pixelated. Because the iPhone uses a digital zoom instead of an optical zoom like your point and shoot or DSLR may have, it is basically just cropping the photo in realtime.
5. Take multiple shots
The great thing about digital photography is it allows for a lot of attempts and a lot of mistakes. Add to that benefit, the speed and ease of a camera phone and you have the opportunity to take a few shots so one of them will be good. You can just take multiple shots of the same thing and one of them will be vastly better than the others.
Be careful though, you don’t want to delete those shots you think are no good when you are out and about because often when you get home the things you thought looked rubbish on your phone screen actually turn into interesting things on your computer monitor.
6. Try different angels
The iPhone is so small and easy to use that you can get get down low and dirty with it or you can point it up and high really easily. You can move right on in to a shell or a flower and you can get it into awkward places and positions that would be more difficult to get to with a regular camera. So move it in bundles of different angles to see what you get.
7. Keep the lens clean!
All that sweat and grim on your hands will no doubt get all over your iPhone and all over the camera lens. I didn’t do this for ages and I don’t do it enough now still. Keep a cloth with you or wipe it clear with your sleeve and you may find your pictures come out much sharper and less blurry and foggy.
8. Keep clutter out
Don’t have too much going on in your photo. This is one of the reasons a lot of phone photos are still fairly good even though they are pretty grainy and not even in the same league in sharpness and quality as a DSLR camera shot. This allows you to get away with a lot. Keeping one main subject and a scene where you want all/most of it in focus are best. This is how I take almost all of my photos with my iPhone.
9. Don’t use the touch screen shutter button
Did you know with your iPhone 4/4S you can take a picture with the “+” volume button? Go on, try it out. You can also use the “+” volume button on your Apple headphones as well. By using either of these methods you reduce the chance that you are going to shake or move the camera while snapping your pictures. This is a big deal when take nighttime shots.
10. Use grid lines
If you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “Grid” slider to on and you will see that a grid now shows on your screen. This is perfect for lining up shots such as a horizon or edge of a building. It also will help you use the rule of thirds to produce more interesting and artist photos.
11. Use the HDR function
HDR is a range of techniques geared toward representing more contrast in pictures. Non-HDR cameras take pictures at a single exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture, depending on whether the camera had a low or high exposure setting. HDR compensates for this loss of detail by taking multiple pictures at different exposure levels and intelligently stitching them together so that we get a picture that is representative in both dark and bright areas.
As I stated above if you touch “Options” on the top of the screen while in your “Camera” app it will bring up a menu that says “Grid” and “HDR.” Slide the “HDR” slider to on and your iPhone will now take 3 photo’s at different exposures and stitch them together for a more properly exposed image. Using this doesn’t always guarantee a better pictures, so try it out and see what works for you.
12. Tap to focus
You can tap anywhere on the screen to focus (a blue square will come up on the display). This not only focuses on the area that you touch (which may already seem clear in your display), but also adjusts the exposure and white balance automatically for the main area of your image. This also works for the video camera as well.
13. Use AE/AF Lock
Launch the camera app and get your subject in the frame. Tap the object/person you want to focus on and hold your finger on the screen for a few seconds and then release your finger after the blue focus square pulsates. The square will disappear and AE/AF Lock will appear at the bottom of the screen. The times I find this feature most helpful is when taking photos of moving objects like people, cars or animals. Anytime a subject is moving the camera wants to refocus, even if it’s just a head turn. I’ve lost a countless number of shots because of this. Now I just trigger the AE/AF lock and snap away!
Color can be a powerful allie when shooting photos. Shooting a sky with just a red umbrella in the frame or a women with a bright blue dress on in a sea of people wearing black and really make your subject pop. So look for scenarios where one particular color stands out from the rest, you’ll be amazed at how artistic your photo will looks.
15. Get one or more photo editing apps
You don’t always need to edit a photo after you shoot it, but sometimes it makes for a more artistic and aesthetic image. A few great apps I recommend for the iPhone are PhotoShop Express (free), Luminance ($0.99), SnapSpeed ($4.99) and Photo Forge 2 ($2.99).
I hope these tips and tricks help you to shoot better photos with your iPhone. Once you get the hang of a few basic principles you’ll be well on your way to having more fun and taking better pictures. Here are a few of my favorite pictures I’ve taken with my iPhone 3G, 4 and 4S.