Welcome to a brief introduction into the world of iPhone photography. This quick guide includes a collection of advice obtained from professionals, friends, and personal experience. Whether you’d like to shoot DSLR quality photos or just step up your Instagram game, this complete guide will cover all aspects to developing your iPhone photos.
Developing a Niche
The first step towards improving the quality of your photos is to develop a niche. Make an Instagram account, not only to share your photography but to follow photographers who emulate a style or part of a style you intend to incorporate. Most photographers have a signature style and there are literally hundreds of different ways to shape your work. There is food photography, fashion, lifestyle, landscapes, nature, urban, portraits, black & white, multiple exposure, just to name a few. Your niche does not have to be something new or original, it should however represent your personality. Start taking photos of anything you think would make a good photograph, it does not have to be perfect. Go through your photo album and search for any patterns. Some photos will catch your eye and leave a stronger impression than others. Developing a niche aids in focusing your creative energy and eases the transition into taking quality photos. Think of it as a starter template. Once you know what you like you can start to add and adjust to create the perfect photograph.
Many photographers know the best time to shoot is during golden hour. Golden hour is the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. But before you start scheduling all your shoots during golden hour, practice shooting under all types of lighting. Light enters through the iPhone camera lens and an image is recorded on a light-sensitive medium. Too much light or too little can over-illuminate or dull your photo and cause you to lose clarity, colors, and tones. Here are some ways to adjust your position for natural lighting:
During golden hour you can basically shoot in any direction. You can shoot facing the sun, away from the sun, or with the sun to the side of you.
During the day try to shoot facing away from the sun. It is difficult to shoot in an angle that is facing the sun or with the sun to the side of you without ruining composition.
At night the lack of natural lighting will cause most of your photos to come out grainy and underexposed. Avoid using your phone’s flash and try to find an external light source.
What makes the iPhone so popular is that the technical design is universal and user friendly. Here are some tips everyone can apply to instantly improve their iPhone photography.
Go to Settings, scroll down to your “Photos & Camera” tab, switch on grid mode so you can shoot your photos while accurately applying the golden ratio aka Fibonacci spiral or use the rule of thirds.
Turn off flash, always try to use an external or natural light source.
In low light situations, tapping on darker sections of your screen will increase exposure and focus.
Avoid using zoom, the iPhone camera does not actually zoom but rather enlarges the image.
Focus on alignment, for example the horizon and your subject.
When shooting horizontally or vertically, make sure the camera lens is on the edge that is pointing up.
Take a horizontal and a vertical shot so you’ll have options later.
The best way to hold your phone is to take your left hand and make a fist with your thumb sticking out like you’re giving a thumbs up. Now rest your phone on your left hand for stability while you shoot with your right.
Make sure it all feels comfortable to you. Whether your arms are at your sides or your arms are in front of you. Find stable, inanimate objects like a bench or a table to rest your elbows and forearms on.
Get comfortable with your breathing, take the shot in-between breaths.
Get low, get on one knee. Shooting from a lower angle can give you a different perspective than from eye level. A photo from a low angle can make the subject look dominant, a photo from a high angle can make the subject look dainty.
Purchase an iPhone lens. Here’s an inexpensive lens I purchased recently. Research your options before you go purchase one of each type of lens or an expensive lens. Its always a good idea to start with low budget equipment, have a grasp for using it, then move on to more expensive equipment.
A finished product is 30% actually taking the photo and 70% editing. There are many apps that support editing photos directly on the iPhone. I have a ton of FREE photo editing apps on my phone, sometimes I use more than 5 apps to edit one photo! The 2 free apps I recommend are VSCO and Priime. I found these two apps to be highly effective and user friendly for complete beginners. Although both apps are great stand alone photo editing products, I suggest using multiple apps in tandem when editing your photos. Editing photos can be time consuming, but fun and rewarding. Here’s some information to ease you into basic editing.
Before conducting any edits, increase the brightness for your phone screen to 100%. If possible, try to edit in a dark room and then critique under different lights.
Increasing a few aspects like exposure, sharpness, and shadows can increase the quality of any photo.
Make small adjustments by working slowly and subtly. Remember that you want to bring out the best qualities of the photo by using the elements in the photo rather than creating artificial ones.
Don’t follow the same editing template for each photo, each photo requires its own unique touch and care.
Have a second or third opinion critique your edit.
Compare your work with your favorite photos and photographers. Identify the similarities, what your photo did best and how your photo can be improved.
All photos were shot and edited on the iPhone 6 by Benjamin Kim.
Final Thoughts on iPhone Photography
If you’re not a big fan of the iPhone, here are some great alternatives.
The Galaxy S7 edge has 12 megapixels with excellent low light performance.
The LG G5 has a whopping 16 megapixels and a built in 135mm wide angle lens!
As smartphones continue to develop their camera technology, I predict in the near future that society will become more interested in DIY photography and film. Taking quality photos on the iPhone or any smartphone is not a difficult task and is an activity that everyone can participate, master, and enjoy.