I know the line is getting old, but I’ll repeat it here once again: “The best camera in the world is the one that you have with you.” Even a US$10,000 camera is useless if you don’t bring it with you when you see a moment worth snapping. That’s why many people replace pocket cameras with smartphone’s cameras. And because the iPhone camera is among the best of the best camera phones available, iPhone Photography quickly has become an art itself. They call it iPhoneography.
Here are several things that you can do to get better photos with your iPhone.
As Apple continuously improves iPhone cameras with each iteration, it’s only logical that the newer your iPhone is, the better photo result you will get. But you can get even better photos if you use additional tools. They are optional, but obtaining a few (or all) of them doesn’t hurt either.
Tripod, Monopod, and other Pods
Carrying extra load might not be the idea of fun photography, but if you want to take better photos, you really could use the help of one of the pods to steady the camera. A tripod is an obvious choice, but even the smaller monopod – that is commonly used to take selfies – can help set your iPhone into a steadier stance. You can also try one of those flexible, portable tripods.
The popularity of the iPhone camera has bred several special clip-on lenses that you can use to create different perspectives of your shots. The most popular types of these lenses are fisheye, wide, and macro.
Sometimes you need to put your camera away, and the shutter button is out of your hand’s reach: for example, when you need to take a selfie. You can do away with the camera timer, but the process will be easier if you have a remote shutter. The volume up button on your earphone can be your wired remote shutter button. Or, if you prefer no cable, you can acquire the bluetooth connected type.
The software part is as important as the hardware part in helping you get better pictures, both in taking the photos and editing them.
The latest rendition of Apple’s camera app is a solid one with enough features to satisfy most users. But there are alternative camera apps that you can try, such as Camera+ (US$2.99), VSCO Cam (free), Manual (US$2.99), and Slow Shutter Cam (US$1.99).
Picture Editing Software
What do you do with your pictures after you take them? You can edit them for better results – adjusting the color, cropping the image, adding filters, etc. There are literary tons of image editing apps available for iPhone, and it’s impossible to mention even a fraction of them. So I’ll just list two that I use: Snapseed (free) and Photolab (US$3.99)
The Basic Photography Techniques
Knowing few basic photography techniques won’t suddenly turn you into a pro, but it can improve your shots a lot. Among many, here are several that I think are easy enough to learn and applicable to amateur iPhoneographers.
Amateurs tend to put their photo objects in the center. While there’s nothing wrong with that, your pictures will look better and more natural if you use the rule of thirds and golden ratio to compose your photos. There are many references that you can find on the Internet about them, but here is the gist of it.
To use the rule of thirds, imagine that there are four lines (two down and two across) that divide your screen equally into nine areas. Align your subject(s) with the lines and intersections and you will be amazed at the result.
The rule of thirds’ grid in your iPhone is disabled by default. But you can enable it by going to “Settings -> Photos & Camera -> Grid” and switching it on.
The more advanced composition method that you can try is the golden ratio, also known as divine proportion. It’s derived from Fibonacci’s Ratio and has been said to create a pleasing feeling to human eyes.
Your iPhone camera app doesn’t come with the golden ratio feature, but Camera Awesome (free) does.
Lights and Shadows
Based on my amateurish iPhoneography experiment, you will get a better image with the light source in front of your subject and no nearby wall behind to show cast shadow. Also, natural daylight will always yield better results than non-natural light sources.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t bend the rules. Experiment a lot to try to create different effects. Strong backlight covered by the object can create a great silhouette effect. You can also play with the shadow created by strong light.
It’s evident that out-of-focus photographs will never be the ones that you’re proud of, but you can use out-of-focus foreground and background to create the sense of depth. While it’s common knowledge that you can tap on an object on the iPhone screen to focus on it, not many of us know that you can lock the focus by doing a tap and hold.
There are many more tips to get better photos with your iPhone; the ones listed here barely scratch the surface. If you have a trick or two that you can share, you can use the comments below.