First off, I am an Apple girl. I will always be an Apple girl, cross my heart and hope to die. But even if you do not have an iPhone or are just totally anti-Apple (we can never be friends if that is the case), these tips and apps are still for you.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I have become obsessed with using my iPhone 6 Plus (shameless plug) for photography purposes. I see the world through my camera lens. I am pretty sure what I have is a camera with the ability to call and text whenever I like and not the other way around. Do I have a super nice and super expensive camera? Yep. It’s what I use when I am shooting my own photography sessions on the side. Do I use it more than my phone? Nope. I still have much love for my Canon but let’s be honest. Those cameras have their time and place and they are not practical for every day use.
So let us start with the basics first. The key ingredients to an amazing photo on a smartphone camera are pretty much the same as with a standard camera. The perfect combination has the following five elements.
I cannot stress how important lighting is. Whether it is the sun or artificial, lighting is crucial. Natural lighting is always best in my opinion. You can use the sun in so many different ways. Even the moon. One of my favorite things is capturing sun rays in a photo. And you don’t have to take a photo in broad daylight. Lots of amazing photos are taken at all different times of day, even when the sun is hiding. It’s all about just using the light you have been afforded the right way.
Always, always, always check your background. You want to make sure you don’t have random people in the background of a portrait shot in the middle of a field. That sort of thing. Backgrounds can go very wrong. All you have to do is Google this sort of thing and have nightmares for life. You want to make sure it makes sense to whatever your subject matter is (we will get to composition shortly).
This may sound like a huge duh, but think about it. You don’t take photos of nothing right? You need to know your subject matter. Know what you want to be taking a photograph of. Then you want to decide how you want it to be photographed. Do you want it to be the focal point, part of the background or do you want a wide shot of everything in view?
The right lighting will certainly impact your color. Vibrant, colorful things lead to some of the most beautiful photos yet so do muted, rustic things. It’s all about ensuring the primary colors are balanced within the photograph.
This is your photograph in its entirety. The big picture (no pun intended). It is every element working in harmony and their placement within the photograph. Think of every piece of the photograph as a puzzle. They all need to fit together.
Now that you know what you need in a photo to make it awesome, let’s talk about some of the functions and features on an iPhone (please note some are not present on all iPhone models).
Burst – Take up to 10 photos per second. Boom. This so comes in handy when photographing little ones. I cannot even tell you.
Focal – This is the AE/AF Lock functionality. Basically this is how you control the focus and exposure. Focus making the object or the background blurred and exposure being the light coming into the lens coupled with other factors. This is an awesome feature that is very similar to how a DSLR camera operates.
Crop – Crop out what you don’t want. However, be careful. If you crop too much, it lowers the resolution on your photo. This is handy to know in case you ever want to print that photo.
Zoom – Although it is there, I have literally never used it. It distorts the photo too much. I will take the photo from a far and crop in a bit but this is also where a certain gadget below will come in handy (cough cough, tele lens, cough cough).
Filter – There are quite a few filters pre-installed on the iPhone. They range from very mono to processed.
Flash – You can set it to auto, on or off. I usually do off. I am not a fan of the flash. That is a preference however. Sometimes the flash is definitely necessary.
Pano – This is awesome. Pan an entire skyline. Pan an audience. Pan the beach. Pan anything. Just keep a steady hand! Once you are done panning, you will have an incredible panoramic photograph.
Square – This is what you would use for a frame already in line with the Instagram size.
HDR – This is quite a nifty little treat on an iPhone. In short it means that when a shot goes into this mode, it takes those very to somewhat bright and dark areas in the photo and gets as much detail out of them as possible.
There are also edit features to change contrast, brightness, degree, color, shadows and the list goes on.
Now let’s get to gadgets. They make super cool camera accessories for smartphone cameras these days. Here are just a few of the most amazing ones.
Wide Angle Lens and Tele Lens – Swoon. You can get them from a company called Moment. The wide angle lens is in my top three favorite lens in the history of ever. The fact that they made a teeny tiny one for my smartphone? No thanks in all the world in any language will suffice.
Mini Tripods – Want stability? There are tons of companies that make a tripod for the smartphone. One of the best ones is the Joby. You can grip it to a rock. I’m not even kidding.
Lighting Case – Yes. There is a case for lighting. It’s called the LuMee. It exists.
Last but not least, the photo-enhancing apps. Here are the ones I have on my iPhone. I cannot express how many times I use these over the regular camera option. When I do use the regular camera, I often times will do post-editing in the app itself. Why you ask? Because filters. I L-O-V-E a great filter. If I find that the photo is awesome on it’s own, then no tampering necessary, but a lot of the time I feel as though tampering adds a certain something. Especially if something was a bit off with the lighting or background, etc.
Instagram (free) – L-O-V-E. In love is more like it. They have amazing filters and you can post in a community for your friends to follow.
Boomerang (free) – Hilarious. Take photos in a burst setting and it creates a live motion photo if you will. You can get some crazy cool looking stuff with this. It links back to Instagram.
Instant ($1.99) – This is a Polaroid camera at its little app finest. It was worth every penny to me. It even makes the proper sound and you shake and blow it to process – ha! Lots of different filters in this app as well, ability to change border colors, add text. All of that and so much more.
Photoshopmix and Lightroom (free) – Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom in an app form. You need to have or get an Adobe ID and you can then participate in a free trial for 30 days. After that expires, you can then elect to sign up for the monthly fee to have both. It is part of the Creative Cloud. This will also make it accessible from your computer or iPad or whatever it is you are editing on by entering your ID and password. These were freebies for me because I have both programs already for when I photograph on the side. I do however feel that if you are serious about photography in the slightest, the Adobe programs are next to none.
Pro Camera 8 ($4.99) – Uh huh. $5. BUT again, worth it. It allows you to pick shutter speeds, get the most out of the HDR setting – ok in simple terms – have the full functionality more or less as a DSLR camera. It’s amazing.
Pocketbooth ($0.99) – I would scream from mountain tops if there were mountains around me. This is so awesome. It has some filters (you can purchase other ones in the app) and it comes out in photo strip form. Here is an example with me and my little:
You can also purchase the photo strip from the company and they ship them right to you. La la la la love that option.
Camu (free) – One of my all time favorites. The filters are in spades. You get a handful to start out with and you can purchase other filter packs. I did. I again say well worth it. You can also put text over your photos like this (yes I photo my pretty food at times. don’t judge me):
So even though you just read about how to stage a proper photo, absolutely none of this is to say that you can’t get some pretty great spontaneous photos. That is the best part of having these great cameras in phones these days. Life is happening all of the time and sometimes you don’t have the minutes to sit and think about the background or where the sun is or which app to use. Just take the photo. Some of my best photos are the unplanned ones. You can always post-edit them if you need to. That is the awesomeness of those apps and many others out there.
They make smartphone cameras with up to 41 megapixels. That is insane. That is higher than most professionally used cameras for things like wedding and portrait photography. Just imagine the detail you can get out of these smartphones. With all of this glorious technology, we have the ability to capture moments in the blink of an eye without lugging around a huge camera bag and extra lighting and battery packs and that is a beautiful thing.
Now you’re camera ready.