Carrying a camera bag or even a DSLR, is not always that easy. This is one of the reasons why iPhone photography or iPhoneography has grown by leaps and bounds.
No more grabbing the backpack and tripod. Your cellphone and our iPhone photography tips are all you need to take great photos.
12. Easy Access to Your Native iPhone Camera
You never know when you might stumble on something that requires a rapid response to capture the shot.
But every time you have to unlock the phone before selecting the camera app.
Head over to your phone’s settings and make sure you can quickly swipe the screen left and the camera opens up ready to go.
11. Use a Selfie Stick to Broaden Your Perspective
To some degree, the smartphone gets a lot of credit for the Selfie craze we see today. No longer do we need to ask a stranger to take our picture in front of an amazing background.
What’s great about a selfie stick is that you are no longer limited to the length of your arm.
In these photos, you can see where the view was limited at arm’s length. The other photo uses a selfie stick for a broader perspective.
These can be very handy not only for selfies. If the stick has legs, you can use it like a tripod.
This is especially helpful in low light conditions. That’s when camera movement might cause blur.
10. Try the Self Timer
Use the self-timer feature to capture a different style of selfies or any scene for that matter. The timer can be set for 3 or 10 seconds. Which time you choose depends on you.
3 seconds is not a lot of time but can be useful when you want to take a picture without touching the camera.
The 10-second feature is better if you want enough time to press the shutter and then get in front of the camera.
9. How to Set the Focus
Most of the time, the focus will be sharp throughout an average scene due to the iPhone’s tiny sensor.
This is for when you want something specific to be sharp such as a close-up. Using the set focus feature will ensure that your main subject is sharp.
This photo is a close-up of the flowers.
As you can see, the focus is not on the flowers and is more average for the scene.
The solution is simple. Touch the screen and place the yellow square in the area you want to be in focus.
By placing the subject closer to the camera and making it in focus, the depth of field appears shallow.
This throws the background more out of focus for a nice effect.
8. Work With Different Shooting Modes
Depending on the Apple iPhone model (whether it’s an iPhone 5S, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, etc.), there are several modes you can choose from. These include:
Time-Lapse and Slo-Mo for videos
- Photo (4×3 Ratio)
- Square (2×2)
- Pano (for panoramas)
The latest models also have a Portrait Mode.
While capturing still photos, the 4×3 Photo mode is a perfect ratio for many scenes.
Take this cracked mud in the desert. The foreground is close to the camera and the top of the photo is further.
Using the 4×3 Photo mode gives the impression of depth.
Square mode is also very useful when you have a subject that fills the frame.
The Panorama feature can be a lot of fun and is very easy to use. Select the Pano mode, touch the shutter button, and then move the camera from left to right.
It works best if you have a tripod to keep the camera level. If you don’t have one, try your best to keep the camera level while panning left to right.
You might notice the photo above has a black strip in the lower left and upper right. This is the result of the camera not maintaining a level position while moving left to right.
The camera was higher on the left and lower as it approached the right side. You can crop this out though.
7. Crop Your Images
Sometimes you might capture an image and later discover something in your photo you want to crop out. That was the case with this old rusty piece of mining equipment.
I did not care for the vertical pole on the left side of the background and decided to crop it out. This left the subject more centred in the frame.
To use the Crop feature, choose the photo from the camera roll and open it, then select Edit. At the bottom next to Cancel, is the crop tool.
Click that and then you can drag the sides or corners anywhere you wish on the photo.
And if your horizon is tilted, use two fingers to rotate and straighten. Or drag on the dial right below the picture.
6. Adjusting the Exposure
The iPhone’s metering is for the most part automatic.
Average scenes with average lighting may expose correctly. But there may be times where the iPhone falls short.
Fortunately, adjusting exposure is quite easy.
This full tonal range image is easy to meter and expose.
Here is a scene I chose due to the high contrast of backlighting.
This exposure is the iPhone’s average metering. It preserved some shadow detail and highlight detail.
While that is what it is designed to do, it feels too dark. That makes it a perfect image for using the spot metering feature.
Wherever you tap on the screen to set focus, you also are choosing that spot to meter exposure. I clicked on the shadows of the tree trunk.
The result was an adjusted exposure for better shadow exposure.
This is a good approach for selecting zones that need a change in exposure. But it won’t work for everything.
In that case, you can adjust the global brightness with the exposure slider.
Start by tapping on the screen where you will see the Sun symbol next to the yellow box.
The sun symbol is the slider to adjust exposure so slide the symbol up or down to lighten or darken.
Here is a perfect example of adjusting global exposure. There’s high contrast lighting and deep shadows in the rear.
The camera exposure was off quite a bit. It compromised to maintain detail in shadows and some highlights.
To get a correct exposure, I used the sun slider. I darkened the whole image until the highlights were set to proper exposure.
This created a darker background but that is okay since the subject is the flowering plant.
5. Using the Flash
Adding Flash to your subject can be very useful in some situations. The iPhone flash is not very powerful, so its usefulness is limited to a few feet. In bright sun, the flash does not do so well but in the shade, it can be a different story.
If you look at these wildflower photos, you can see on the left the photo with no flash.
On the right, I added flash fill. The flowers are brighter while the background stays more or less the same.
4. Use ‘View on Map’
Have you ever captured a photo and later wondered where you took the photograph?
It has happened to me many times over the years, but the iPhone has a feature called View on Map. It is quite simple to use.
Open your camera roll and find the photo you are wondering about. Once the photo is open, slide up from the bottom and the map shows up with the location.
3. How to Create HDR on Your iPhone
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. On IOS devices, the camera takes three exposures: light, dark, and normal.
Then it blends them together to create an image with more detail throughout the highlights and shadows.
This is a very valuable feature. Use it when photographing high contrast scenes with dark shadows and bright highlights.
Let’s look at these two photos.
Comparing these two photos you can see the obvious difference. The left image has no HDR applied while the right image is an HDR image.
Start by comparing the two columns on the left side.
The HDR image is a little greyer than the left image.
Same with the beach. The right image seems more of a proper exposure as the sand, people, and sky are a hint darker.
2. Using Available Light
Mastering all the settings of iPhone photography is certainly necessary to creating great photography. But you can’t forget the creative side as well.
Great lighting and composition are just as important in telling the story you wish to tell.
Outdoor natural light is defined by: Quality, Quantity, Direction, and Color.
The quality of light often includes how soft or hard the light is. Quantity relates to brightness. Lots of light is usually bright while darker conditions have less available light.
Direction defines the angle the light is coming from and Color is just that: the colour of the light.
An overcast day outside produces very soft light. But a cloudless sky at sunrise will create light with a lot of contrast.
Overcast light was perfect for this maple. It benefited from the low contrast, soft light.
Harsh, late afternoon sunlight was perfect for this scene for several reasons.
The scene consists of highlight areas with not a lot of shadow areas.
The light is very directional coming from the side, which helps define the textures in the scene.
Backlight coming through the door of this historic jail cell creates a lot of contrast.
This results in many bright tones and dark tones with limited mid-zones.
This Side lighting works very well when you wish to emphasise fine detail.
Here, the texture of the rusting metal, bolts, and seams is enhanced. Side lighting makes this old mining equipment stand out.
The colour of light is often most notable at sunrise or sunset, where the light turns very golden. This creates a warm and fuzzy impression.
Cool or cold light is often blue in tone and can create the impression that the temperature is cold outside.
For this beach scene in Belize, the amber colour of the scene provides that warm tropical feel.
1. Working With Composition
The composition is also a crucial ingredient to great iPhone photography. Here are a couple examples where the rules worked very well.
There is a great tool on the iPhone and it is the grid feature. These lines exemplify the Rule of Thirds. They divide your composition into horizontal and vertical lines.
You can place a subject along any line. Or where the lines intersect (visual hotspots).
The pine tree is placed on the 1/3rd left vertical line. By placing it there, the other 2/3rds of the scene are the background.
This approach creates scene depth.
The diagonal lines of this stairway create a Z pattern, allowing our eyes to follow it to the top of the picture.
This line on a dock has a leading line composition. It forces the viewer to follow the line to the distance.
Positioned in a 1/3 hot spot within the composition, this green plant gets more attention.
It draws the viewer to the plant surviving in a harsh environment.
The iPhone is an amazing camera, capable of capturing much of what a DSLR can.
Hopefully these tips will guide you to creating better iPhone photography. Remember to master the shortcuts the iPhone has. And also to look for great lighting and expressive compositions.
We have a great guide to transferring your iPhone photos to your computer you can check out too.