This might come as a big surprise but you have had a quality camera sat in your pocket for months now, maybe even years. For all those precious moments you wish you had your SLR or compact to hand, you did in fact have your iPhone with you. It may not have even crossed your mind to make a capture with your phone but the results can be surprisingly good. In this post I intend to outline a few tips that will help you capture a moment as you remember it and make best use of your iPhone’s capabilities.
1. Improve your composition
Get composition right and you have done the hard work. You are looking to frame the shot, to include what you feel is relevant and exclude elements of the scene that you feel detract from the image. To some extent “compostion” can be learnt through practice and we can often find that accidental clicks of the shutter at inopportune moments can result in a style of framing that we begin to adopt.
- Move all around your subject and look for the way the light falls and the best angle – get low on the floor and roll around in the dirt! If possible don’t rush this as you may miss an epic shot.
- Try shooting into the sun (contra jour) and use elements in the frame to block the sun itself.
- Experiment with the phone in portrait orientation as well as landscape. This can suit more “vertical” subjects.
- Artists often try to position their subject 1/3 of the way into the frame with key focal points on the intersection points of the 1/3rd lines – see the red dots (left).
Common mistakes include: the subject being too small in the frame, subject being metaphorically decapitated, subject being bang in the centre (though this can work for some images e.g. for symmetry).
Moving forward: Practice, practice and experiment.
2. Select your focus
We can actually select the area we want our iPhone to focus on rather than suffer images where our phone has chosen what to focus on. You do this by simply touching the screen in the area you want to be in focus. A square appears (see right) to indicate that the phone is going to focus in this area. You would usually choose this point to be the place where the eyes would naturally fall first when you look at a scene, for example the eyes in portrait head shot.
3. Understand the capture/zoom function
By touching the screen for focus selection you will also note that there is a slider which gives you an option to zoom in. Beware that the camera has a digital zoom and therefore you are optically degrading the quality of the image as you zoom in. The best zoom you have is at the bottom of your legs – your feet – get moving. Unless zooming in with the camera zoom helps you frame the image it might be pertinent to save the “zooming” to be done via a crop in the post processing software.
The shutter button operates in an unusual manner and the capture is not taken until your finger is RELEASED from the button. I find that keeping my thumb/index finger depressed on the button for a while and then releasing it at the appropriate moment allows me to more carefully manage the timing and avoid missing out on special moments.
Be careful to check that by holding the phone your hand does not obscure the lens at front (easily done). It is worth double checking after your capture for this.
4. Understand shutter speeds
You may be getting blurred results from your captures and in some cases this may suit you. This is likely caused by an unsteady hand or you are moving the camera during the capture when you press the shutter. If appropriate find something to “lean” the camera on and use a self timer app to avoid camera shake e.g. a wall/rock though a lump of blu-tak is useful as well. There are a number of apps which encompass a self timer out there e.g.
- Apimac’s Self Timer
- Horizon’s Self-Timer
- Waplestore’s just.SelfTimer
Of course in low light shutter speeds will be slower and without rigid support there is a good chance your shot will be blurred despite the camera trying to compensate by increasing the sensitivity of the sensor (noisier images). This may suit you creatively and is worth experimenting with. Be wary that indoor images tend to develop a colour cast (orange/red) but you can compensate for this by going for a black and white filter in the post processing.
5. Use post processing apps
There are plenty of apps out there to alter your pictures after the fact. And let’s be honest, a touch of PP (post processing) can make a good picture great. Here are a couple I find really effective and quick and easy to use:
- Instagram http://instagr.am/ A great photo manipulation/sharing utility which will post your images to flickr, facebook, twitter etc. Loads of artistic old school style filters including a great tilt shift tool (for selective focus)
- Photoshop http://www.photoshop.com/products/mobile/express/ios Great for simple image edits such as crop, colour, sharpen. Some creative elements too such as borders, black and white…
- Hipstamatic http://hipstamaticapp.com/ Emulate that “analog” camera look with a choice of films, lens, flash etc.
- Photosynth http://photosynth.net/capture.aspx Create 360 degree panoramas automatically stitched together on your iPhone
By incorporating these tips into your workflow on a regular basis, the quality of the images you are producing from your hand held device will steadily improve. If you have anything further to add which has vastly helped you, please feel free to let me know…
All the photographs (not the diagram or screenshot) in this post were taken, edited and uploaded from an iPhone 4.