In the past, taking good photos inherently required lots of equipment, experience and time. It was not a profession, let alone a hobby, for everyone. These are still very important features in professional photography today, yet we are now in the age of “iPhoneography”, where these pocket devices can take splendid snapshots in a matter of seconds, without the need to carry any camera bags with you. Any user can take high-quality photos, ready to be printed or framed at no expense of quality.
Back in 2012, photojournalist, Dan Chung took all his shots at the Olympics with an iPhone 4S. The results were surprisingly good, and as a photojournalist, being able to upload images just as he took them was undoubtedly a great plus.
This is not to mention that the iPhone’s camera has come a long way since then, from 8 to 12 megapixels in the most recently released model, the iPhone 6S.
However, aside from a megapixel increase, there are many ways and shortcuts to taking great iPhone photos.
The iPhone’s camera provides built-in filters, as do many other apps like Enlight or VSCO Cam. These do not replace well-taken photos in terms of composition, framing or lighting, but can give good quality pictures a finishing touch without the need for fancy editing software. A particularly good app for this is Snapseed.
Using the volume button as a shutter button allows a steady, almost camera-like hold on your device, which will, in turn, remove shakiness from photos, especially in darker images. This can also be improved by bringing your elbows close to your body and holding your breath as you press the button.
Do not use zoom, especially if you are planning to print your photos. Rob Dunsford at iPhone Photography School explains that “digital zoom means that a small portion of the zoomed-out version of the image is being enlarged, and this process creates a much poorer quality image.” It is then, much more worthwhile getting physically closer to your subject.
The flash should also be used sparingly. By artificially lighting the subject, especially in dark spaces, it can create an unnatural atmosphere. It’s best to try using natural light or other sources of artificial light when possible. It is also worth giving a try to the HDR (high dynamic range) option. When this is enabled on your iPhone’s camera app, your phone actually takes multiple pictures when pressing the shutter button. These images are then combined to form an image that is well-exposed in all areas. In natural light, the colours will be boosted.
Composition is key
One of the easiest tricks to remember is the rule of thirds: you need to imagine there are two horizontal and two vertical lines, dividing the screen into three vertical and three horizontal evenly sized portions.
Most DSLR models give the option to display this grid automatically on the screen, and the iPhone is no different. You can quickly switch on the guide by tapping Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid. By finding a subject or focal point and aligning with any of these lines, the audience will know what they are supposed to be focusing on as their eyes are drawn to a certain point of the composition. The grid can also be really useful when creating perfectly symmetrical images, and it also applies to framing subjects diagonally, as shown in the photo below. In this case, the focus point is taking up most of the hypothetical bottom left square.
Don’t be afraid of experimenting with the iPhone’s built-in frames to create interesting effects further than the usual three-by-four. These include, for example, Square or 1:1 mode, which was popularised by Instagram (though it is no longer the only accepted frame) and you can find them by swiping right on the camera app.
But one of the iPhone’s most fun and exciting features is Panorama. One of the reasons it is so amazing is because the results are much closer to the field of vision the human eye actually experiences. These photos can be taken quickly and easily with the iPhone’s native camera app.
Taking panorama photos horizontally is only half the fun. Vertical panorama photos can be just as interesting, if not more as proven by Mike Olivella. Just hold your phone horizontally and tap the yellow line to switch between panning up or down.
There is certainly an art to taking panorama shots. Finding a focal point is even more important in this format. Once identified, it is easy to plan “how the scene and the distortions created by the panoramic photograph will frame the subject and lead the viewers eye towards it”, as recommended in Mobiography.
As a panorama photo is essentially many regular photos stitched together, sometimes light variations can cause certain areas of the photograph to be over- or under-exposed. This can be easily corrected by locking the exposure. To do this, its is only necessary to tap and hold the screen at a medium range exposure point, somewhere not too bright or too dark.
Finally, the key is to experiment. One of the best things about digital photography is the infinite amount of chances to repeat a shot until you are perfectly happy with it.
Check out our range of print options for iPhone panorama photos here.