*or at least like a Rock Star’s personal assistant.
Reading Time: A fair while. Approx. 1300 words of iPhotography gumph. Handy tips on using the iPhone’s Camera app, photo editing, colouring, framing & instagramming.
Hello 2012! Most of the stuffessay style, what’s wrong with the state of the world type thing. Not very easily digested or particularly helpful to you! So I thought I’d kick off the new year with a helpful guide as to how you can use your iPhone as a super-duper photography tool.
Being a self-confessed iPhone camera nerd I thought I’d show you the start to finish of how I take shots on the iPhone to when they’re sitting pretty on Instagram and Flickr. I’ve included a resource list and short spiel on each app at the very end of the post. This post is in order from taking the shots, through to editing and finishing with putting your work of art on Instagram. Feel free to scroll through to the headings that you’re interested in.
Instagram – Straight From the Horses Mouth:
It’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.
Snap a photo with your iPhone, choose a filter to transform the look and feel, send to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr – it’s all as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.
I use Instagram to edit some of my photos (cropping, filtering, borders), adding hastags, comments or locations and posting to flickr, facebook and twitter. The app has a small development team that are always coming up with new filters and there are a few million users worldwide; best of all, it’s free!
Like most social apps, Instagram suggests users and is haunted by a few celebrities. Instagram has it’s very own popular page; which if you’re lucky enough to take a lot of photos of kittens, crayons or Japanese girls you might get featured!2
Taking a Photo
You can use the Instagram app itself to take photos, making it a go-to-whoa solution, but I prefer to use the iPhone’s inbuilt camera app. A new feature in Apple’s ios5 which is very cool is that you can access the camera directly from the lock screen (double tap the home button), meaning you can pick up your iPhone and shoot straight away.
I’m going to skip the ‘what, how & why’ of photography as I’m still learning about that myself! There are only a few important things to keep in mind when taking a photo with the camera app:
Focus & Light – While the iPhone camera is as automatic as they come, you can determine what the camera focuses on. This won’t give you a crisp foreground and fuzzy background like a DSLR, but does give you control over the light in your photo. Two of the same photos below, touch the screen as to whether you want to light up the foreground or background. Turns a blown out shot into a nice silhouette sunset.
For the photo on the left, I’ve focused the touchscreen on the foreground, ‘over exposing’ the shot. The photo on the right I’ve focused the touchscreen on the sunset, under exposing the shot.
Space for Cropping & Borders – Keep in mind you may want to do some cropping or add borders later. The camera is 6 megapixel (8 for you lucky 4s owners). Leave some space around what you’re shooting and crop later if it makes it easier.
Avoid Camera Shake – The camera’s touch screen shutter button takes the photo when you take your finger OFF the screen. Avoid camera shake by framing your shot, touching the screen to select your focus/lighting and then touch and hold the shutter button, when you’re happy with your framed shot, gently release your finger for a much crisper photo.
If you want to take some amazing landscape shots there are several apps that simulate a HDR photo. I’ve been using Pro HDR with some tutorials I found from Instagram user @dgoebelt.
Landscape shots work best as there is less movement from the subject. The HDR apps take two (or more) photos with different light balances and combine them, giving you some amazing colours and defined high contrast edges.
Photosynth is the mother of all iPhone apps and still baffles me to this day as to how and why it’s free. Ignoring the fact that it’s a Microsoft app that actually works, if you only bother downloading one app from this blog post, make it Photosynth!
Photosynth is a photo-stitching app that simulates a fish-eye camera lens. You take several shots pretending you’re a camera tripod3 and the app will stitch them together. You can then open the Photosynth’s in the app itself to ‘look around’ the scene you’ve shot, or in any of the editing tools mentioned below to combine apps and come out with some crazy fisheye photos.
Cropping, Adjusting, Redeye and Viewing
Unlike a Mac or PC where you might catalogue your photos using Adobe Lightroom or similar, the iPhone camera app that got upgraded with ios5 is pretty good. The camera app is handy for cropping photos and removing any red eye.
I use FilterStorm for any major editting. FilterStorm is like having a basic version of Adobe Photoshop in your pocket. I’ve not even scratched the surface of this app but it is very handy for tilting and adjusting photos.
For landscapes and anything with a bit of drama in the background (oceans, night shots, sunsets, clouds, large surfaces of glass) the Dynamic Light App is number one. It’s straight forward, and allows you to preview what changes you’ve made.
You know those cute baby photos in black and white and the duck is yellow? They’re the easiest on an iPhone!
- Take full colour photo using the iPhone camera app,
- Open photo in Color Blast,
- Scribble in the duck (or skateboard) with your finger.
Done! Ok, you might have to zoom in, select the ‘fine’ tool and get the edges of the duck just right, but it’s pretty simple.
Effects & Camera+
Both of these apps have some fantastic filters and borders available. Again they’re a matter of loading something from your camera library (or you can take the photo directly with camera+), applying a filter & border and you’re done. Camera+ has the added benefit of being able to caption your finished product.
Borders & Frames
The previously mentioned Camera+ and Effects both have a borders component to the app which are both great, however there are a couple of stand-alone apps that I use.
For those in the know, and those soon to be in the know, all of the photos you publish on instagram will be 1×1 proportion (square). This suits the display of the iPhone, the frames available and kind of makes things a bit ‘polaroid’ which is kind of nice.
This becomes annoying when you take a great panoramic shot or anything that isn’t 1×1 proportion that you don’t want to crop. When you choose a rectangular photo to upload to instagram it will automatically zoom to the shortest sides of the photo (cropping the outside edges of a rectangle). The solution? The Squardy App!
Squardy is a simple app that takes your photo, allows you to crop, zoom or place the photo anywhere on a square background. In squardy you can also choose your background colour. This app looks the part when you’ve taken a nice panoramic photo.
Picframe is the equivalent of heading into a framing shop, and selecting a square photo frame that will house a few different photos of different sizes. The app allows for all sorts of configurations of photos and had become a bit of a must. Similar to the Squardy App, the user can select their colour of frame. I used the Picframe app to frame the three head shots on display at the top of this page.
Once you’ve taken your shot with the right light balance, cropped it, messed with the colours and and maybe pic framed it, it’s finally time to upload the shot to Instagram, hoorah! Of course, you can take a photo using the Instagram app itself which allows you to play with the photo filters in real-time; or simply take a shot with the camera app and upload this straight to Instagram. A full display of Instagram filters is available here.
Instagram does keep one thing up it’s sleeve, the tilt-shift function. The tilt-shift function allows you to blur parts of your image, either two parallel sections or focus on a circular area of your shot, shown below.
The two images above demonstrate the two different tilt-shit options that are accessible via the tear drop next to the ‘x’ in the top-right corner. The size of the tilt-shift can be changed by pinching in or out.
They also clearly show the pie special available at Culley’s Tearooms in Fremantle, highly recommended.
There you have it folks, my iPhone photography secrets revealed. If you’ve got any tips of your own please feel free to share below or shout out on twitter. As promised:
- Instagram – photo sharing app
- Pro HDR – take HDR shots with your iPhone camera
- Photosynth – stitch 360 degree panoramic shots
- Dynamic Light – add drama to backgrounds
- Color Blast – black and white photos with a touch of colour
- Effects – simple app to add filters and borders to photos
- Camera+ – your iPhone camera on ‘roids, plus filters and borders
- Squardy – frame your photos in a square format for instagram
- PicFrame – multiple photos in one frame
If you found this post helpful, could you please share it on your social network of choice via the share buttons below? Thank you!
- Stuff being the technical term of choice here. ↩
- The #ig popular page has a weird algorithm for selecting it’s popular photos. The photos selected have nothing to do with photography, more about the speed in which the photo is ‘liked’, or how many kittens appear in the photo. ↩
- For Photosynth, pretend you’re a tripod quite literally. The photos will stitch together better if you’re very still and shoot from the same spot. ↩
- Americans, don’t look so confused! Drop the ‘u’ in colour. Phew ↩
- I know, I know, I was confused by this one. Colour = Color, those crazy yanks. ↩