iPhone: An Essential Part of my Gear

For a while, my main camera was my iPhone 5s. I love this camera. While I try to take my A7R with me everywhere, that's not always possible. And taking a camera out in public or even in a social situation among friends immediately changes the environment you're trying to shoot. The image quality of iPhone cameras began to compete with point-and-shoots with the iPhone 4s. If you have that phone or later, you have the ability to take some stunning images.

In this article, I'll give you a brief overview of how the iPhone has been used by pro photographers, a list of my favorite apps, and a number of tutorials and example shots to make the most of your iPhone. 

Photojournalists Use iPhones Too

Several professional photographers use phone cameras, and some have even won major awards for their shots . 

"A Grunt's Life" by Damon Winters, 3rd Place POYI 2011

"A Grunt's Life" by Damon Winters, 3rd Place POYI 2011

My 5 Favorite Apps

  1. Instagram
  2. Hipstamatic
  3. ProHDR
  4. skrwt
  5. Provoke

1. Instagram

The Last Great Social Network

Instagram is the obvious choice for the top spot because it has the largest and most accessible community. There are social networks with better photos out there: Pixel 500, EyeEm, flickr, and VSCO - just to name a few - but Instagram has the largest community, which means more great photographers, more people who share your interests, and more people close to you taking pictures of the same things. All of this means more opportunities for inspiration and more people to meet. It's just a good way to become a better photographer.

2. Hipstamatic

The Best Filters for Your Phone

Of the five professional photographers using iPhones cited at the top of this page, three of them used Hipstamatic filters. With Hipstamatic, you select a lens and a film, and go shoot; there's no post-processing or changing your mind about what filter you want to use after the shot (for that, there's the companion app, Oggl). This process forces you to be mindful about how different effects and styles are better suited to different situations. If you're just starting out, this will all make you that much smarter when you do real post-processing.

3. ProHDR

No Other Software Will Improve the Image Quality of Your iPhone photos More

Having a tiny sensor on your phone means your camera has limited dynamic range - the spectrum of lights to darks that it can cover is simply smaller than a point and shoot camera. ProHDR improves on the built in iOS HDR function, although it works a lot slower: you'll need to stabilize your phone by propping it up, standing it on it's side, or standing really, really still.

4. skrwt

Hail Symmetry

This app does one thing only but it works so well it can't be left off this list: it straightens your photos. The iPhone has an effective 24mm focal length, which means a certain amount of distortion for the lines in your photos. Shots that are heavy on geometry (like say, architecture), benefit immensely from these corrections.

5. Provoke

Best Black and White Converter

These black and white conversions are inspired by late 1960s Japanese photography. They don't work for every picture, but if you can get your subject lit well, or at least sufficiently separated from its background, the first filter is just killer.

Tips for Taking Better iPhone Photos

Many of the tips below apply to pictures taken with any kind of camera, but some apply doubly for the iPhone. Remember, the sensor on this camera is the size of a fingernail, so basics of good photography like good lighting and stabilizing your camera are even more important when you take your phone pics. Good luck!

Use Filters to Learn About Complimentary Colors

Use Window Light for Better Food Shots

Use B&W to Emphasize Tone and Mood


Use Clean B&W to Emphasize Lines & Shapes

Use Hipstamatic John S + Black Keys Supergrain for B&W Street Photography


Use Hipstamatic Foxy + Sugar for Color Street Photography


Use HDR for Architecture

Use Harsh Daylight to Freeze Action

Use Fragment to Make Patterns Even More Interesting

Use Your Headphones as a Shutter Release To Take Street Candids

Use an OlloClip Macro Attachment to Get Close

Less is More

Use Shadows and Reflections

Use 16x9 to Discover New Compositions