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 .
- Damon Winter won 3rd place at Picture of the Year International for his photo essay from Afghanistan
- 11 time Illinois photographer of the year Scott Strazzante loves his hipstamatic
- Photojournalist Ben Lowry shoots in conflict zones with his iPhone
- Sports photographer Nick Laham took this set of the Yankees in a bathroom stall, and the picture of A-Rod made it to the NYT front page
- And Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Smith even includes Instagram shots in his portfolio
My 5 Favorite Apps
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.
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.
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.
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.
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