Photography tips

Experiment safely with filters

You’ve probably already played around a lot with the filters you can apply when taking photos on your iPhone – if not, you access them by tapping on the three overlapping circles icon in the top right corner of the Camera app. If you’re indecisive like me, it’s often hard choosing the right filter… and then you get another pang of indecisiveness after taking the picture that you wish you’d chosen another. However, all is not lost! Even though the filter looks like it’s been applied permanently in the Camera Roll, the iPhone has actually saved the original photo, which can be accessed (and further edited with another filter) just by tapping the ‘Edit’ button. This goes for the Light, Color and B&W controls too – everything has been applied ‘non-destructively’ – i.e. you’re free to swap and change the effect after you’ve shot the photo. You could also try one of the many apps that turn photos to paintings – converting your latest iPhone snap into a work of art could be just one click away!

Experiment with backlight

If you’re into photography, you’ve probably heard more than once that you shouldn’t point your camera towards the source of light. Well, rules are made to be broken :-) As long as you know them in-depth, you can purposefully break them – there’s nothing which will guarantee a more intriguing photo. Backlight can really create an amazing atmosphere in your images, it’s also great for emphasizing outlines and forms. If you haven’t tried it – you should definitely experiment! Next time the sun is out and coming in from an angle (early or late in the day works best), compose your shot, then slowly move your iPhone so the sun creeps in to your shot. Pro Tip: if your iPhone allows you to adjust your aperture (or you’re using a camera app that does), experiment with ‘stopping down’ – i.e. making your aperture smaller. This can create some unusual effects with the light flare.

Use 3D Touch to jump to get a camera headstart

If you have any iPhone newer than (and including) the 6s model, you can take advantage of something called ‘3D Touch’ – basically a forceful tap/press of your finger on the screen to evoke other options. By pressing down harder on the icon for the Camera app on your iPhone screen, you’ll get the option of jumping straight to slo-mo, video, selfie or regular photo mode. No doubt in a future update of iOS, we’ll be given even more 3D Touch options, which will further extend its capabilities.

Post-process your photos for maximum impact

This one is closely related to exploring the opportunities which the third-party editing apps give. I often use the VSCO Photo & Video Editor app and RNI films to tweak my photos and to add a bit of atmosphere. They both offer a wide variety of filters which are also customizable so you can always play with the opacity of the filter itself or simply get rid of the green tint you don’t like in the shadows. These editing apps also make it possible to additionally adjust contrast, saturation, white balance, vignetting and a few other handy things.

Make the most of Portrait Mode

If you’ve got a newer model of iPhone (such as the X series, 7 Plus or 8 Plus), you can take advantage of ‘Portrait’ Mode to blur the background of your photos. Normally, blurring the background in an image is reserved for expensive lenses and cameras, so being able to do this with a smartphone is simply incredible, and a taste of what’s to come in the exciting world of computational photography. It takes a very keen eye to actually tell the difference between a photo shot on an expensive camera, and an iPhone using portrait mode. First, open the camera app, then select ‘Portrait’ at the bottom of the screen. When the camera has focused on the subject and blurred the background, you’ll see ‘Natural Light’ or ‘Depth Effect’ appear on the screen. Then just tap the shutter button to take a stunning portrait photo, complete with a blurry background. Pro Tip: On some of the latest iPhones, you can actually adjust the blur strength after you’ve shot the photo. Simply tap ‘Edit’ in the Photos app on the photo, then drag the Depth slider beneath your photo – a lower ‘f-number’ designates more blur, and vice versa with a high number.

Steady yourself to nail a low light shot

iPhones are great for photography when the light is good, but as soon as it becomes to get darker, they tend to struggle. There is, of course, the option to use the built-in flash, and that’s what a lot of amateurs choose to do, but you’ll find that this often yields less than ideal results. In order to get a sharper shot with your iPhone in low light, you’ll need to eliminate any camera movement. There are a few ways to do this. The best way is to use an iphone tripod – these are often available cheaply, and can easily be slipped into your pocket. Another way is to rest your phone on a solid object, and prop it up with whatever is close by – a cup of coffee, your bag, etc. If there’s nothing to rest it on, prop yourself up by leaning against something solid like a tree or lamppost. Then, brace your arms close to your body, and try and press the shutter button (or better still, use your earphone’s volume button), to get as steady a shot as possible. Pro Tip: Another option is to use a separate light, be it a torch, an LED keyring, or even someone else’s phone light – by angling the light on your subject’s face, the effect can be much more pleasing than direct flash.

Get creative with Shutter Speed

Adjusting your shutter speed can give you additional creative options when photographing moving subjects – slowing your shutter down, for example, allows you to display moving water as a sea of creamy fluff. Speeding it up allows you to freeze a jumping child, etc. The iPhone camera app doesn’t allow you to alter the shutter speed, but many 3rd party apps do – Camera+ 2 is a good one. Next time you’re out at night, try placing your iPhone on something sturdy, then using Camera+ 2 to slow your shutter speed right down, then trigger the shutter using your iPhone earphone’s volume up button – you’ll see how much more you can capture in the image, vs a straight shot at a higher shutter speed.

Frame” your image to draw attention

This tip can be applied not only to iphone photography but to most types of visual art in general. It’s basically creating a frame within the frame that’s already defined by your photo itself. To create this inner frame you can use any element of the scene you’re shooting. It could be the branches of a tree pointing to your subject, pulled back curtains, an open door or a window. Framing draws the attention of the viewer right to the subject of your photograph and it also creates a “layered” effect which saves the photo from looking flat and unexciting.

Capture it all with burst mode

There has always been something magnetic and attractive about moving subjects. They’re very often the reason for the “Wow” effect of your photo, but they’re also notoriously difficult to catch on a phone. iPhone photography offers an easy way to make sure you’ve grabbed the precious moment: it’s called burst mode. In order to turn it on, you simply need to hold your finger on the shutter button once you have the camera app up and running, and multiple shots will be fired off automatically. The camera has the capability of taking around 10 photos per second until you remove your finger from the button! Using the burst mode significantly increases the chance of capturing the subject in the most desirable pose. You can also have a play around with live photos, which capture 1.5 seconds before and after your photo. Pro Tip: Shooting in burst mode too often can quickly fill up your iPhone storage. In order to reduce the number of unnecessary images, click ‘Select’ after shooting the burst, tap the photo(s) you want to keep, then tap ‘Done’ and choose to keep only your favourite shots – everything else will be deleted.

Shoot in HDR mode for more impact

Our eyes have the ability to perceive highly contrasted scenes such as sunsets, and we’re so used to it that we don’t even pay attention. The iPhone camera (or any other camera), however, doesn’t have the capability of registering such great dynamic ranges of luminosity. So here comes the HDR option to save the day! HDR or high-dynamic-range imaging is a technique that makes it possible for the camera to capture details both in the dark and the light areas of the photo. To activate the HDR option you’ll need to open the camera app, tap on “HDR” at the top left corner of the screen and then choose “On”. Pro Tip: Turn on the option in Settings > Photos & Camera to save the original photo too – that way you can take advnatge of HDR photos, but also have the non-HDR version as well for you to choose from.