The iPhone…a technological marvel that has dominated the mobile phone market, pop culture, and everyday life. Since 2007, Apple has been pushing out new models more or less yearly, and thankfully, the camera has been the focus (pun totally intended) of its improvements in the last few iterations.
From software features to aperture improvements, the iPhone is well along in its journey to a complete point-and-shoot camera replacement; many users would argue it’s already there.
Believe it or not, at the time of this writing, the 4 most popular cameras on Flickr are all iPhones; the 5, 4S, 4, and 5S, in that order. More popular than any DSLR, and yes, that includes the juggernaut that is the Canon 5D Mark II.
But is shooting with an iPhone just like a point-and-shoot? What else do you need to know to make sure your photos are Facebook worthy?
Know the Low-Light Limitations
Unfortunately, this is where the iPhone is NOT equal to point-and-shoot cameras; until the iPhone 5 was released, the low-light performance was…well, horrible. The improved sensor in the 5 made it possible to take better shots, but still not up to par with what you could expect from a decent point-and-shoot. The 5S takes the best pictures yet, but as a general rule, you’ll want to take most of your shots during the day, or where plenty of light is available. Of course, there is flash, but we all know that isn’t the kind of light we want when attempting to take a great shot.
Setup the Camera before Using
With the introduction of iOS7, a slew of new modes and features were added to the iPhone camera app, including Instagram-like filters, and a pretty good burst mode for taking several shots in quick succession. Many users forget to take a look at the settings within the camera app and get everything setup before you start snapping away. There are many options here such as slideshow settings, turning grid lines on and off, and enabling HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos.
Ditch the Zoom
Without going into a whole section on how zoom works on cameras, the main point to take away here is that mobile phones, including the iPhone, use digital zoom, as opposed to optical zoom. In a nutshell, this means that cameras using optical zoom have mechanics that move the lens closer and further away from the sensor, whereas digital zoom emulates this through electronics and software. The bottom line to this is, digital zoom is degrading to the image. Unless you want a pixelated and ugly final product, don’t touch that zoom slider!
You’re Holding it Wrong..
Generally, in photography, most photos would be taken in landscape (horizontal) format. Usually, you’d want to do the same with your iPhone, unless a situation arises that requires a lot of height in the shot. Hold the iPhone just like you would a point-and-shoot camera, by the corners, with both hands steady. You’ll find that the shots are more pleasing in that orientation.
Learn How the Focus and Exposure Work
The iPhone gives you an easy way of focusing in your photo; simply tap anywhere on the screen where your subject appears, and the camera will automatically set focus and exposure based on that spot. Both of these items can also be locked; hold down (long press) on the spot you want to lock, and focus and exposure will be set until you touch it again, allowing you to recompose your shot anyway you like.
Try a Different App
There are literally dozens upon dozens of third party camera apps on the Apple App Store; including Instagram, ProCamera 7 and the incredible Camera+ (which I highly recommend). As good as the camera app is on the iPhones, especially the 5 and above, there’s nothing wrong with branching out and trying some of these other apps. Most offer improvements to what Apple gives you, and in some cases, new features that aren’t even available on the default app. Did I mention you should try Camera+?
This is the internet, after all; the greatest compilation of information anywhere…so go use it! Not only will you find mobile phone photography tips and techniques on the big photography sites, there are tons of great sites dedicated to the art of mobile photography, and even some specifically for the iPhone. Make Google your friend, and start exploring!
Let us know if you have any additional tips we missed, we’d love to hear them! And in the meantime, check out some of these iPhone-centric photography sites:
- iPhone Photography School
- 10 of the Best iPhone Photographers
- All You Need to Know about iPhone Photography