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How to Use an iPhone for Photography

Photography for Beginners, Photography Tips and Advice

How to use an iPhone for photography

Mobile photography is getting more and popular, and with the way smartphones and their cameras are progressing, it is bound to become even more common. Because regardless of how powerful your DSLR or mirrorless camera is, you are not going to have it on you at all times, even if you are a professional photographer. Sure, there are some pretty compact mirrorless cameras, but even then, you will miss a ton of opportunities to capture beautiful images, because you didn’t bring your camera along on that particular occasion. On the other hand, the camera on your smartphone is always there with you, because, let’s face it, nobody leaves the house without a smartphone anymore.

And when it comes to smartphones that are capable of capturing professional-looking shots, iPhone stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. But, whether you have the latest iPhone Pro models or some of the older editions, you can still take your iPhone photography to the next level through a combination of different photography techniques, as well as third-party apps. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best tips that will turn your regular iPhone photos into art.

Take Control over Focus and Exposure

Why use your iPhone for photography

If you want your iPhone photos to look as if they were shot using a professional DSLR, then you need to start treating your iPhone like one, which means you need to assume control over two of the most important shooting parameters: focus and exposure.

Even some of the most advanced cameras will get the exposure wrong if you leave them on Auto, and it’s the same with your iPhone.

The good news is, you can do a lot with the Camera app. When you open the app to take a photo, you can easily set focus by simply touching the subject you want to focus on on the screen.  

To lock the settings, hold your tap until the “AE/AF Lock” setting appears at the top of the screen. Once you have done that, you have the freedom to readjust your angle or recompose your image without having to set focus again. And you can pretty much lock the exposure in the same way, after you have selected the right one by sliding your finger.

Compose Your Image Using the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds involves dividing your frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Your subject, or the most interesting parts of the image, should rest along those lines and their intersections. It makes for a much visually pleasing image.

Instead of imagining those lines, you can simply make use of the grid on your iPhone. Go to Settings – > Camera, and then click on the “Grid” toggle switch to activate the grid on your screen. Once it’s activated, it will help you position your subject in accordance with the rule of thirds. Keep in mind that this rule, while helpful, does not work in absolutely every situation.

But, even if you don’t plan on composing your image this way, the grid overlay is still a helpful thing to have, because it allows you to level the horizon, as well as find leading lines that guide the viewer’s eye to the subject of your photo.

Learn to use your iPhone for photography

Try Some Third-Party Apps

Center-weighted metering mode

One of the best things about the iPhone is that it has opened its doors to developers of third-party apps, which means you can assume even greater control over how your images will turn out. In case you are not satisfied with controlling only the focus and exposure (and you shouldn’t be), third-party apps enable you to alter settings such as shutter speed, ISO, and white balance, just to name a few. This way, you won’t have to edit your images in post-production or add filters, at least when it comes to the elements we have just mentioned. They will turn out perfect right away.

Pro Tip: Put third-party photo apps in your Dock, so that you can activate them easily from your Home screen.

Make Use of Burst Mode for Fast Action Shots

In the not-so-far-away past, shooting fast action and capturing clear and blur-free images used to be reserved for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

However, that sort of thing is now possible even with your iPhone, provided that it’s not older than iPhone 5s, because it has Burst mode. This functionality allows you to capture a series of images in succession, which means you will never miss out on those precious moments which come and go in a fraction of a second.

Fun Fact: Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh shot his entire movie “Unsane” using an iPhone 7+

Partial metering mode

To activate Burst mode, you only need to tap the shutter button and then hold it down for as long as you want to take images for, or until the buffer runs out, which depends on how old or new your iPhone device is. You will also be able to see a counter at the bottom of the screen notifying you about the number of images you have taken. To stop shooting in Burst mode, simply take your finger off the shutter button, and all of the photos will be saved to your Camera Roll.

Shoot Your Images in RAW

Spot metering mode on your camera

When you shoot regular images, they only represent your camera’s guess on what you want them to look like. However, if you decide to capture your images using the RAW format, you will be able to edit them after the fact, without loss of information for the most part.

When you shoot in RAW, all of the data from the sensor is captured and provided for you. The trade-off is that these images have a lot more data in them, and therefore take up more space. But, you can end up with some pretty stunning images after you have edited things like white balance, exposure, contrast, or colour temperature.

In order to shoot RAW you’ll need to download a third party app. Applications like VSCO, Adobe Lightroom, Manual, and ProCam are probably your best choice. VSCO is great because it’s very lightweight and provides you with plenty of options not just for editing, but for exporting your images as well. Adobe Lightroom is extremely powerful, but more resource-heavy and it requires you to sign up for the Adobe Creative Cloud if you want to export your images.

Refocus Your Images

One of the downsides of shooting with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera is that you (usually) have to get the focus right before pressing the shutter button. After the image is captured, there is very little you can do in case you are not happy with how you’ve focused your photo. Some attempts have been made in the shape of the Lytro camera, but ultimately it didn’t find any success.

However, you can try something similar by using Focos or similar apps. This app allows you to refocus your image after you have already captured it, provided that you have an iPhone with multiple cameras.

Easily change the camera focus on your iPhone

Use a Tripod

Use a tripod when shooting photos on your iPhone

Although there are plenty of accessories nowadays you can buy to enhance your iPhone, especially when it comes to photography, the only thing you will really need is a tripod. But, before you can get a tripod, you need to buy an appropriate adapter for it, which usually comes in the shape of a clamp that can be attached to a standard tripod mount, such as numerous Joby clamps.

As for the tripod itself, you can opt for the usual design with extendable legs, or you can get one of the GorillaPod models, which not only allow you to stabilise your iPhone, but also to put it in a variety of places which are usually inaccessible for standard tripods. 

Switch Up Your Angles

Your iPhone camera might not be as powerful as a DSLR, but it is very light and very compact, which enables you to get it in places where your normal camera wouldn’t otherwise fit. And because it’s so light, you don’t have to bend over backwards, literally, in order to get a good low-angle shot.

You can put your iPhone in any kind of position with relative ease and take pictures from unusual angles. Speaking of angles, most iPhone users shoot their images at chest level. And while there is nothing wrong with that, your images will end up looking the same. Try and shoot using different angles and interesting perspectives. You will be surprised at how great your photos will turn out to be.

Change angles easily with your iPhone photos

Final Word 

Making the most out of your iPhone’s camera and creating some stunning photos is easier than you think. All you have to do is start implementing some or all of the tips we have laid out in this guide, and before you know it, you will have a stunning collection of images you can be proud of. Good luck!

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