By Erica Horoky
Photography is changing. Just 10 years ago, disposable cameras were the standard and you wouldn’t dare call the photos taken on your Motorola RAZR “art”. Today, almost every American owns a cell phone and an estimated 25 percent own an iPhone. This means that most Americans carry a high-performance camera in their pockets, revolutionizing photography and what you would have considered a photographer to be.
“iPhoneography”, a term coined in 2008, has become one of Instagram’s favorite hashtags with over 2.7 million results, and the iPhone is the second most popular camera used on Flickr. There’s no doubting that for what it is (a portable device that you rarely leave the house without), it can take incredible photos if you take advantage of it. I’m going to highlight some tips, techniques, and apps that will help you stay on your Instagram A-game.
Natural light is your friend. Using flash can be helpful in some instances, but normally it results in a washed out and unnatural photo. If you’re taking photos outside, let the sun do the work.
Position your subject so that the sun is reflecting on him or her, but try to shoot when the sun is either rising or setting for soft, golden light. If the sun isn’t out, overcast days are just as great by providing soft, even lighting. If you’re taking photos inside, position your subject facing a window, or use a lamp for creative directional lighting. Experimenting can lead to awesome results, and putting the sunset behind your subject will create a silhouette.
Composition is a trickier subject, but always remember the rule of thirds. Turn the grid on in your settings and put your subject in one of the four intersections of the grid for a more eye-catching photo. If you’re taking a landscape shot, set the horizon line so that the photo is either 2/3 sky or land. Try to make use of lines and shapes in your photo, as well.
Choose your angle for a unique shot. Up high or down low, the angle you take is what makes the photo one of a kind. Shooting the same scene with different perspectives is sure to result in a photo worth bragging about to your Instagram followers. Try holding the iPhone at your hips, set it close to the ground, or hold it high above your head and you’ll get vastly different results. If you’re taking pictures of pets or children, get down to their eye level for a more impressive photo. Holding the iPhone at your hip in crowds can result in candid street shots. Subject matter matters the most.
Regardless of what kind of lighting, angle, or composition you use, usually if you’re shooting something we’ve all seen too many times before it doesn’t matter. Be wary of taking a photo of that park bench- it’s not that artsy.
It’s hard to take a bad picture of a flower, but we’ve seen those too much as well. If you can show your audience something they’ve never seen before (or something they’ve seen in a different way), you’ll captivate them and keep them interested. On another note, try to keep your subject isolated from any background clutter. Backgrounds play a huge role in making the subject stand out- try to choose a background with a muted color that compliments the subject.
Editing can play as much of a role as shooting the photo does. Here are some of my top picks for apps.
Afterlight: Afterlight has a large selection of neat “vintage” filters, effects such as lens flares, and impressive editing tools like vignette, highlights, shadows, and hue adjustments.
VSCO Cam: You’ve probably noticed your friends uploading pictures to Facebook through this app. VSCO Cam is becoming increasingly popular by providing quality filters that help make your photos appear as though they were taken with a 35mm camera. The separate focus and exposure rings yield greater creative results, as well.
Pro HDR: Pro HDR allows you to set two separate exposures, a feature missing from the iPhone’s standard camera. It takes two photos at different exposures then merges them together, eliminating the usual result of having a blown-out white sky or dark foreground. Facetune- Impressive results and incredibly easy to use, Facetune makes portraits look stunning. You can smooth skin, whiten teeth, increase detail, and amplify the tones of the image and it only takes a couple of minutes.
Many free apps have these features already, but Facetune does it much better and creates a professional looking result. Accessorizing your iPhone will give you the edge you need to make your photos really stand out. All of these accessories can be found on photography websites like www.photojojo.com, or Amazon, eBay, etc.
Lens kits: Most kits come with a fisheye, macro/wide, and telephoto lens. Depending on the brand, you can buy lens kits anywhere on the web from $10 to $70, a steal if you consider that most DSLR lenses can cost upwards of $1,000. Simply snap the lenses onto your iPhone and you’re all set to take amazing photos.
Tripods/grips: Tripods are useful when even the slightest bit of shaking could ruin your picture, especially common in night photography.
Tripods can be found for around $20. Grips are good to use when you need a steady hand while shooting video and can be found for around the same price.
Reflectors- Pocket reflectors are useful for shooting portraits. Use the white side to reflect soft natural light and the silver side to bounce back bright light onto your subject. You can purchase a reflector for around $15.
Pocket spotlight: Use the pocket spotlight when flash is necessary. The spotlight attaches to your iPhones aux port and gives off bright, even lighting. You can even remove it from your iPhone and angle it where you’d like for eye-catching directional lighting. You can buy it for $30.
If you stretch its capabilities, your iPhone is perfectly capable of holding its own up against some of the bigger, more expensive digital cameras.
Make an effort to shoot every day, and upload your photos to keep track of your improvements. After a while, you’ll find your photographic style and your photos will be recognized as your own. Above all else, practice.