I’ve photographed more than a decade using a DSLR. I documented concerts and events here in Vienna before I turned to travel photography. During trips in 2012, I started to use the iPhone as a snapshot camera and I was positively surprised by the image quality.
So on one day in Las Vegas in 2012, I left the DSLR in the hotel and photographed an entire day only using my iPhone. Starting that day, I used my iPhone more and more to photograph during my trips.
A few months later, I sold my DSLR and all accessories and fully turned to iPhone photography, despite the limitations of the iPhone camera at that time.
As camera and editing apps became better and better, those limitations faded and today I can use techniques like shooting long exposures or get low noise photos at night, all using an iPhone. Using a very limited number of iPhone photo apps I can even retouch photos right on the iPhone. I can remove objects and people and work with layers and masks. Something, that previously required me to use a desktop computer.
So over the years, iPhone not only replaced my camera, but it also replaced my notebook for editing, managing and sharing my travel photos. I can do it all with a single device in the palm of my hand.
Here are some of my personal favourite shots that I took and edited with different iPhone models:40-second long exposure of the London Eye at nightVictory Square in Minsk, BelarusFerris Wheel in Pripyat, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
So here are five tips to get you started with iPhone photography….
1) Get a Case
This is probably the most important tip, especially when you plan to use the iPhone a lot during your trips – I learned it the hard way. Protect your precious iPhone.
Almost any case from any brand will do, however I prefer cases made from leather. They’re thin and provide a good protection when your iPhone slips out of your pocket or hand. I currently use a black leather case from Apple for my iPhone 7plus. For my trips to Iceland and Chernobyl, when I still used an iPhone 6, I used a Moment case. It’s an excellent case that allows you to attach a wrist strap to it for additional safety and allows you to mount the Moment iPhone lenses fast and easy.
2) Get the Gear
One reason, well actually the main reason, why I ditched the DSLR in favour of an iPhone was because I love to travel light. No more heavy camera bodies, no more heavy lenses and no more bulky tripods. But still I carry lenses and even a tripod for my iPhone. I’m a fan of and regularly use the Moment lenses, especially the wide angle lens is great for landscape photos. They’re not cheap but worth the hefty price tag. The Moment lenses are small while at the same time they provide an excellent image quality. I also always carry a small Joby Griptight Gorillapod. That’s a small tripod that you can wrap around basically anything like the handlebar of your bike. The Griptight Mount is basically a small claw that does one thing: It grips (and holds) your iPhone when it’s mounted to the Gorillapod and it works with all other standard tripods, too. Finally, I used to carry lots of spare batteries back in my DSLR era. Today, I carry a 26800 maH Anker PowerCore+. That’s enough to charge your iPhone up to 10 times and should be enough for a weekend trip into the wilderness.
3) Get the Apps
With the iPhone stock camera app and the editing functions in the camera roll you are already equipped with a great camera app and a simple way to apply adjustments to your photos. But there are some special settings where the stock iPhone camera app will fail. I’ve tried dozens of different camera and editing apps but only a few of them survived the regular spring cleaning on my iPhone.
So here are the iPhone camera apps I use frequently:
- Slow Shutter Cam for shooting long exposures
- Hydra for shooting 32 megapixel photos in certain situations
- ProCamera for full manual control and an excellent low light shooting mode
I also like to travel light when it comes to iPhone photo editing apps. So I mainly use the following four apps:
- Adobe Lightroom Mobile to develop RAW photos shot with iPhone 10
- Enlight for retouching
- SKRWT to fix perspective distortions when photographing buildings
- Pixelmator for retouching
And that’s all. A total of 8 apps which included the stock camera app. That’s all I use to shoot and edit my photos on the go. Here are some more shots I took using the apps mentioned above:
I took this shot using Slow Shutter Cam App. My iPhone was mounted to the handrail of a bridge under which trains were passing by.A beautiful Japanese Garden in Vienna. Shot using Slow Shutter Cam app.The view from the Shard in London, taken with ProCamera using Low Light Mode.An office Skyscraper in Vienna photographed with Hydra App.
If I would need to pick only one out of those, it would be ProCamera, simply because it offers me full manual control over the iPhone camera and still works as a point and shoot camera app. If you want to invest and learn photo editing and retouching, I strongly suggest to buy Enlight.
4) Get Going
I have defined three very simple principles for my iPhone photography.
The first one is “Always tap to focus”. Usually, the iPhone will automatically select and focus an object that it thinks is the main subject of your photo. But the iPhone may be wrong. So I recommend to always tap on the screen and focus on the object that’s your mean subject to make sure it’s perfectly lit and sharp.
My second principle is to always slightly underexpose, especially outdoors. On a bright day the iPhone may overexpose clouds so they look like white spots not like cosy cotton balls. To slightly underexpose your shots tap and hold the iPhone screen and then slightly drag your finger down. A small bar will appear that allows you to adjust the exposure in the stock camera app. After that, experiment with brilliance and increasing shadows for a better landscape shot.
And finally, I always walk the extra mile or wait the extra minute. Take your time to explore the area walk around and take as many cycling photos as you like. Then, delete all but the best one.
5) Get out and Shoot!
Well, now you’re prepared. Get out and shoot. This is the best way to learn how to use the iPhone to shoot, manage, edit and share your photos right on the go.