iPhoneography: Beyond basics

September 6, 2013

Yesterday, we covered the fundamentals of taking quality photos with your iPhone camera. Ready to go beyond point and click? Here are two nifty tricks to shoot like a pro:

Use the camera trigger. Most apps feature an onscreen button, but with the iPhone you can also use the volume-up button as trigger, on the phone, and on your headphones.

Tap to focus and light meter. Most camera apps allow you to choose where to focus and meter for brightness by tapping on a spot on the screen.  This is a very useful and powerful feature to ensure your subject is bright enough and in focus.  Some apps (like Camera Genius ) will allow you to focus on one spot and meter on another. Many apps will also let you set exposure time or brightness manually which can also be useful if you have time to set up your shot.

Technique, of course, is just one part of the equation. Here are some of the tools we like to help you capture, edit, and share great shots.

Premium Apps

Sure, you can use the standard iPhone camera app, but spending a few dollars to upgrade to a premium app, and a an hour or so to unlock that app’s potential can reap great rewards. Google “best iPhone Photo Apps” and you will get hundreds of suggestions. The most important thing is to find one that has the features you need and get good at using it.  Most of the differentiators are in special effects and filters, or integration with other sharing tools or social networks.

Apps can do more than just take photos, a few features to consider:

Filters: Instagram and Hipstamatic are popular for their retro filters. Instragram is our pick because of the new video feature and built-in social network.

Text overlay: A number of apps let you add text to a photo, among the best: Labelbox, Typic Pro, photoType, InstaCaption, and the newest entrant to this field getting lots of hype: Studio. The biggest difference between these apps seems to be the style options of the text.

Photo editing: Having the ability to brighten, straighten or crop a photo right from your phone before sharing it can be invaluable: Snapseed (recommended by a my friend and pro photographer, Adam Lerner), Photoshop Express and Camera Genius all allow editing right on the phone.


Photojojo is a great source for lenses, tripods, mounts, lights, reflectors and more. It may be worth checking Amazon for the best price once you have selected your accessory.

While there are hundreds to choose from, we’d recommend considering these three first:

  • Phone mount
  • Camera extender
  • Telephoto lens

With this setup, and your headphones used as a remote trigger, you can send your camera up above a crowd to capture a photo of a politician or performer on stage.  Drop the telephoto lens, and you can use this for a good selfie that captures some of what is in the background, or even selfie video shoot.

Final thoughts

While we advise taking a LOT of photos, we think you should be judicious about sharing. If you have multiple pictures of the same scene or subject, share only the best one. There are, of course, exceptions: if you are photographing a rally, you might want to share a bunch of photos of different people, different signs, or speakers. But if you have photos from an awards ceremony, the grand opening of a new building, or park, one good clear shot of each scene will suffice.

Like anything, the more familiar you are with your tools (hardware and software) the better results you can likely expect.  So go out and practice shooting different types of photos with your smartphone, and get familiar with the apps you decide to use. Search for tutorials and spend some real time learning how to unlock their power.  For nonprofit managers: don’t expect that all your staff can whip out their smartphone and capture share-worthy photos. Make sure your people have time to learn how to use these tools and get good with them.  The rewards will be worth the investment of time.

Go Deeper

Want to learn more about iPhoneography?  Here are some top resources on the web:

10 Tips for Better iPhoneography

11 iPhone Tips For Improving Your Photos

Mashable: iPhoneography