I often get asked how I create images with my iPhone so I thought it was about time I put together a post. The quick answer is: I don’t actually do very much at all. When I first started taking pictures with my phone I’d go through phases of using a particular app or filter that took my fancy, and, of course, whenever a new bells ’n’ whistles app is released I still download it and give it a try. But these days I find myself shooting and ‘editing’ in pretty much the same way every time.
Whatever camera you use to take photos, whether it’s film, toy, a DSLR or a phone, I believe it’s the strength of your composition that makes your photo work (or not). Doesn’t matter if you’ve used the most expensive camera on the market or the cheapest — it’s not the camera that creates the image, it’s your eye. One of the reasons I love shooting with film cameras so much is because it takes me back to photography basics: you set the exposure, compose the shot, focus and shoot. I don’t have to fanny around with white balance and the other buttons on my DSLR I haven’t bothered to figure out. Likewise, I use my iPhone in an equally simple way. I’ve tried plenty of camera apps but they all have too many gizmos — I just want to compose my shot and take it. So here’s my very simple method…
I shoot all my photos with either the basic camera app that comes with the phone or ProCamera if I want to shoot square images. I was previously using the 6×6 app for this, but found it had a tendency to crash; ProCamera let’s you change the default camera view so it opens with a square viewfinder — it’s also a bit more stable. I’ve yet to use any of its other features — I just use the app to take the photo and save direct to my camera roll.
When taking the picture I hold the phone up keeping my arms close to my body — for crisp shots you need to keep the phone as steady as possible. When shooting Polaroids I always hold my breath as I take the shot and it’s the same with the iPhone. I only ever take one or two shots of a particular scene, a habit from shooting with film and not having many shots to spare — I also don’t want to use up all the memory on the phone with duplicate images. I take my time, compose thoughtfully, then take the picture. Obviously when i’m snapping my nephew all of this goes out the window!
For editing I use either Afterlight or VSCO cam. Afterlight is my go-to as it’s so simple to use and I like that you can adjust the strength of the filters. Generally I brighten the shot, maybe up the contrast a smidge and then apply a filter (though I don’t always — I like the natural look). I use the ‘Russ’ filter (created by Kevin Russ, one of fave Instagramers) 95% of the time — it’s soft and subdued, and reminds me of original Polaroid film, which will always win me over. All the photos in this post are Russ filtered.
Then I just save the photo to my camera roll and either post it on Instagram or use the Dropbox app to upload to the Dropbox folder on my computer. When Instagraming a rectangular image I use Whitagram for white borders above and below the photo. I occasionally put words on my pictures using Over. (Update! You can add white borders in Afterlight — it’s in the frames section. Thanks for the tip, Lexichelle!)
And that’s it.
For self portraits I’ll either use the basic camera app (reversed) or shoot straight into Instagram (also reversed). The Russ filter looks okay on selfies, but I find the absolute best (read: most flattering) is the Walden filter in Instagram: it bleaches out all your lines and sags and makes you look 5 years younger. The lower resolution of the reversed camera helps smudge wrinkles, too ;-)
Once in a blue moon I’ll use Hipstamatic just because I see it on my phone and think ‘oh, yeah, that app was always fun to use.” But in all honesty, I’m over it.
When sharing on Instagram I never geo-tag my photos purely because I switched off that function when it geo-tagged my home. If was travelling the world maybe geo-tagging would be fun, but usually I’m in London or with family — I don’t think people need to know exactly where I am. Privacy first and all that.
Other apps I’ve downloaded and kept on my phone: A Beautiful Mess, PicTapGo, Snapseed, Picture Show, Photogene, and Autostitch. There have been many more, of course, but they’ve long been deleted.
Shooting with my iPhone hasn’t changed the way I take pictures so much as facilitated my desire to shoot every day. I see photos everywhere and like to record my days, just for the sheer pleasure of capturing colour, light and shape. When I leave the house I always have my phone with me, though at this stage I really do view it more as a camera than a phone. For a while I was worried that using my iPhone more than my Polaroid cameras or even DSLR meant I was ‘cheating’. How could I call myself a photographer if I shot predominently with a phone? But I’ve always believed that being a photographer simply means you express yourself using the photographic image — the tools you use don’t matter so much anymore (did anyone ever critique Picasso on his choice of brushes? No.) A writer writes, a painter paints and a photographer photographs. Simple as that.
I actually love that digital photography and now smart phones have made photography so accessible to everyone. These days photographs aren’t just taken on birthdays and holidays — we’re now recording and sharing our daily lives. We pay attention more. We’re exercising our creative muscles. Our eyes open wider every day.
It’s a beautiful thing.
In Photo Meditations we spend the first two weeks diving deep into composition as it really is the foundation of a great photograph. The course also covers colour theory, self portraiture, story-telling, honing your eye, finding your own style and lots more. Registration has just opened for the summer class — starts Monday July 29th — and all cameras and abilities are welcome!
I’ll be hosting the August Break again this year and I’m really looking forward to teaching Photo Meditations at the same time — the two go perfectly together. More on the August Break soon!
I’d love to know which apps you use and how you use your camera phone! xo