Over the years I have taken some really great photos. I have done a lot of photo editing, which often only made my photos worse. I have spent countless hours on social media sharing my work and following the work of other photographers and I have learned many things in the process. I hope that by sharing the most important lessons I have learned I can accelerate your learning and help you avoid some of the mistakes that I made. But most importantly, I hope to inspire you to become a more active iPhone photographer.
General iPhoneography tips
Getting a better camera will not make you a better photographer.
Any iPhone is good enough for creating great photography. I have seen great photos taken with iPhone 3G. You really have no excuse.
Consistent practice is the best way to improve your iPhoneography. Keep practicing even when you are out of ideas, and you will eventually create something amazing.
Treat your iPhone camera as if it was an expensive DSLR. If you only use your iPhone to create quick snapshots, you will never get anything else out of it.
Taking great photos
First learn how to take great photos. Only then it makes sense to master editing.
Become an observer of light. On a very fundamental level, photography is all about light, so the better you understand light, the better photographer you will become.
Learn to predict how the scene is going to change in the immediate future. Will that person briefly appear in the reflection after a few seconds? Be prepared when that moment comes.
The very best photos convey a strong emotion or tell a great story.
Mystery is the best way to tell a story in your photos. The best stories are already in the mind of the viewer. If you create mystery, the viewer can fill in the blanks and create a story that is uniquely theirs.
Always take a few seconds and pause before taking a shot. Is this really the best angle and the best composition, or should you try something else instead?
The easiest way to improve your photography is to work on the angle and composition.
Turn on the gridlines until you start thinking about any scene in terms of the grid.
Practice composition with simple photos that have a lot of empty space. Large open areas are perfect places to start with iPhone photography.
Always ask yourself what the main subject of your photo is, or what is the first thing that the viewer will notice. If there is no subject, is it really worth taking that shot?
Placing your subject even slightly off the center will greatly enhance your photos.
Think about photos in terms of balance. If you put your main subject in one corner of the image, you also want to have something of interest in the opposite corner to keep the composition balanced.
Turn on HDR for landscape photography and when sky takes up a large part of your photo.
Do not use HDR for photos of movement and when you need to take many photos quickly.
Never use digital zoom. Zoom with your feet or crop your photos afterwards.
Use volume buttons for a camera-like shooting experience.
Use the volume buttons on your headphones for remote shutter release or to stay discreet when taking photos in public.
You should be able to take the iPhone out of your pocket, turn it on, and open camera from the lock screen in two seconds or less. You don’t want to miss that perfect shot.
There are some great iPhoneography accessories on the market, but you don’t really need them to take great photos. Buying cool gear will not make you a better photographer.
Editing and apps
No editing can turn a bad photo into a good one.
The easiest way to ruin a good photo is to mindlessly apply strong vintage filters.
Your editing should enhance what is already great about the photo, and perhaps add a certain feel that complements the message of that photo. Everything else is unnecessary.
Learn the essential adjustments such as brightness, contrast and saturation first. Only then you should look into more advanced effects and filters.
Do not download 50 photo apps. Only get a few and make sure you know how to use them.
Don’t add text on your photos. Text is distracting and never looks good.
Always have several backups of your entire photo library.
Despite technological advancements, external HDD is still the most practical way to back up a large photo library. Just do not keep it in the same bag as your laptop.
iCloud is great for automatically transferring your iPhone photos to iPhoto.
Keep your edited photos in a separate photo album for easy access.
Do not take multiple identical photos. Avoid the pain of deleting them later. Instead you should change the angle or composition and then shoot again.
Sharing and social networks
Share your work on social networks to stay motivated and get feedback.
Follow other photographers whose work you admire to stay inspired and get new ideas.
It is OK to copy someone else’s style for the sake of learning. You will eventually discover your own unique style, so you do not have to worry about copying someone else initially.
Do not try to be active on 10 different photo sharing sites. It will drive you crazy. Just pick your favourite and do a good job there.
Always respond to people who took the time to comment on your photos. Simply saying “thanks” can make a huge difference.
Only share your best photos so that your feed looks great. Quality always beats quantity.