25 More Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography - 100 Tip Series

I thought I’d celebrate my 100th article here on TMO, by rounding-up my promised set of One Hundred Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography. Actually, this article – containing the final twenty-five tips – will be the capstone to the previous three, which you can access via these links: 25 Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography, 25 More Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography, and Yet Another 25 Tips for Mastering iPhone Photography.

Without further ado, as they say... let's jump right in.

76.) Always strive to tell a story with your iPhone photos. Try using an element of mystery – it’s the best way to tell a compelling story in your images. The best stories are already in the mind of the viewer, so if you create mystery, the viewer can fill in the blanks and create a story that's uniquely theirs. Examples of mystery in photography are: using silhouettes, roads winding away in the distance, and shadows jutting out from around a corner; shadows not that of your subject.

A photograph of a road heading out in the distance.

There is mystery in this photo. What is at the end of the road? Dark clouds approaching.

77.) Activate the HDR Mode when shooting landscapes – particularly when the sky dominates the scene.

78.) After acquainting yourself fully with the default Camera app loaded onto your iPhone, consider exploring third-party “camera replacement” apps. There are several excellent ones, all of which provide additional functionality, flexibility and utility when shooting images with your iPhone. The one app that is a long-time favorite among most iPhoneographers, including yours truly, is the Camera+ app by tap tap tap. It’s an incredibly useful camera app, and it’s universal. For much more information on the capabilities of this app, visit the tap tap tap website.

79.) Back in tip #36, I mentioned that using your earphone's remote volume buttons to trip the camera shutter is very instrumental in helping you achieve sharp iPhone photos, particularly in low-light conditions. But, did you know that using the remote is also quite helpful when taking selfies? Rather than juggling the iPhone with one hand, fumbling for the on-screen shutter release button, and risking a blurred shot, control the earphones remote in your other hand for smooth, firm, award-winning selfies.

The remote on a set of Apple Earbuds.

Press the volume-up or -down on the earphones remote to snap an iPhone photo

80.) Speaking of using your earphones volume control as a remote release, use it to help you capture those very high-angle shots. Shooting by holding the iPhone over a crowd comes to mind. Extreme low-angle shots as well, such as shooting a pet down at floor level.

81.) Here’s one last but cool way to use your earphones as an aide to stealth iPhoneography and street photography: wear your iPhone-connected earphones in public. While you pretend to be talking on the phone or listening to music, you can actually be shooting pictures. As an added bonus, no camera shutter-release sound will be betraying your real intentions.

82.) Do you like capturing and processing extreme HDR (High Dynamic Range) images? You know, the ones that photography snobs and pixel-peepers say do not represent real photography? Don't worry what others think; don't allow them to intimidate and influence you. You're not making these photographs for them. You make photographs according to your vision, how you express your art, your own photographic and artistic goals, and more importantly, because they make you happy and you love them.

Next: Fireworks, Children, Pets, and iPad

Part 2 - Fireworks, Children, Pets, and iPad


83.) Fireworks iPhoneography can be challenging. I have found that it can work fairly well by pre-visualizing how, and if, the fireworks are filling your frame. Because of the amount of light they generate, if the fireworks fill the screen, the picture will come out fine, and with decent detail and sharpness. If, on the other hand, the fireworks display is out in the distance, the propensity for dark sky will fool the light meter. The result will be a less-than-ideal image, and with the likelihood of a good deal of image noise present, particularly in the darkest areas.

People watching fireworks displays

Next time you watch fireworks with others, grab some shots of the people enjoying the display

84.) Speaking of fireworks, consider this: have you ever seen anyone taking a picture of you and your fellow spectators watching the fireworks display? Aside from the fact that you probably haven't because you were intently watching the show in the sky, in reality, no one takes shots of the spectators. You can get some pretty interesting shots – people with mouths agape, looking up into the night sky while being illuminated by the colorful extravaganza. Try it sometime for something different and fun.

85.) Of course, I strongly encourage that you experiment and regularly use third-party camera replacement, photo editing, and photo processing apps. However, be sure you are thoroughly familiar with the app and have played with it sufficiently before going out to an important important photo shoot.

86.) The vast majority of photos of pets and small children taken by snap shooters, are done so from an adult's physical point of view; i.e.; looking down at the subject. Booooring! Think different; be different. Capture those photos by shooting from the child's or animal's eye-level. To assist you with this, use the earphones remote as a remote shutter release (tip #36). Using the new Burst mode for rapid-fire shooting also helps (see tip #89).

A closeup of a cat at eye-level

Get those child and pet photos with your iPhone down to their level

87.) If you also own an iPad, consider using it to assist you with your iPhone photography. Use your iPad as an asset manager – an organized repository and backup device for photos you have taken with your iPhone. For me, this practice is particularly handy when traveling; I shoot with my iPhone, and transfer the images to my iPad. I manage, sort, tag and edit my images there. If I have Wi-Fi connectivity, I transfer the photos via iCloud Photo Stream. Alternatively, I use Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit to couple my iPhone directly to my iPad. It, in turn, will treat the iPhone like any camera connected to it and proceed to import any new photos while providing a number of options.

88.) While on the subject of using your iPad as an assistant to your iPhoneography activities, consider using the iPad as your “digital darkroom.” Most of the finest photo editing and processing apps are now universal. The considerably larger screen of the iPad makes it much easier to work on your photo editing. It’s easier on the eyes, but more importantly, fine-tuned editing if much easier.

Next: Burst Mode, Quick Camera Access, Cropping, and Printing

Part 3 - Burst Mode, Quick Camera Access, Cropping, and Printing


Two iPhone screens in the Photos App reviewing Burst Mode images

In Photos app, (1) the iPhone’s pick showing Burst Mode info at the top.
You can choose (2) which ones to keep.

89.) Make use of the Burst Mode feature that was introduced in iOS 7, and available on iPhone 5s and later. This is particularly valuable for grabbing some great action shots. 

If you shoot, say 20 frames in two seconds, when you later go back to review your images, you are likely to find within the set, that perfect shot you were after. Then, you can proceed to delete the unwanted ones. 

Burst Mode is also useful when taking group portraits, for example. Most casual shooters will only take ONE picture. That picture is bound to show Aunt Matilda with her eyes closed and Jimmy sticking out his tongue out while pulling little Jane’s braids. 

When using Burst Mode, be sure to understand that the iPhone is auto-selecting and displaying just one picture, among all in the burst group. It chooses the image which it thinks is the best in terms of having  the least amount of camera shake. For the examples given above, you would definitely want to have the iPhone display the entire set in Photos. After all, you want the ability to peruse through all the individual photos in the burst group, and select the winning images, while discarding the rest. 

You can definitely select your favorites from any burst group of images. Once you have completed shooting your set of burst photos, go to the Photos app. iPhone chooses what it thinks is the best image, but notice that the image has a small tag at the top indicating how many Burst Mode photos are in the set. You need to review all the images in the set in our example. Do this by tapping the “Choose Favorites…” button below the image. You are then shown the entire set in a little browser window where you can pick and choose which one or more images you want to keep in your camera roll. Once you’ve made your selection, iPhone will delete the rest.

90.) This tip may seem obvious to many … and yet, I forget this one often: aside from launching the Camera app to start taking photos, there are two other ways to get shooting quickly. One is to tap-hold-and-swipe upward the little camera icon that appears at the bottom of the lock screen (see “1” in illustration below). You don’t need to unlock the iPhone first. The second way to quickly access the camera is via the Control Center (see “2” in illustration below). Swipe up from the bottom of any screen, including from within an app or from the lock screen (if allowed in Settings). Tap on the camera icon.

Two iPhone Lock Screens showing the controls to launch the camera and to bring up the Control Center

(1) Activate the camera immediately from the Lock Screen.
(2) Bring up the Control Center and tap on the camera icon.

Oooh, how can I forget? Yet another way to get the camera on-screen is to command Siri to, “Take a photo.”

91.) Be cautious when cropping your iPhone photos. Cropping decreases the resolution of your image solely by its very nature – cropping discards pixels. It turns that 8 megapixel photo into something less. Why do that? Take advantage of the full resolution of the image sensor. If you must crop, try to do so “in camera” by moving in closer to your subject while watching the composition. I like to tell people, “Crop with your feet.”

92.) Print your iPhone photos directly to online printing services, such as Costco, Walgreen’s, and numerous others. My personal recommendation is MPIX.com, which I have been using for many years. By the way, MPIX has an app as well to manage print orders of images in your photo albums. I got rid of my last photo printer years ago. It’s online printing for me all the way now. Incidentally, while color profiling is non-existent on the iOS devices, it’s really a non-issue for the most part.

Next: Accessories, Exposure, Reflections, Silhouettes and More

Part 4 - Accessories, Exposure, Reflections, Silhouettes and More


93.) There are a good deal of clever and compelling iPhoneography accessories on the market. Guess what? You don't really need them to take great photos with your iPhone. Buying extra gadgets and accessories does not a good photographer make.

94.) Having said that, with regards to add-on lenses, I can’t recommend enough the Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens System that clips onto the iPhone. This particular model in the Olloclip line provides capabilities for fish-eye, wide-angle and macro photography. For my iPhone 5s, I use this model. Be sure to check the Olloclip website for details on this and other models available for purchase.

A photo of a woman at a cemetery. Shot with the Olloclip fisheye attachment

With the Olloclip fisheye lens attachment, I am able to get my picture in super tight areas

95.) When in doubt, set your iPhone Camera exposure for the lightest/brightest part of the image by tapping directly on that area. You can also press-and-hold on that area to lock the exposure, allowing you to recompose. 

This technique is particularly important for highly contrasty scenes. By exposing for the highlights, you stand a better chance of capturing detail in the highlights. By exposing this way, details may block up in the shadows, but with the help of photo editing apps, it’s far easier to recover detail from shadow areas than it is from a normally exposed image with blown-out highlight areas – in fact it’s practically impossible to do the latter.

96.) Shooting with reflections in your scene makes for fantastic photography of any type. Use a reflection as a technique or “tool” for enhancing your iPhoneography. Find and use reflective surfaces – car tops, ice and water, even if imperfect – and make your subject appear in the reflection. The secret to good images with reflections is to get very close to the surface, making the reflection itself dominant in the image composition.

97.) Silhouettes can take a little work, but they can be quite powerful. They are mysterious, and therefore can make for quite compelling images (see tip #76). The secret to making silhouettes is shooting towards the source of light with your subject in the foreground. Directional light – when the sun is low – is of paramount importance. Be sure to set your exposure for the lightest areas so that your subject becomes silhouetted against the backlight, and reveals no detail. Pay attention to the outline of your subject. It should be recognizable (for example; recognizable as a statue or a building or an animal, etc). Avoid overlapping subjects, as that can be confusing to the viewer.

A silhouette of a church bell tower

For an effective silhouette, the subject is shot against strong backlight and is a recognizable shape

98.) Try to communicate emotion in your iPhone photos. You have to care about your images, otherwise, who else will? Depict relationships among people, as well as happiness. However, negative emotions – such as sadness, loss, loneliness and strife – can be just as powerful. Through your iPhoneography, manifest your passion for your subject matter, as well as for the message you want to convey to your viewers.

99.) Become a more deliberate and careful observer of things all around you. Finding beauty in the ordinary is many times more rewarding than shooting typical images of touristy landmarks. Oh, and…  always explore new things to try and to experiment with. You’re not going to break your iPhone, and you’re not going to "run out of pictures!” Don’t be afraid of failure – actually, there is no such thing as failure in Photography, because it’s all about learning from the mistakes made, and from experimentation.

100.) Remember to use and exploit the limitations of your iPhone camera to your advantage. Allow those limitations to enhance your creativity. Good shooting technique, as well as the use of the high-quality camera replacement apps, photo editing apps, and photo processing apps that are available to you, will definitely help you achieve your photographic goals as you shoot exclusively with your iPhone… the camera that is always with you!

In conclusion, I am looking forward to the new iPhone capabilities just over the horizon. New models will undoubtedly provide us with even more flexibility – and even some manual controls – all of which will allow us to flex our creative muscle. The end result: iPhone images that inspire and provoke the viewer to pause just a second or two longer to soak in your creativity and photographic prowess.