Mobile phone cameras go along way towards making photography simple and easy, but as with any camera, there are a number of ways you can improve the quality of your results. Here are some of the steps I take with my iPhone 5S:
1. Control the exposure. Touch the part of the screen where you want the camera to sample it. For example, in the case of the through-the-arch shot in my iPhone album (https://plus.google.com/photos/+JeffreySullivan/albums/5976184451798095825), I had to make sure it was on the sky, that the camera was not trying to brighten detail where I wanted the arch to be in silhouette.
2. Leave HDR mode turned on. The small sensors in cell phone cameras have small pixels, so they don't gather a lot of light and don't operate well in low light. That reduces the dynamic range, of mobile phone cameras, the range of light that they can resolve detail in. In a single exposure you'll often end up with blown out white highlights or blackened shadows, but HDR mode takes multiple exposures and tries to bring detail from the lighter and darker exposures into a single image. If the single exposure works, by all means use it, but it's great to have the additional HDR result as a backup in case it handles shadows and highlights better.
3. Just like with film and DSLR photography, post-processing is important. For quick field editing and online sharing, try Google's excellent and free +Snapseed app., which enables you to make critical adjustments to brightness, shadows and contrast, and you can post the results to a number of social media sites or for sites not yet supported, save the adjusted images to your iPhone's Camera Roll. For even more control once you get back to your computer, bring your iPhone images into +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and adjust them on a high resolution PC monitor, using even more features such as noise reduction which can help bring your image up to a printable quality. If you don't already have Lightroom, version 5.3 is available as a free trial.
Those are just some basic tips on getting a decent image, but the most important thing in your photography is your subject, and the composition you capture it with. So for even more photographic freedom and more compelling results, exercise as much control as possible over composition:
4. Use the iPhone's Panorama mode. With the phone vertical and moving sideways you capture a much larger, wider angle image. Keep in mind that it doesn't necessarily have to be long, skinny, panoramic view, maybe you just want a larger, wider square or rectangular view that fits in your phone's vertical field of view but is wider than what a single exposure would capture. If you do continue panning the phone to capture a panoramic view, I've ended up with images over 10,000 pixels wide, so you have plenty of detail and you can level and crop them later.
5. Use Microsoft's free Photosynth app for even taller panoramas. Also use it for potentially better control over exposure than the iPhone's built-in camera app. With reflection shots the iPhone fails to balance the direct and reflected image, so either the direct view will be blown out of the reflected one will be too dark and noisy. Photosynth lets you capture one panorama pass for the foreground or reflection and one for the sky, and it will use whatever exposure is right for each portion of the image it captures, and blends it all together. In other words, you can typically get a better exposure on a panorama where there's an extreme range of light, such as with a sunset or sunrise, where the foreground is too dark compared to the sky. On the negative side, Photosynth often gets confused when trying to stitch together multiple rows of images, so you may or may not end up with a clean view of the scene with no artifacts. That cant be improved if you attach the iPhone to a tripod before panning to capture the scene.
6. Consider lenses for your iPhone. Yes, you can get lenses for an iPhone! In November I bought the +olloclip 3-in-1 lens which provides wide, fisheye and macro fields of view. I also bought their 2X telephoto lens, which also comes with a circular polarizer which fits over both the 2X tele and over a blank holder to polarize normal iPhone shots. I bought the 2X tele/polarizer combo in a bundle with their iPhone case, which has a flip-up corner to enable putting the lenses on quickly, as well as providing an additional adapter to allow for tripod mounting. The entire lens set fits in the space of roughly a roll of Life Savers, and cost about $175 or so on Amazon. I don't necessarily recommend those lenses because each one seems to have some challenges, but the concept is sound if the company can bring quality up. They apparently have a new 4-in-1 lens with two macro configurations which I was unaware of when I bought the 3-in-1, and that newer model may address some of the image quality issues. The concept is sound though, and in spite of some reduction in image quality when I want to capture a particular shot and need a particular composition, I often reach for these handy little lenses.
You can see these concepts being applied in my iPhone 5S album here on G+:
One of these days I need to write a post for my blogs covering more mobile phone photography tips:
#mobilephotography #iphoneography #iPhone5S
Granite obelisk and juniper tree, Mojave Desert
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