Friday 5: Shooting With an iPhone

There are three cameras in my life: my hardy Nikon D7100 that’s traveled with me all over the globe, the superior Canon 5D MkIII that I use around campus, and then there’s my iPhone.

That’s right, I said “iPhone,” because, believe it or not, that little camera in your pocket is more capable than you might imagine. So, today we’ll be looking at pictures and videos taken with that expensive piece of addictive technology. I’ll be going over some of the benefits and disadvantages that come with iPhoneography, as well as a few tips and tricks to make the most of your iPhone. Don’t forget: Most of these photos (and more) are available to you in the OU Image Library. Just shoot Morgan ( an email about which photo you want along with its intended use and she will likely be able to send you the high-res version.

First things first.

1. Great gear DOES NOT equal great photography

This is probably the most frustrating thing photographers run into, and it sounds something like this: “Oh, that camera looks expensive. I bet your photos are amazing.” Or, “If only I had a better camera…”

A few years ago I was taking company portraits and one of the men I was taking pictures of came up to me after the shoot. He looked at my camera and said, “Wow, nowadays all you have to do is press the button and the camera does all the work.”  That was a bit frustrating. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Wow, look at that expensive new oven you have. I bet it makes delicious food.”  Obviously the gear you use can either help or hinder you, but ultimately, cameras don’t take great photos, photographers do. No matter the brand, make or model, the person behind the camera is the one responsible for the shot. I’m not saying this in an attempt to rally credit, but rather to help others fight against the temptation to use the need for better gear as an excuse in their photographic endeavors. This idea doesn’t pertain to photography only. I grew up playing drums, and for the longest time I chased after the “need” for a better drum set. Eventually, I came across a DVD of Buddy Rich (one of the greats) tearing it up on a super old and crappy kit. I was in awe. His speed, his precision, his timing … amazing. Seeing him, on the most minimal and basic equipment, really hammered in the fact that gear isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

In the same way, you can get unbelievably breathtaking shots with minimal gear … the iPhone. In fact, Apple has an entire page featuring images shot entirely on the iPhone. And if that link doesn’t convince you, check out this entire channel dedicated to showing off noted photographers using cheap cameras. The iPhone is by no means “cheap,” but it does have its limitations. However, it is a great camera to begin practicing the basics of photography, and it’s always nice to have it in your pocket (or fanny pack if it’s a 6+).

Moving along…



I took this shot during golden hour. One of the more difficult things about shooting on the iPhone is its lack of exposure controls. When you’re looking at a scene like the image above where there’s a mix of both bright light and shade, the camera has a hard time deciding what to expose for. You’ve probably seen this before. It’s that annoying time where you’re tapping on your friends face but then the whole image gets super bright, then you tap on the background and now your friends face is completely dark. It’s trial and error most of the time. One thing you can do is touch part of the image (screen) that has a good mix of both dark and light.

 2. Take super wide shots with the panorama feature


One of the best features on the iPhone’s camera is its ability to take panoramas. Now, when taking these type of shots, remember to click on the part of the screen you want to be exposed and then take the shot. You can also reverse the direction you move the camera by touching the arrow on the screen.

3. Not quite macro but close enough


I took this image after noticing a small patch of clovers in my neighborhood park. While I can’t say this is truly macro, I was impressed at how close the camera would focus on the tiny leaves. One of my favorite ways to make an image interesting is to fill the frame entirely with whatever the subject may be. Try getting as close to the subject as possible and crop in if you need to.  If you’re having trouble focusing on something close up try adding some light to the image. Sometimes the camera can focus much closer than it seems; all it needs is more light.

4. “In the moment” shots


Perhaps the best thing about the iPhone is, unlike my 2 pound DLSR, I carry it with me everywhere. The fact that our phones are almost always accessible means we can get the shot way more often than not. In the picture above, I was able to capture this student riding his bike and perfectly frame him in the middle of the path. If I had to reach in my backpack, pull out my DLSR and set the exposure, there’s no way I would have taken the picture in time. I saw the bike coming about 8 seconds before I took that picture! Thankfully, with my iPhone in my pocket, I was able to turn on the camera, frame the shot and capture the moment.

5. Not too shabby video capabilities

One of the most impressive things about the iPhone is its ability to capture HD video. Each year the camera keeps improving, and more and more people are getting into videography as a result. With software like iMovie and Garage Band, throwing together a podcast or music video has never been easier. In fact, “shot on iPhone” short films are an emerging category in film festivals.

I’ve put together a short video, shot entirely on my iPhone 6+, featuring various locations around OU’s campus.

Thanks for reading. Now go out and shoot!


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