During the first year of traveling, my iPhone was the sole gear I used to capture and record all my adventures and travels. Here are the samples of the photos I took:
Though the photos I shoot were not as great as the photos taken by a mirrorless camera, my iPhone 8+ served me well. It is turning four years old now. It works and could take good photos still, despite its age.
Before, I was an Android fan. I loved Android Phones because they are customizable, tweakable, and affordable.
When I discovered how iPhone captures photos, I was transformed into an Apple lover instantly. What I like the most about its camera is that it always launches without fail. Third-party photography apps work flawlessly – as they are made solely for iPhone’s hardware.
Well, I am not saying that iPhones capture photos and record videos better than any other smartphones. I know you know the difference, especially if you have been an Android Phone and iPhone user.
For me, all I want is a handy and excellent camera that I can quickly activate to capture and record moments that could only last for a short time easily. When I was using Android, there were times that it lags and sometimes takes a second just for the camera to load. That frustrates me badly.
Those bright smiles, priceless moments, and gorgeous sceneries that I know I could have once or only a few times in my life are the things I never want to miss to capture. I want to give myself proof (when my hair is already grey) that I lived a beautiful life – a life full of colors and a life of beautiful stories. It is why I love to travel. I gain so much personal value when I do.
I want people to enjoy their life and have their souvenirs from the moments they create.
In this blog post, I wrote you a guide on taking good photos with an iPhone (or any smartphone) beautifully.
Neither an accessory nor a third-party AI camera app would give assurance that you would get good photos. The most important thing about photography is that you know the basics.
Accessories and apps – they enhance your shots. But with the knowledge about photography and a little creativity, there is a very high chance of capturing an awesome photo worth sharing on every social media you have!
Tip #1: Basics of Photography
Photography Basics #1: Lighting
In photography, lighting does a lot of work in making your images stand out. The different light sources and the light position create a mood and drama for the subject.
Chillin’ in Heaven? Photo Taken from Cebu City, Philippines.
There are many types of light sources. The ones that we would mostly encounter during our travels are Hardlight and Softlight.
When the light source produces shadows with high contrast between light and dark areas of the image, we call it Hardlight. This type of light source typically gives drama to your photos.
On the other hand, Softlight is the type of light source which creates a softer mood. A Softlight brushes a smooth transition between the light and dark areas of the image.
Here are the examples of photos with Softlight and Backlight:
Softlight came from diffused light from the horizon
Hardlight came with the rays of the sun
We should also pay attention to where the light is coming. The direction of light highlights the curves, angles, and texture of the subject.
First, Front Lighting. If the light comes directly to the front of the subject, shadows fall behind at its back. Your image would look flat, ordinary, or boring. Though it is easy to shoot, the results could be are not that appealing.
In contrast to Front Lighting, which is very easy to shoot, is Backlighting. It gives impressive effects to the image, like the halo effect for portraits.
Some objects, when there is light from their back, tend to look more appealing when photographed. Examples are plants, flowers, and other things that possess semitranslucent parts. They glow when hit by light.
Backlighting gives marvelous effects. Yet, it is hard to create. With a backlight, I sometimes get a white background or silhouette photo. Mostly, it takes a bit of experimentation on the angle before we get the perfect shot.
To get better results, turn-on the HDR mode.
Sidelighting is my favorite light direction because of the flattering shadows and depth it creates. It highlights the curves and edges of the object – giving my photo more details.
Look how the light from the side towards my face made me look better
After you found the perfect lighting condition for your subject, you might want to consider tweaking the exposure for the desired amount of light on your photo.
In the viewfinder, tap the part of the screen where the subject is. A yellow box with a sun icon on the slider will appear. Swipe the screen up and down to control the exposure to make splendid mood or drama.
Photography Basics #2: Focus
Focus is important because it gives sharpness and it highlights the subject. It is the determining factor in photography that tells whether the shot is a success or a failure.
Shot with iPhone Portrait Mode | Food from Sagada, a mystic town in the Philippines
Setting the focus for an iPhone camera is easy. You have to tap on the screen where the subject is. Your iPhone will automatically blur the background and make the subject pop.
There are times that the camera of our iPhones loses focus. Focus is automatically readjusted, especially the subject is moving. It also happens when we are moving significantly and there are objects between the lens and the subject.
Focus locked at the Souvenir from Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
Nothing could be more frustrating than missing a shot because the focus moved away from the subject just before you click the shutter.
That is why we must lock the focus of the camera of our iPhone. We do it by doing a tap + hold at the subject in our viewfinder. Keep your finger at the screen until a yellow AE/AF Lock message appears on the top of the screen.
Keep in mind that the focus does not stick with the subject. When you activated AE/AF Lock, only the objects at the same distance with the lens and the initial subject would get captured with the best contrast and crispiness.
Photography Basics #3: Composition
Rule of Thirds
In photography, the process of arranging the subject and objects in your viewfinder is called composition. It is an element of photography that determines if you break or make the image.
I placed myself at the intersection lines
The most common guide in creating a good composition is the Rule of Thirds. The rule of thirds is about using two horizontal and two vertical lines dividing the frame into nine equal rectangles.
These lines are our guide to produce more eye-appealing images. To create remarkable photographs, we must put the subject at the intersection of any of these lines. The negative space created by placing the subject at one of the points balances the image.
Leading Lines is another element or technique in photography used to give emphasis, tell a story, and create a connection between two objects.
Photographers also use leading lines to guide our eyes towards the subject.
Corridor beams acted as the leading lines
Did you notice how the lines in the image above helped your vision find me as the subject?
Framing is a technique in photography that uses frames to add another layer to the photo to add more story. Sometimes, it adds a focal point to show the viewer exactly where to look.
Take a look at the example below. See how these weird-looking rocks that look like frozen mud emphasized me as a lost guy wandering somewhere unearthly. LOL.
Rocks Framed Me in Yehliu Geopark
Photography Basics #4: Cleaning The Lens
If you cannot see clear images from your viewfinder, fingerprint smudges might be covering your lens. The easiest way of making your camera see 20-20 vision again is to wipe the lens with a dry Microfiber or a lens cloth.
I love using microfiber cloths because they clean the lens quickly. They are also small, washable, and economical.
Tip #2: Strategies for Better iPhone Photos
Strategy #1: Create Instagrammable Photos With an iPhone Using The Burst Mode
In this trick, I do not use a tripod. You would need a companion or find a trustworthy stranger (probably, a traveler too) to do this for you if you are traveling alone.
This technique would take a bit of creativity and imagination, though. But it works! ?
Using this technique, I always get the best photos in just one try with my sister, my ultimate travel companion. We use burst mode for most of the shots we take.
Burst mode is my favorite feature of the iPhone Camera App. It saved me countless trials in photographing myself the best pose with a tourist attraction or a scenic view.
You can check how to set-up your iPhone’s camera to do a burst shot here.
Here’s how I do it. First, I walk around the area to find an excellent spot to take photos. I use the camera’s viewfinder to determine if the camera’s view from that spot is perfect. I always take into consideration all the basics of photography I mentioned a while ago.
After finding the best spot, I poke my sister or a friend to take me a photo. I teach them how they should point the camera to the place where I am going to be standing and what should be at the grid’s intersection points.
Finally, I ask them to do the burst shot instead of a regular shot while I do the poses and stunts.
In just one press of a button for a second, I get ten pictures of different poses and positions. From those, I can often get the perfect one I needed.
When I do this technique, I usually take 5 seconds to smile, jump, roll down (LOL, just kidding!) to do all the poses on my mind.
Burst photos are perfect because they allow us to capture multiple shots as our subject moves. Once we have taken a set of burst photos, we can select the best shots from the action sequence.
Burst is very helpful, especially if the place you’re currently at has a long queue of tourists wanting to have their photo souvenir as well. You can have your impressive photos in a matter of seconds without too many trials.
Strategy #2: How to Take Good Pictures in Low Light With an iPhone
Our cameras take a longer time to process the view we want to capture in the dark because it opens its shutter a little bit longer. It needs to gather more light to form the image in our photos.
The shot I took from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
During that split second, when our camera’s shutter is open that we move, we ruin our shot. Although modern iPhones now have a larger sensor capable of absorbing more light in a shorter time, it is still advisable to put our phones in a very stable position to get the crisp details in our photos.
One way to do that is to use a tripod.
Setting a timer is essential too. So we don’t induce any movement to set-up as we press the shutter.
Lastly, let’s turn off Live Photos. Because it makes our photos look grainy. When it is turned on, our iPhone records videos seconds before and after we press the shutter.
If the iPhone records a video, it cannot open its shutter for a longer time to gather more light. Thus, it will instead adjust the sensor’s sensitivity causing more grains and producing ugly images.
If you want to turn off live photos, tap the three circles with different line patterns/designs inside each other in your Camera App. If you want to remove it permanently, go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings and tick Live Photos. Once you turn off Live photos, it will no longer activate again unless you wanted to.
Strategy #3: Take Yourself a Photo With an iPhone With The Help of a Remote Shutter
Taking myself a photo is one of my problems when I travel alone. As much as I could, I avoid doing the selfie because I do not like my face taking up the beautiful scene behind. If you do the same, this trick is for you too.
Remote Shutter Did It for Me
Before we do the trick, we should bring a tripod and a device to trigger the shutter. We can use our Bluetooth earphones to activate the shutter. Pressing the volume buttons triggers the shutter.
This trick is similar to the first trick I told you. The only difference is we are using a tripod here instead of asking for someone to take us a photo.
Strategy #4: Wait For The Right Time to Wander Around
Lighting is a huge factor in making beautiful shots with our iPhone. As mentioned above, depending on the lighting, we can create emotions in our photos that give a wow factor to the viewers who see them.
If you are going to compare, which of the photos below attracts you the most? Is it a or b?
I bet it is photo A.
It was during the Golden Hour when I took photo A.
Golden Hour happens every sunrise and sunset when the angle of the sun hits below 6 degrees. During the Golden Hour, the sun touches the horizon and creates beautiful yellow to red colors in the sky.
Both the sun’s angle and color paint a dimensional glow to both the subject and the background, making almost every photo taken at this time look spectacular.
So if you are going to the best spots in your destination country, do it during Golden Hour. Taking beautiful good looking photos would take lesser effort.
Tip #3: iPhone Camera Applications
In my travels, I use third-party applications to level up my photography game. I use them to extend the functions of the iPhone’s camera sensor. You know, it has the capabilities that can almost eclipse a mirrorless camera.
iPhone Timelapse Photography Upgrade: Hyperlapse
Whenever I’m watching a sunset, I could not resist creating a timelapse, especially when I’m on a beach. I am always mesmerized by how the sky’s colors change from blue to red to purple. I use Hyperlapse to record it. Hyperlapse is an app that creates superb timelapse.
What I liked the most about Hyperlapse is its ability to change the timelapse speed. It is the feature that the iPhone camera app lacks.
I frequently use Hyperlapse during flights too. I have a habit of recording videos from the window seat and later watch the scene in a timelapse. I am fascinated by the window seat’s view from taking-off, traversing into the clouds, and up until we touch the sky.
From the videos I make from Hyperlapse, I must say I am impressed with how it polishes the bumpy take-off. The stabilization is impressive.
iPhone Advanced Camera App: Slow Shutter Cam
I discovered Slow Shutter Cam when I was looking for an application that automatically shoots many photos without using a remote shutter. That’s because we were to chase waterfalls, and I basically could not use the remote in the plunge pool.
I count myself lucky that I discovered this app because it is more than an intervalometer. It has other functions that make it more excellent!
Well, those other functions are actually the Slow Shutter Cam App’s primary purpose. This app extends the capability of the iPhone’s camera to do amazing slow shutter speed effects.
The Slow Shutter Cam eliminates the need for a DLSR if you desire to create ghost images, waterfall effects, or shots suggesting movement in your photos by adding a blur. It’s funny that it fitted well to our waterfall chase adventure.
Waterfall Effect Sample Shot
I also discovered that this app creates light trail shots too, perfect for making photographs with lights painted along the way of glowing objects.
Slow Shutter Cam has many other features that you might want to discover.
iPhone Video App: Horizon Camera
I discovered this app so many years ago, even before I started traveling. I used this app to film our college project about sociology, when we went to a needy seaside community. This app helped me remove all the unwanted tilts and save the videos in a straight horizontal orientation.
It is an excellent app if you plan to take videos in a leveled, ground parallel, horizontal oriental orientation, regardless of how you hold your phone.
iPhone Professional Shooter: ProCamera
This application brings almost every feature from a DSLR to your iPhone. Download ProCamera if you certainly want to level up your iPhone photography to the highest level.
ProCamera gives you a professional experience of how you use a camera in your iPhone. I recommend this if you already have intermediate photography skills like controlling ISO, shutter speed, etc.
Tip #5: iPhone Accessories for Photography
I feel like I am not complete when traveling if I left the accessories I use to create fantastic shots with my iPhone or camera.
In this section, I will be sharing the gadgets and tools that I bring whenever I travel.
iPhone Accessory #1: Convertible Tripod-Monopod
I can’t travel without this iPhone accessory. It suites every need. Whether you have to take a selfie or shoot from afar, a convertible tripod-monopod would make a great help. Having this, you would be able to shot crisp images even if you are in the dark too.
When buying a convertible tripod-monopod, you must consider the following:
- Payload – It is essential to check if it can carry the camera you will attach to it. Even though you would only use an iPhone, it is still necessary to see the payload specification, especially if you will use it for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera in the future.
- Weight – The heavier is the tripod, the more stable it is. But the heavier it is, the harder it is to bring anywhere. You have to consider and weigh what’s more important to you. I’d instead buy the heavier one. Because I had an experience when the wind blew down my tripod set-up and my phone fell to the rocks. Thankfully, I had a glass screen protector, which saved my screen from breaking and scratches.
- Minimum and maximum height are critical when getting the right angle for the shot you want. You have to consider the size of your luggage or storage when buying a portable tripod or monopod too.
- Compactness – convertible tripod-monopods have several extendable and collapsable sections. Having too many of these could be very convenient when carrying it around. However, when we extend these sections, it may somehow lessen the convertible’s stability.
- Material – The best material for a convertible tripod-monopod are aluminum and carbon fiber. Aluminum is durable and lightweight. Carbon fiber is lighter, but it is more expensive and slightly more fragile.
iPhone Accessory #2: Bluetooth Shutter
A remote shutter gives you flexibility in how you take photos. Whether you are taking yourself a photo from afar or shooting in the dark to avoid movement – this device could go very handy. However, there’s no need to buy one if you have wireless earphones. Wireless earphones can trigger the shutter by pressing the volume buttons.
iPhone Extras #3: Power Bank
I am a person who takes thousands of photos when traveling. Just kidding, maybe around 500 only. Just kidding. Either way, when we take pictures and videos with our iPhone every often, we lose the charge of our iPhone’s battery faster. A portable battery charger will be useful as it could save our phones from dying in the middle of the trip.
iPhone Accessory #4: Long Power Cable
I recommend using a longer cable in complement with the power bank. There could be times that we want to shoot photos even if our phones are charging. Using a 1-meter cord limits our movement while we shoot and record a view.
Also, a long power cable allows you to juice up your iPhone while shooting long timelapse on a high-level tripod set-up. Just put the portable battery on the ground and let the electrons flow to your phone without holding it.
iPhone Safety #5: iPhone Case With a Strap
I am the type of person who fears height, not because it is scary. Honestly, I love hiking. Sometimes, I am just nervous that my phone falls from a cliff and never see it again.
Indeed, I can replace the phone, but I cannot risk the recorded memories and the pictures I took using it. With a case and a hand strap, I can confidently take beautiful photos with an iPhone without fearing that I might drop it and destroy it.
iPhone Extras #6: OTG Flashdrive
I hate seeing the empty storage notification. That’s why I always bring a backup device where I can save all my recorded videos and photos.
I thought of just uploading them to my cloud, but I realized that some places do not have a data connection. Besides, I do not want to buy expensive data connection packages which I can only use for one time. If there’s free wifi in my hotel, I can upload as many photos and videos as I want later.
iPhone Photography Accessory #7: Apple Watch
This accessory might be expensive, yet it could help you take photos and videos with your iPhone. When Apple Watch connects to an iPhone, it extends the functions of your iPhone to your wrist. It allows you to see the camera app’s viewfinder through its tiny screen and trigger the shutter.
iPhone Other Accessories
There are so many other iPhone camera accessories out there that you might want to bring during your travels. Like, clip lenses, torch, etc. They used to be very useful in the past, now that the technology got better, they seem to give reduced value. That’s why they aren’t worth buying anymore.
Our smartphones have become an all-in-one tool for traveling. One of those is the camera. Taking photos with an iPhone is very easy.
It already does most of the processing and editing as we press the shutter. Using it does not require us to learn all the complicated professional photography parameters to get a beautiful shot.
We also have the tools and apps to level-up our photography. With these and mastered basic photography skills, we could create the most Instagrammable shots worth sharing and remembering with our friends and followers.
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