Tips For Better iPhone Photography

Chances are, if you're one of the 37 million people who've purchased an iPhone this year, your iPhone just became your primary point-and-shoot camera. Truth be told, the iPhone 4S has a very good camera that handles up to 8 megapixels of still images and 1080p HD video. That's not as good as a top-of-the line point-and-shoot camera but it's enough that you don't need to purchase a separate one to carry around. It has zooming capabilities and a neat feature where you can tap on the screen to auto-focus on your subject. Now if you just knew how to take a good picture (no, Instagram won't magically fix everything)...

  1. Use the grid. By tapping on "Options" at the top of the sreen while the camera is open, you can flip a switch to turn on the grid. The grid is a 3x3 square pattern that overlays the screen. It will not affect your picture, it's only there to help you line things up. The grid is actually based on something professional photographers refer to as the Rule of Thirds. The idea is that the composition of an image can be be broken up into thirds both vertically and horizontally. By keeping the focus of your image in thirds, you will balance the picture properly. There's a lot more to the theory, but all you need to know is this: keep your subject on one of the grid lines. The 4 points where the gridlines intersect are the optimal places for focusing on your subject (in most cases).
  2. Shoot horizontally. The majority of smartphone owners shoot vertically. This is simply because their phones were designed to be used vertically. The result is head-to-toe shots of people that lack focus and have many distractions. However, the iPhone was designed to be used both vertically and horizontally. By simply holding the phone sideways, your camera will rotate and you can take pictures horizontally without issue (Bonus tip: If you're shooting a person/people, focus on their faces and and the upper parts of their body. You will end up with a much better picture than if you try to get their whole body from a distance).
  3. Shoot in well lit situations. The iPhone has a really good image sensor. However, the Flash is worthless (Bonus tip: don't use the flash, it doesn't product enough light to be useful and the light it does use will washout your picture). Because of this, if you are in a low-light situation, the phone camera will have a tough time focusing and even if/when it does, you'll get a blurry, poorly lit picture. Don't waste your time unless you badly want the picture.
  4. Use the Home screen shortcut (iOS5+ only). The iPhone has a really neat shortcut on the homescreen, designed to open the camera as quickly as possible, even when your phone is locked. Push any button while the phone is locked to activate the screen. When the lock screen appears, place your finger on the camera icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. Swipe up to the top and the camera will be revealed underneat. This nearly instantaneous loading of the camera is much quicker than other smartphones and allows to get your camera out quickly so you don't "miss the moment".
  5. Use the "volume up" button as a shutter control (iOS 5+ only). This feature is new to iOS5 (which includes all the newest iPhones). This helps most when you are shooting horizontally (you should be, because I told you to!). It also allows you to look at the screen and not tap on the screen to take the photo. By doing this, you can focus on taking a good picture and not on hitting a tiny button.

If you want additional features that the iPhones native camera doesn't offer, you can always download a different camera from the App Store. Many of these have additional features that aren't native to the native camera app. Plus, they take advantage of the same hardware. However, they are not all optimized for speed and ease-of-use like the native camera, so use them only if you know what you're getting into.