What I Learned Today: iPhone Photography is Tricky

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” Eudora Welty

I’m not sure if I’m just late to the party or if I’m one of the last of a dying breed to finally succumb to the “dark side” that is the smart phone.  Maybe–it’s both.  Either way, after years of bashing the thing…I am now the proud owner of an iPhone and I feel like Steve Jobs (who I am not a fan of) is all out belly laughing at me big time!

Let me start by saying, I certainly don’t NEED this phone.  I mean, who really does? (Let’s compare convenience with necessity here people.)  But after being lost numerous times while trying to find various tournament venues for my son’s teams (Wichita, Kansas City and even little ol’ Newton) I decided enough is enough–I MUST HAVE one of those fancy phones with a map!  The when, how, where and why of my phone purchase would take too long to detail and I’m fairly certain that I don’t care enough to rehash the whole thing.  What I do know is that last week I managed to get me, my daughter and my folks to an out-of-town wedding without any hiccups and ON TIME.  So for that very reason alone, I can’t complain about this overall quality of the purchase.


Photos taken with the camera+ app. While I’m not sure I’m a “selfie” kind of girl, I highly recommend this app.

Here, however, is where things get interesting.  iPhones have cameras.  You already know that, and so do I…but did you know that they’re not that good?  Honestly, how can we go around capturing moments and memories (that are supposed to last a lifetime) with this megapixel inferior, soft focus, low light challenged camera???  As a mother of two of the most (reluctantly) photographed kids on the planet, having a better than decent camera is really important to me.  (Here we go again comparing convenience with necessity.)  However, the practical side of me argued that carrying my Canon around 24/7 was just unrealistic, remembering to charge it (at home) before taking it out on the road is low on my priority list, and finally I thought to myself–everyone in the world manages to make their iPhone cameras do the job…surely I can make this work.  Right?

Operating the iPhone camera was much more difficult than I thought.  I’ve been told many times that the iPhone skillfully combines intuitive and ergonomic features that can easily be navigated with one hand.  Okay.  That’s a lot easier said than done when it comes to taking photos.  First of all, you must be super still to avoid that fuzzy, blurry look with this camera.  While I consider myself to be a steady shot, my iPhone has another opinion.  I’ve tried holding my breath and snapping the photo, but that didn’t work out much better.  The soft, focus thing is really an issue for me.  And forget about the zoom.  No good.  And EVERYTHING had these horrible shadows!  Look…I know you’re rolling your eyes with all my complaining, but I do know a thing or two about taking pictures.  At last, (after sorting through several BAD photos) I had to surrender and decided that maybe I needed some help with this photo thing.  Afterall, instagram is a huge success and it’s not like there are thousands of Ansel Adams or Annie Liebovitz types running around with camera phones in this world!

Research.  Yes, research.  I started with the apple FAQs and worked my way from there combing through reviews and tips.  Next, I focused on new media photography articles (there are many) and moved on to blogs about capturing the perfect picture.  It wasn’t long before I discovered that I have a lot to learn.  In the process, I’ve been asking around…finding out what friends do to capture their perfect moments.  I’ve received a lot of great advice and after about a month of iPhone camera ownership, I have managed to snag a few photos that I like.  And while I am far, far from being a professional photographer, this is what I’ve learned today:  iPhone photography is tricky…but there is help!

1.  Take lots of photos and use the auto focus feature (First, you have to find it.)  New technology means that we can take a zillion photos and delete all but the perfect one. 

2.  Lighting is key.  I could go on and on about some of the technical aspects of this point, but here’s the easy version.  Bright light is not your friend (neither is low light).  Say it with me…NATURAL LIGHT!  Try to take photos outside (or near a window) during the golden hours (about one hour after sunrise, and one hour before sunset.)

3.  Get close and personal.  The zoom is a joke on the iPhone camera.  If you want close-ups, then get close up.

4.  Explore apps.  The iPhone is all about apps and so is the camera.  There are tons out there.  Do your research.  Currently, I’m using camera+ and the more I learn about it, the more I like it.  Plus, it’s inexpensive…so you really have nothing to lose.

5.  Filters are your friends.  A friend (and a fellow mother) shared with me how filters have salvaged her photos.  Fuzzy or blurry…use a filter.  Too dark or too bright…use a filter.  Want to set a mood…use a filter.  You get the point. 

I’m excited about what I’ve learned and I hope to learn more (especially where the flash and white balance are concerned.)  I still plan to use my Canon for photos that I want to hang up on the wall, but I’m coming around to this iPhone camera thing.  Like I said before, I’m not a professional…so these are not hard and fast rules…merely suggestions.  And speaking of suggestions…if you have camera phone wisdom you’d like to share with me–bring it on!  I have two (reluctant) kiddos whose lives I need to capture…and I need all the help I can get!  They just keep moving…or is it running?