5 Best Resources for Fabulous iPhone Photos & Videos

Best CameraI own a digital SLR camera–and, although it pains me to admit this, I rarely use it anymore.

That’s because my iPhone is smaller, almost always charged (and easy to recharge on the go), and almost always with me. Its size means it’s much easier to haul my iPhone with me hiking or backpacking than a full-size camera. On top of that, I can stow it easily in a pocket for quick access; the digital SLR usually takes me at least a few extra seconds to get out and ready to shoot photos, longer if I’ve stowed it in my camera bag.

Those extra seconds often mean the difference between getting that great shot and missing it.

Since my iPhone is almost always with me and powered up, I take far more pictures with it than I would with the full-size camera–and for a non-professional photographer like me, quantity is usually the key to getting a few great shots!

Of course, it’s not always easy getting great photos and videos with an iPhone. I’ve put together this list of the best links and resources to help you take better shots with your smart phone. It may not be a digital SLR, but it may still be the best camera for you.

The best camera is the one you have with you!

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The iPhone Photography School

The iPhone Photography School offers lots of great posts and tutorials on how to take effective photos with your iPhone. Some of my favorite posts for writers (and others who *aren’t* professional photographers) include:

FiLMiC Pro Website

filmic_logoOne of my go-to iPhone apps for shooting video is FiLMiC Pro. This little app offers a ton more flexibility than the native iPhone video function, including options to shoot stop-motion or slow-motion footage. This app isn’t free, but at $7.99, it won’t break the bank, either.

Best of all, you’ll find a TON of great–and free!–tutorials on the FiLMiC Pro website. It’s a great resource for learning everything from basic composition principles to how to harness the full functionality of the FiLMiC Pro app.

Canva

If you’re familiar with Canva, it’s probably as a (free) tool for creating graphics for social media, flyers, book covers, and so on. It provides an intuitive interface for non-graphic designers to create professional-looking graphics.

Canva’s real strength, though, is their focus on teaching non-experts the basic principles of graphic design. Here are a few posts to check out that will help you think about color choices, composition, and what to do with those photos back at your computer:

Canva also offers tutorials that teach both design principles and how to use their software:

Lynda.com

Learn PhotographyThis subscription website offers tutorials in a wide range of software and apps. Although they aren’t cheap ($24.99/month for month-to-month billing or $19.99/month for yearly billing), they consistently offer the best online instruction I’ve found for business and design software. You can check out these courses during a 10-day free trial:

(If you do decide to sign up with Lynda.com, you can help support my learning habit by doing so through my Lynda.com affiliate link:

Get 10 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.)

Olloclip Mobile Phone Photo Lenses

I’ve tried several different iPhone lenses to try to improve my cell phone photography. The 4-IN-1 olloclip lens system for iPhone 5/5S (fisheye, wide-angle, and 2 macro lenses) is far and away the best. The fisheye and wide-angle lenses are just fun, but the macro lenses let me take close-up shots of insects, flowers, wood grain–anything that I think might interest my readers. These shots would be impossible without using some sort of macro lens.)

I’ve also tried out the olloclip telephoto lens for iPhone. It only gives you 2x magnification, which might not be worth it for most writers.  I’m happy with it, because it let me get several shots of the speedy lizards that hang out in Zion National Park that may possibly be high enough resolution to use in my current work-in-progress. I’m sure real wildlife photographers are having heart attacks at my words :), but it’s a great “intro” telephoto lens for the amateur iPhone photographer.

Note that I’ve linked to the iPhone 5/5S lenses (yes, I’m still an iPhone 5 holdout!) If you have an iPhone 6, you’ll want the olloclip telephoto lens for iPhone 6/6 Plus and the olloclip 4-in-1 Lens for iPhone 6 & 6 Plus.

(Disclosure: the olloclip links are Amazon affiliate links, which means purchasing through them will help support a young person’s college fund<grin>).

Kelly Purkey

If you’re counting, you might notice that this is #6 in the list. That’s because I have only a single link to recommend on designer Kelly Purkey’s website. Purkey’s tutorial on photo editing is so fabulous, though, that I had to add it to this list. In the linked post, she explains exactly how she edits photos on her phone using only 2 apps, VSCOcam and Snapseed…neither of which I’ve used. I guess I’ve got some homework!

Have I inspired you to try some smart phone photography on your next outing? If so, you’ll want to check out this month’s free download: 3 Super Simple Tricks to Make Your Writing Portable. It’s only available to newsletter subscribers, so sign up now! You’ll get immediate access to subscriber-only resources as well as monthly updates.

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Super Easy Ways Your Camera Can Make You a Better Writer

Continuing the theme of writing away from our desks, I wanted to bring up a tool you might not associate with writing: your camera. I don’t mean some super-expensive, high-tech device, like the Lytro ILLUM lightfield camera  (drool…); I mean the camera already built into your smart phone–the one that’s probably within arm’s reach at this very moment.

Writing someplace new- (1)

 

Using your camera is a no-brainer if you write nonfiction, especially if you want to break into a market like Highlights for Children, which prefers authors to provide photos. But even if you don’t plan to sell any of your images–even if you’re writing fiction–your camera is an awesome tool. You can use photos to help

  • Create detailed, believable settings for fiction writing
  • Document information for a nonfiction project
  • Collect visual inspiration for art and poetry
  • Inspire characters by capturing details about real people–expressions, fashions, hair styles, tattoos, body language
  • Spark ideas about place, weather, terrain, or architecture

Photos can help you recall the inspiration
sparked by writing in a new location.

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Read on to learn how your camera can help you up your writing game!

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Who Else Wants to Take Writing on the Road This Summer? (Part 2)

 

Inspiration Can Be Anywhere! (www.cherylreif.com)Best Practice #3. Find a writing app (or apps) that works for you.

I already covered the benefits of using a cloud service to help you keep documents easily accessible–but many cloud services only allow you to view files, not edit them. Editing files stored in Dropbox, for instance, requires opening them in another application.

In the past, I’ve had iffy success with iPad and iPhone word processing apps. Although great when they worked, they had the unfortunate tendency to crash unexpectedly. If (like me!) you’re used to the autosave features of your desktop machine, you might not remember to save as often as you’d like–resulting in hours of lost work.

It’s important to choose a program or app that works and plays well with your primary computer, your mobile device of choice, and the cloud service you decide to use.

Recently, Dropbox integrated with Microsoft Word for iOS. I’ve had a good enough experience with the iPad version of Word that it’s now my go-to app for editing Word documents. Unlike other iOS word processing apps, it doesn’t strip away or mess up formatting or Endnote codes–which means that files transfer seamlessly from mobile device to desktop and back again. (Note: that some functionality, such as Word’s Track Changes feature, are unlocked only if you have an Office 365 subscription.)

Simplenote, Evernote, and Onenote, mentioned last week, are also good options for writing and note-taking. Whatever program you choose, make sure you will be able to access files while offline. Some store files exclusively in the cloud, so you’ll need an Internet connection if you want to access previous documents.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just a list of the apps I’ve specifically tried. You can find more great apps for writers here; the list is a few years old, but almost all info is still accurate. Definitely chime in if you have others to recommend!

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Who Else Wants to Take Writing on the Road This Summer?

FlatironsI’m writing this blog post in the shade of a Ponderosa Pine, on the Upper Bluestem trail in the City of Boulder’s Mountain Parks. I can hear half a dozen different kinds of birds whistling, twittering, warbling, screeching, and cawing–all to the musical background of one very happy poodle’s panting. Insects buzz and the air smells of sage, carried to me on a deliciously cool breeze. (Yep, that picture above shows my current view!)

Ribbet collage

Even though the parking lot was overflowing, the trails have been peaceful. I passed a half dozen moms with babies in those little front pack carriers and a troop of elementary kids clambering over (and into) the deep ruts left by the flooding we had a year back. Sitting here, surrounded by waving grass and wind and birdsong, I can feel the week’s stress evaporating.

I’ve gotten pretty good at taking my writing on the road–or trail–with me. Earlier this summer, I took writing on a backpacking trip to Zion National Park. There I spent 5 days hiking and camping, taking photos during the days and transferring notes to my iPad in the tent after dark.

I haven’t always been the write-everywhere gal, though. I used to stick to my desk. It seemed that every time I tried to take a project elsewhere–say, my local coffee shop–I’d end up forgetting something.

Or batteries would die in a key device.

Or I’d need a power outlet when none was available. Can you say…

frustration

You can’t beat the inspiration provided by a change of setting, though, so over the years I’ve assembled some “best practices” that make such outings more successful. In fact, now taking writing out the door is relatively stress-free! I’ll cover the first 2 best practices this week….

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