I 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!
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:
- 7 Essential Design Elements For Creating Striking iPhone Photos
- How To Use Color More Effectively In Your iPhone Photos
- How Michal Koralewski Creates Incredible iPhone Photos
FiLMiC Pro Website
One 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.
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:
- Design Elements & Principles
- Design Resources – Fabulous list of resources for colors, icons, images, backgrounds, fonts, and more
- 50 Beautifully Illustrated Graphics With Tips To Make You A Better Designer – this is worth perusing just to see some stunning examples of photos used in graphics
- 12 Common Image Formatting Mistakes To Avoid On Your Website
Canva also offers tutorials that teach both design principles and how to use their software:
This 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:
- iPhone Photography, from Shooting to Storytelling
- iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 8
- Shooting with the iPhone 5s
(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>).
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!