My friend was taking a picture with his iPhone happily at Santa Monica, and I took out my huge Sony R-1. He looked a little embarrassed and put his iPhone back into his pocket. Same things happened to me for several times. “I don’t know much about cameras. Let’s use yours,” some people may say. But I never see what’s wrong with an iPhone camera. Actually, I use my iPhone to take pictures all the time and all over the world, even if I have a Panasonic LX-2, a Sony R-1, a Nikon D70, and a Canon 5D Mark II at home. If you open my iPhone picture albums, you will see pictures taken in China, London, and Yellowstone. And if you ask me, I’d say, “Yes, I use my iPhone camera proudly!”
I didn’t like the iPhone camera from the beginning, but things changed when a guy from National Geographic saw me take pictures with my D70 on a busy street. “You should buy a small camera,” he said while another man ran into me, “people who love photography need small cameras.” That’s so true! People take pictures for capturing the beauty of the moment, but heavy cameras are killing the fun. Sometimes I chose not to bring any cameras simply because their weight ruined my interest. “You can’t take your big camera every day,” Mr. National Geographic said, “but the beauty of life comes every day. How can you miss it?”
I started to use small cameras, but they are expensive. Canon G15 or Sony 5N costs more than $500. The worst thing is I still have to carry one phone and one camera. And no matter how small those cameras are, it looks stupid when I try to fit them into my pocket. So I turned to my iPhone, and I love it! It’s light and convenient. And out of my expectation, the picture quality is pretty good! iPhone may have lower resolution, but it’s already more than enough. Some people argue iPhone doesn’t perform well in dark circumstances, but even D70 can’t do well with ISO800, and R-1 lets me down with ISO400. Moreover, iPhone can do something a professional camera can’t do. Panoramic picture is one thing, quick picture is another. I took the picture on right on a train from London to Edinburgh. I had my R-1 with me, but I didn’t use it. I took out my iPhone and took a quick picture of the moment. She woke up the next second and the moment was gone. Fortunately, I didn’t waste any time on setting my “professional” camera.
Using an iPhone camera doesn’t mean you can’t take great pictures. Here are some of my tips for taking better iPhone pictures.
1. One Step Forward
As my favorite photographer Bryan Peterson pointed out, you can never stand too close. A common mistake in photography is trying to cover everything in one picture. Every picture needs a theme, and a theme can only been conveyed if the picture focuses on one thing. iPhone’s comparative low resolution makes this tip even more crucial. I took the picture below after the two Chinese USC students were shot near campus. There was a heart of candles in front of Tommy Trojan. I tried to take a picture of the whole scene, but I gave up and walked one step forward, and another step forward. There appeared a half-heart, a broken heart. That was how I felt at the moment, and that picture tells a story now.
2. Choose One Right Color
Every camera has its “strong” colors and “weak” colors. Most cameras can’t present all colors right in one picture. Obviously, iPhone camera has the same problem. Instead of covering all colors, I usually try to make at least one color right. That color should be impressive and can be seen at the first glance. The picture below was taken in Solana Beach. It is a bright picture, but if you look at it carefully, you will find the picture presented red and green incorrectly. The only right color in this picture is blue.
3. Be Creative
I love taking creative pictures. It’s fun! It is much easier to take a creative picture with an iPhone since you don’t have to worry too much about a dirty or wet lens. One of my favorite iPhone pictures was taken on a London bus. I came out from an impressionist exhibition from the Royal Academy of Arts. I sat in the front row on the second floor of the bus, and it was raining as always. I suddenly realized why there were so many impressionist paintings in London. iPhone’s low resolution helped me. This is the best illustration of London: narrow streets, old houses, a black cab in front of you, and the rain blurred everything.