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Home » How To

Technique: 7 Tips to Better iPhoneography: by Jeremy Edwards

Submitted by on February 3, 2010 – 1:05 pm 4 Comments

Since the birth of my FROM THE POCKET project in late 2009, I have received several emails from fellow iPhoneographers — many of whom want to know the applications I use for processing, capturing techniques, subject choices, and so on. As we all know, iPhoneography is a rapidly growing artistic medium and with that, comes the introduction of new artists and iPhoneographers alike. The art and design world is slow to accept iPhoneography as a true expression of art. However, we are seeing that iPhoneographers who are true artists beginning to alter this interpretation. Just like any new form of art, iPhoneography needs to grow and establish artistic legitimacy. There are those who simply take pictures with their iPhone, and those who employ the iPhone as an artistic tool.

This article is directed at my fellow and aspiring iPhoneographers who want to better their iPhoneography experience and artfully improve their images. Below, I have listed 7 simple tips to better your iPhoneography. This will not be a source of suggesting applications you should be using to process images, or how you should hold the iPhone, or how to make your images look “more analog”. My intentions are to provide artful insight into bettering your iPhoneography.

1. Embrace the limitations of the iPhone camera.
There’s only so much the iPhone camera can do. Become overly familiar with what it can and cannot do from a photographic perspective. Learn how it treats light, shadows, and movement. Just like film or advanced digital photography, do not force the camera to do something it simply cannot do, and then rely on your post-processing to fix it. This is a poor approach to solid photography. The best photography doesn’t have to be a product of the best cameras.

2. Commit to your subjects.
If you are inspired by a photo-op, commit to it, spend a few seconds assuring that what you capture is what inspired you in the first place. Believe it or not, it’s okay to miss opportunities – merely capturing images for the sake of making up for a missed opportunity, does not necessarily equal a beautiful image. Some of my best images came from just standing around and waiting. Find the subjects (i.e. portraits, ordinary, street, landscapes) that inspire you and commit to capturing the perfect moment. Remember, quality is always better than quantity.

3. Fine tune your style of spontaneity.
Photographers are infamous for being spontaneous and having “off-the-cuff” personalities. Because the iPhone offers a discrete method of capturing images, it also allows you to be truly spontaneous in ways you’ve never experienced. For me, my creative capacity relies on having absolutely no barriers to what I can shoot. If you are someone who creates best from having predictable subjects, then stay true to that style of spontaneity.

4. Do not “over-app”, or “over-edit” your images.
This is probably the most important tip I can offer to any iPhoneographer. I could write an entire article on this tip alone. I see hundreds of iPhone images a day. Many are wonderfully done, and many are simply junk. Please remember this: just because the iPhone offers you endless applications to edit your images and make them “look better,” does not mean you have to use them all. If you take pictures of everything you see with the mindset that your post-app processing will make the image “better,” you’re on the wrong path. It’s not artful. It’s alteration and superficial. Also, the more you edit, the more likely your image will blur and over-pixelate, which leads to poor images that have little aesthetic beauty.

5. Create projects.
Try to organize your iPhoneography subjects into mini-projects — just as you would do with a professional photography portfolio. This offers creative structure to what you shoot on a daily basis. It’s very easy to find yourself shooting everything from coffee cups to sunrises to reflective puddles and everything in between. Your viewers should be able to navigate your portfolio and have a sense of anticipation when it comes to your choice of subjects.

6. Explore the available software and find what works best for you.
In my iPhoneography “camera bag ” on a daily basis, I only use 4 different applications to post-process. I’ve made a rule to not spend any more than 10 minutes editing any image. If you have a basket full of choices, the chances are you will over-app and ruin the roots of the image. Learn your favorite applications well and know their limits. Remind yourself of these three things when processing — why did I take this picture? will this app help it or ruin it? and is it really necessary? Don’t become a filter photographer.

7. Keep it artful.
This is the theme and purpose of this article. Because your iPhone has the capabilities of altering an image a thousand different ways, doesn’t mean you forfeit the general rules of artful photography – composition, managing light, focus, and subject choice. What you shoot will always be better than how you shoot it. Your subject should be able to stand on it’s own as a piece of photographic art – it’s up to you to do it beautifully with artistic integrity.

If you feel this article is helpful, please reblog. Because, in the end, better photography is beneficial to all of us. Your comments and suggestions are welcomed below or via email (fromthepocket (at) gmail.com).

– Jeremy

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Jeremy Edwards is a Chicago-based iPhoneographer. He publishes the blog FROM THE POCKET and has given me permission to republish his article here. You can email Jeremy at fromthepocket (at) gmail.com.

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Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • Danny Goodman

    Jeremy…

    Thanks for promoting #4. I tend to be a minimalist in post-production and usually react negatively to over-processed images.

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  • http://pixelsatanexhibition.com Knox Bronson

    Thank you Jeremy. Great piece. Thank you Marty. I think everybody goes through a stage where they over-do apps. God knows I did when I first discovered BestCam … that was the … beginning!

    The apps are part of the charm and, dare I say it, magic of iphontography (I know "iphoneography" will win out, but I'm stubborn) and those of us who use them more than others learn quickly that the app must always serve the image.

    It is sad when an otherwise fine image is over-processed, but I think it is usually due to immaturity and/or insecurity on the part of the artist. I've seen that with "regular camera" photographers and photoshop … diffuse glow anyone?

    I often use two or three apps on an image. I've spent many hours experimenting with what works for me and for what images in terms of color, contrast, what happens if you use this app first and that app second, and vice versa, and what image will work with what app (if I've taken 30 pictures of the same thing).

    It is easy to say "use as little apps as possible," but my own experience (in putting together a show and seeing regular people react to a vast array of images from many artists, most of which were definitely processed and listening to them say over and over, "I can't believe these pictures came off an iphone!") tells me that judicious use of apps is crucial to iphontography, an art form just now emerging from its infancy, in my opinion. So much great work happening!

    That said, it does start with the image always. But I love Toy Camera, LoFi, and TiltShift still!!

  • http://kokovoko.info Jordi

    I think we should not try to give rules to iphoneography. Let everybody do what they want to do.

  • http://www.jeremyedwards.tumblr.com Jeremy Edwards

    Thanks for the kind words everyone! @Danny, #4 has been my focus for the last 3 months. I'm glad you agree. @Knox, I agree with your interpretation of why over-processing occurs, well said. @Jordi, I do agree with you. Rules are not necessary when an entirely new art medium is trying to establish itself. My article clearly articulated "tips for better iphoneography", not rules. Hopefully it inspires other iphoneographers to be more artful and intentional with their photography. If they choose not to, of course, that is fine as well.