iPhoneography: A Few Tips (Things I’ve Learned Along the Way)

If you’re just discovering iPhoneography or photography in general, advice from someone with even just a little more time than you have can be a welcome gift. A lot of photographers over the years have given me guidance, either in person or through their writings. Each of them have helped me to discover my vision as a photographer or helped me better understand my tools.

Although these tips are presented in the context of iPhoneography, they’re good advice for any novice photographers, as well as a reminder of the basics for those who’ve been shooting a while.

Here are some of the tips that I’ve learned or was given along the way. >>>


Shoot. Shoot often. If you see a shot that you want and you drive past it, go back and get it.

No one has to see your photos but you. Mentally, this relieves you of the pressure that “every shot has to be art.” Release the good ones into the wild, if you want. By the way, when I started shooting again years ago, my signal-to-noise ratio (crap to good pics ratio) was really really high — probably over 100:1. It improves the more you shoot.

Learn your camera. Learn what it can do well and what it can’t do well. That’s trial and error and you won’t get some shots that you want while you’re learning (but don’t let that stop you). Soon, you’ll understand the iPhone’s limitations and its strengths and you’ll be able to shoot around the limitations — or use them to your advantage.

It’s easier to get a shot and delete it later than it is to not get it at all and wish you had.

The Rule of Thirds is a good place to start for interesting composition. You don’t always have to follow it, but the more you use it, the more you’ll recognize when to break it.

Look at others work and be inspired. Flickr groups, websites (check my blogroll) are all great places for inspirato.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. See “No one has to see your photos” above.

Take safety shots when you can. Take multiple shots. A shot that looks just okay on your iPhone may look fantastic when you look at it on a monitor.

Don’t delete anything until you’ve transferred it off your iPhone (except for things like foot shots where you accidentally set off the shutter). Learned this one the hard way.

Find your vision. Your styles are going to be all over the place at first. That’s not bad. Over time, focus your style so that it’s recognizably you. I made a list of the things I like to shoot, how I like to shoot and areas I’d like to grow into creatively. That serves as my roadmap.

One piece of advice adapted from typography (I’m a graphic designer), use fewer apps and know how to use them well rather than using many apps poorly. Like your camera, your apps are tools. Learn what they can do to help you create your vision.

The camera doesn’t make the picture. That’s the vision of the person using it. The camera is just a tool to help realize that vision.

Have fun!

These are just some random thoughts that have helped me over time. When you think you’re ready, share your work in the community — on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter. It’s a really friendly, approachable and giving community.



Got any tips that have helped you in your iPhone photography? Share them in the comments below.

About Marty Yawnick 1826 Articles
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.
  • Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  • I'm new to iphoneography but things like these inspire me more. Thank you very much.

  • nui

    Just read the tips, thanks for the sharing, it will help me a lot.

  • Nicki Fitz-Gerald

    Love this a list, a couple of great reminders, some made me smile (cos they're so true!!!) Damn good advice Marty! Breaking the rules is a good one. 😉

    • In a roundabout way, that one came from my dad when he first told me about the "rule of thirds". Picture a stubborn teen who thought he knew everything and then the ensuing conversation….


  • Lindsey Thompson

    Thanks Marty, I enjoyed reading this too. It was nice to see your advice of 'use fewer apps and learn to use them well' as I don't use that many and have always seen it as one of my failings, so that makes me feel much better now!! 🙂

  • bee

    Thanks for this post, it’s so true!

  • Thanks Marty – succinctly written. It's going to be a great help as I continue to figure out what I'm doing with this piece of technology!

  • Fantastic post, out of curiosity how many apps do you carry on your phone?

    I have 100+ and i am thinking of slim lining too about 20-30 as a lot i don't even use that often.

  • Great tips. I really need to focus less on apps and more on shooting and experimenting, I miss shots pondering which app to shoot them with which is pretty silly.

    • Hi, Nox,

      Whenever possible, I try to shoot raw to worry about the processing later. Of course, there are times when I'm creatively paralyzed when looking at a raw image and wondering which app I should process it in, but at least I've got the raw image.

      Apps like Hipstamatic are completely different, of course, but I find myself using them to shoot with intent. I'll often shoot additional raw safety shots whenever I can just in case.


  • Catherine

    Thanks Marty! Very good tips… The one I struggle with is finding my "vision". I like many different things/looks and am not sure how to make them "recognizably me". I'll just keep shooting! 🙂

  • DC Runographer

    Great advice here, Marty, especially "No one has to see your photos but you." It can be very liberating to know this, something that took time for me to grasp. But you're right, taking crap makes you a better photog, not a worse one.

  • Lisa

    Thanks again. Your help is very much appreciated.

  • I am also in the "Your styles are going to be all over the place at first" phase – the photos are okay, but the subjects are mostly pretty dull. Finding a vision seems like the biggest challenge…

  • One more tipp: Shoot always at the highest resolution possible. Even if you show your pics actually only on facebook, maybe there’s an exhibition waiting for your prints somewhere in the future…

    And another: Keep the originals! Perhaps tomorrow there’ll be an app which will change your view on aesthetics and you want to re-app your material.

  • Carl Friend

    I don't have an iphone but these are the apps I used on my Ipod Touch and Ipad. Filmlab I really wish they would make an Ipad only without the 1x. Who needs Alien SKins Exposure with that app? Monophix HD. Photo Fx Ultra. Photogene I paid for the extras. The camerea connection kit really comes in handy for me.

  • Carl Friend

    I'm hoping the next Ipod Touch has a better camera. The developer for Monophix told me he would be adding simulated b/w films later.

  • Great tips Marty – very much on the money.

    Here's a few iPhone-specific ones I've discovered:
    • There are some apps like Hipstamatic that you can get a great result from instantly (without post-apping). However, now that Hipstamatic supports multiple shots and background processing you can switch away from it and use another camera app at the same on the same subject ie. a 'raw' shot that you can post-app later. This way you get your instant Hipsta effected shot while having an unprocessed version to work on later. The other thing with the latest version of Hipstamatic is you can also change films/lenses etc while your shots are processing. Do this and get some variations on your subject; study the effects they produce later. This will also help you to choose appropriate film/lens combos for future shots and also some nice surprises.
    • Experiment with multitasking apps – find which ones play nicely with each other so you can shoot simultaneously. Do this BEFORE you take on any shoot that is critical – losing an image because an app crashes when you switch away from it can be disastrous! Once you are confident that your selected apps work together you can rapidly get multiple shots of the same thing from a variety of different apps. For instance I can confidently use Hispatmatic and Camera+ at the same time, switching back and forth without any issues. Apps like Lomolomo are not as robust. Once again, experiment and find what set-ups work for you.
    • Invest in accessories:
    Extra battery packs that you can have on hand to extend the life of your shoot. Doing a dedicated shoot on full battery charge (iPhone4) using a number of apps will probably only get you around two hours solid shooting. Having some extra juice that will give you and extra 20-30 minutes can make all the difference. The packs range in price, effectiveness and charge cycles but are a godsend.
    • Stylus like the Pogo can work really well for apping where fingers are too clunky ie. Colourspash etc and they can be nice to use full stop. Cheap to buy.
    • Tripod mounts made especially for the iPhone allow you to get you shots ultra steady by simply mounting to a conventional tripod or most types. Essential if you want to do serious HDR shots that you need to have enlarged/printed. Agin, these are cheap to buy.
    • A simple power extension cord if you are doing inside shoots where you have power available. Plug the iPhone charger into your for, plug that into the extension cable and you have constant juice for your shoot. Can be a wee bit clunky but if you get a flexible cord it makes it easier. You can simply pull out the iPhone charger cord if you need to get into tighter spaces but at least your battery should be near full charge. Oh and choose the right length – if you have an iPhone set up on a tripod and your extension cord is plugged in to an outlet way over the other side of the room at max length you'll end up with "iPhone on the floor"….

  • 'Have fun' is the most important tip.

  • Kaz

    Great tips! I have another

    If you have an app with multi films, lenses, etc, shoot the same subject in the same lighting conditions using each of the combinations or whatever it is (this can be a bit tedious sometimes I'll admit). The purpose is two fold, it makes a great reference as to how they look and it's interesting to see how some of them react in the same conditions.

  • Lisa

    As a complete beginner, the idea that I will someday need to find a “vision” and stick with it makes me anxious. What if I like (and, just maybe, excel at) taking pictures of lots of things in many different ways? Is that wrong? What are the benefits of choosing a style and sticking with it?

    • Your vision is whatever you choose it to be. It's what you like to photograph. It may be architecture. It may be puppies. It may be food. It may be abstracts. It may be any or all of those. The point is, shoot what you like. Don't try to be someone else. Unless, of course, your vision is to emulate other photographers, then do it and have fun with it.

      As with any of those tips, pick and choose the ones that work for you — if any. In the end, there really are few hard and fast rules.


  • Lisa

    I learned an important lesson today that you might want to include in your next “Tips” posting for those of us new to the artistic side of life. Not everyone will like your photographs, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad! Don’t let other’s opinions determine the value of a shot. If you think it’s good, that’s good enough!

    • An awesome tip, Lisa. Thank you for sharing. Yes. In the end, the only one you need to please is yourself!