I was doing some research for a post I’m working on and came across an excellent tutorial series by Photographer and iPhoneography Evangelist Jack Hollingsworth. He often shares his years of experience in commercial photography and applies this knowledge when he shares his iPhone photography tips.
Over on the SnapSnapSnap blog, Jack has written several excellent tutorials covering iPhoneography basics. His excellent tutorial on focus covers a lot of ground on manual focus on the iPhone camera.
For most users, just knowing that our iPhones are there and that they are great little cameras is often all we need to know about our devices. However, in order to be able to shoot better photos, you have to know your camera, how it works, and what it’s capable of. That way, you’ll know how far you can push your device. This reduces the bad surprises.
Jack’s tutorials for SnapSnapSnap, the Camera+ blog, are far from basic are far from basic, though, and will help even experienced photographers who have been shooting with iPhone for years. The first in the series — his tutorial on focus — not only covers basic focus theory, but depth of field, field of view, and even how your iPhone camera chooses a point in the frame for autofocus. It’s a textbook lesson.
Besides Exposure, Focus is probably the second most important part of the iPhone photography experience. Viewers will tolerate almost any technical difficulty with your photography, except focus. If your picture is not in focus, then all the rest of your technical and creative efforts are for naught. Also, there is relatively precious little you can do to salvage an ‘out of focus’ photograph. Get your exposure and focus taken care of first, then the rest of the creative process will be more enjoyable.
His tutorial on Focus is broken up into 11, easy reading sections. One of my favorite tips and a technique I use often is about “Pixel Peeping”:
The retina display, as awesome as it is, can sometimes be a little deceiving when it comes to properly evaluating focus. If I’m unsure whether my photo is properly focused or not, I will try a technique called ‘pixel peeping’. This is a simple matter of opening the photo up in the camera roll and either ‘double tapping’ or ‘pinch zooming’ to look at the shot at a higher magnification. If the images look ‘focused’ at higher magnification, then move on. If not…try again. Yes, this does significantly slow down the creative shooting process, but it’s worth it for those special shots you want full focus detail in the final image.
There’s a lot more in his tutorial, A Beginner’s Guide for Manual Controls in iPhone Photography: Focus. It’s a fairly quick read but with Jack’s entertaining and easy-to-follow style, you’ll really feel like you picked up a lot.