I often get asked what camera do I use when shooting landscape photos. The usual response when I tell the person who asks is normally something like, “wow, I must get myself a better camera so I can take photographs as good as you”.
Well, that’s really not normally how it works. I love taking photographs. Whether on holidays or days out with my wife and kids. Or landscape photos when I’m by myself on a hill overlooking a valley in the Peak District or Yorkshire. Plus I love the challenge of shooting interesting urban landscapes of my home city of Manchester. But whether these are done with my iPhone, my Olympus EP1 or my Canon 5Dk2 and it’s associated lenses and filters, really does depend on the situation I’m in. Very often, my planned photo days out do involve my professional gear, but I often find myself taking some great photographs with my iPhone too.
Having a great camera will not make the photograph better. Yes, it will give you more options and control, but these are fairly useless to have if you struggle with some of the basics. I really do believe that it takes a skilled photographer to take great images. But you know what? You don’t need a great camera and you really can achieve these on your iPhone or other brand of smartphone.
As long as you try and follow a few basic rules on focus, composition, exposure and editing that are easy to learn, you really will start taking really good photos.
Anyway, if you are serious about getting better at photography, read these top 5 basic tips that can be applied to mobile photography and well as ‘proper’ photography.
1. Looking after your phone means looking after the lens
Blatantly obvious one this one. Most cameras have lens caps, but you phone will live in you pocket, bag or even get dropped on a muddy floor. So as a result the lens will more than likely be covered in dirt, dust and fingerprints and these will have an adverse effect on the quality of your photos. If you wear glasses you’ll understand what I mean. The same rule applies to a camera lens. So clean it occasionally! It takes seconds.
2. Focus the camera and your mind
This is the most important part, and one of the easiest things to do but a lot of people forget to do it. Simply tap your screen just before you take your photo on the area where your subject matter is. This will be confirmed by a small yellow square. Be mindful though. If the subject is moving, be sure to redo this just before you take the photo to ensure the subject is still in focus. Be careful to keep your camera steady too. You can do this by using two hands.It really does help. I would also recommend taking more than one shot – just in case the first is out of focus or someone has moved. The number of smartphone photos you see on Facebook that are blurry is down to this.
If you are really serious, you can even buy a mini tripod for iPhones now – a good and inexpensive one is the GorillaPod by Joby. I have one for my Canon – it’s a great piece of gear.
3. Too light or too dark
Not as scary as it sounds. When you tap to focus the photograph the camera will also use this to decide how bright or dark the image will be. Apple finally introduced a manual exposure tool in IO8. When you set the focus a small sun icon appears. You can drag this up and down to adjust how bright or dark the image will be. Once you’re happy with how it looks, let go and press the shutter!
4. Compose yourself and the image
If you want to create better landscape photographs or even just better family snaps, mastering this is a must. But you know what – it’s really easy to grasp. The most simply way to is to use the grid that you switch on in your settings. This splits your scene into 9 rectangles. This gives you your rule of thirds as we call it. If you can position a key item in your photograph to be on one of those thirds, compositionally the photograph will be more pleasing.
You can also use these to help with lead in lines, which are basically anything that draws you eye to the focal point of your image. This can be a road, stream, limestone pavement, cluster of rocks… anything really. Oh and don’t forget to try different angles of the same photograph. Your legs do bend you know!
5. Vav vav zoom
A lot of smartphones including the iPhone have a zoom feature enabled. Unlike a glass lens, all this does is magnify a certain area of the photograph you have zoomed into and crops it. The image quality tends to be fairly poor. I would say, don’t use this feature.
And of course you have a number of build in filters on the iPhone or you could take advantage of the many adjustment tools and filters in an app such as Instagram.
The images that feature on the Manchester poster are all iPhone photographs so it does go to show an expensive camera isn’t the be all and end all!
These really are the basics and I’ve tried to explain them as best as I can, but if you want to learn more there are loads of websites that go into much more detail. – I particularly liked this post which goes into so much more detail.
Digitally zooming in means you lose the sharpness and quality that you get in images when you move yourself to get closer to the subject – even if it means getting wet!