Apr 08, 2021
3 mins read
It’s no secret that I am an Olympus Visionary and that my specialty (bird photography) leaves me in a place where it’s highly unlikely that I will EVER be able to use a smartphone as my primary camera.
That said, I know many of you reading this rely on your smartphone camera at least as a backup. In the old days, I carried a DSLR and a digital point-and-shoot as a “go anywhere” backup camera.
Like it or not, smartphone camera improvements, and the supporting software/firmware that drives them, have pretty much eliminated the point-and-shoot camera category.
On a daily basis, hundreds of millions of people take billions of photographs using smartphones. The last time I checked, either the iPhone or phones from Samsung, were the most popular “cameras” in the world.
Since I like to study trends in photography, I decided to dig in and learn more about “iPhoneography” as some people call it. Depending on the type of photography you do, smartphone cameras can be very useful. As with all cameras and all types of photography, the more you study with and practice with your camera, the better the results you will get.
I put together a little check list for those of you who rely on smartphone cameras, to help you get the most out of them. Since I own an Apple 11 Pro Max, my tips may be biased in the Apple direction, but they should mostly apply to any smartphone camera.
(Other than the first tip, these are in no particular order.)
Tip #1: The most important thing to remember is that if you want to get top-quality results from your smartphone camera, you need to treat it, think of it, and use it, as if it were a “real camera.”
2. Clean Your Lens (On the newer phones the lenses are very exposed & need cleaning on a regular basis)
3. Set phone to AIRPLANE mode
4. When using as a camera, turn off WIFI
5. When using as a camera, turn on DO NOT DISTURB
6. When using as a camera, turn off notifications
7. Use third party apps like Moment Pro Camera ($5.99 from the App Store)
8. Set your exposure like it was a DSLR
9. Set your shutter speed like it was a DSLR
10. Set your white balance like it was a DSLR (Never use AWB)
11. Set your focus like it was a DSLR
12. Shoot RAW or TIF if available – shoot highest quality JPG or HEIC otherwise
13. Experiment with telephoto panoramic vertical
14. Keep your camera phone level (Turn on the grid and use grid lines to help compose and on iPhone to help with lay-flat photography)
15. Don’t shoot into the sun (flare)
16. Change your perspective (high AND low)
17. Get in close
18. Shoot horizontal AND vertical
19. Press the shutter by using the volume button
20. For a more stable shot, use a remote USB trigger like the Moment Bluetooth Remote to trip the shutter
21. Use a tripod, monopod or other stabilization method such as the Platypod
22. Turn off the phone’s flash
23. In extremely contrasty light, use HDR mode
24. Use burst mode for action shots
25. If you’re close to your subject, use Portrait mode to control depth-of-field
26. Try third-party, add-on lenses (like those from Moment) to extend your smartphone camera’s capabilities
27. Don’t use overhead lighting when making lay flat photos. Use side light or back light instead
28. Shoot in panoramic mode both horizontal and vertical
29. Do NOT use digital zoom
30. Show your camera phone some respect and it will deliver great results
Okay, so I have made ONE bird photo using a smartphone. This is a test shot using the iPhone 11 Pro Max at Bosque del Apache
For some, a smartphone camera may be all they need to enjoy photography. If you are one of those, then try applying some or all of these tips to get the most out of what you already have.
For people like me, it’s very unlikely that a smart phone camera will ever replace my interchangeable lens cameras. I’m sticking with my Olympus cameras.There are just some things that smartphones cannot do, that my Olympus M43 camera CAN do. But who knows what the future holds?