Part 1 – iPhone Photography; my basics

I started with the iPhone some years ago. Just not taking pictures with it except for food and selfies and stuff like that. I had a regular camera, usually a FujiFilm something or other. I went through any number of them. Some only lasted a few months but yet cost a lot. Others lasted a bit longer but still became defective. All this time I had the iPhone 7 Plus which is the camera I will be using for this exploration.

So I had to start at the basics. I had to learn how to actually use the iPhone camera app. Its not just point and shoot and you are there when you get a bit more serious. Its what does HDR do or not do. What are the different types of photography or video you can do? How can you control basic stuff like exposure with it? How can you lock focus with it?

All of this I found within the app itself. The camera app is supposed to be easy to use and you should be able to start with it and do basic stuff and also have a platform to learn and adopt the things above. But there are even more basic things before taking the photograph. How do I hold the phone to take a picture? The phone is will try to stabilize the image but its best if I can be steady. How to quickly focus and then look to see if I should change exposure? These were the basic things coming from a FujiFilm camera I had to learn. Luckily all of this is in the camera app itself or in the settings in the case of a few things I may want to do or change. Here is a little list of the things I did to learn:

  1. went into settings and enabled the grid.
  2. while in settings I told the camera to make a non HDR image if it choose to use HDR.
  3. I set the camera app to shoot in most compatible which means JPEG

That was about it for the settings.

Then I opened the app itself and started drilling down on my things:

  1. How to hold the camera? I am still experimenting but holding it in my right hand firmly with my hand wrapped around the camera with the camera lens on the left and then using my left hand to focus, steady the camera, and take the photograph seems the best at this point. More experimentation is needed.
  2. How to set HDR. There are three values I could use. Auto, On, Off. I chose Auto because it seemed the easiest since I had also told the camera to take a non HDR image.
  3. How to lock the focus. This is easy by simply holding down while in the camera and you will see it show up.
  4. How to get exposure compensation working. After focusing, there is a small sunshine thing on the app. By sliding down or up your darken or brighten the photograph.

That was about it but it really was not as you can imagine. Because once having something as portable as the iPhone and its camera it was time to play with all the things. Here are some things I’ve learned about it:

  1. get a good grasp and hold of the camera and I do not hold with fingertips.
  2. the HDR auto setting has saved a few images and let me also see the differences between the two.
  3. locking the focus has not been used yet. I will get to that soon.
  4. exposure compensation is nice but remembering to get the results can be hard for me.

So these are my explorations with the iPhone so far. I’ve wondered if I should at some point just buy a camera like the FujiFilm XT30 since my friend has them in stock here. I think its a wasted effort though for me. I am very satisfied learning and at the pace I am going with daily walks and photography I am doing. Once I get a handle on the default camera app, there are more professional camera apps that do more. I can also drive into more details with Snapseed editing my images. I have already started playing with the Tune image setting which seems to be where I will spend the most time but cropping is pretty handy too.

Next Stops on the Trail…

So my next stops are to take more photographs with the default app. Get a sense of locking the focus at times when I want to be stationary and capture things, and also get better with exposure compensation. I think that this will take until I’m done. I’m in no real hurry to proclaim some conclusion because photography has always been an experimentation for me. Now with the iPhone I have another device with other apps to learn. I also know that a new iPhone is right around the corner and this will come with new cameras as well. I like being a generation behind in the phones because prices are much better but this time I may do something different. I really want to see what the iPhone 11 with its three cameras is capable of. If I don’t feel there is a value, I will definitely upgrade to the iPhone XS because I think its a good upgrade path especially for the cameras and what you get. If I get 3 years of use out of it its better than any of the digital cameras I have had.

Finally, with the iPhone photography explorations I also feel that learning new things is good and since I am in no real rush to do things with the resulting images besides share on social media and my blog, its a never-ending exploration for me. The iPhone upgrades would allow me to extend the exploration a bit because of functionality differences in the phones which is rather exciting.

So anyways, welcome to my experiments on the iPhone; starting with the iPhone 7 Plus. Definitely more to come and write about in the weeks and months ahead. I want to cover shooting in RAW format, using specialized camera apps, and learning more on editing the photos. At some point, I will switch to an app like ProCamera or Halide that lets me shoot in RAW but also gives me a processed JPEG image. All that is to come though

Stick around! I’m sure to learn things, make mistakes, learn from them, and then make more.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.