Hubby and I both get asked by readers and friends alike what kind of camera I use on the blog. They are often surprised to learn it’s only an iPhone. Someday I may get a professional camera and a set of beautiful lenses but for now I’m enjoying learning to get the most out of my iPhone camera.
There are certainly pros and cons to using the iPhone as my one and only camera. The upside I enjoy the most is that I always have it on me. It’s small size makes it convenient to carry and a bit less noticeable when I’m photographing outside. Whether I’m taking pictures of my family, friends or people on the street, using the iPhone is a bit less awkward than a large camera.
featured slider image credit: RWCandeer
Do you have any requests or specific questions on iPhone photography?
If so, please leave me your questions in the comment section at the bottom of this post and I’ll address them in a future article.
When I first began doing food photography for the blog, I was amazed at the quality of the photos I could get from just my little cell phone. With the help of a few adjustments made in iPhoto, the pictures come out great.
However, the lighting must be absolutely right. Without the right lighting the pictures look grainy and faded. Most indoor shots are a bit fuzzy. I’m lucky enough to have a home full of large windows, so I get plenty of great natural light. If it’s too early in the morning or it’s a cloudy day, the lighting is too blue and diffused and the pictures don’t come out well. After 1 PM, the light is too direct for food photography. I like a lot of indirect and softer natural light. As we don’t have any curtains in our home, there’s not much I can do to control the quality of the light. So I typically photograph between 11 AM and 1 PM.
In the pictures above you can compare the same photo taken on my kitchen counter (left), under fluorescent artificial light (with sunlight coming in from the living room). I took the picture again (right), placing the mixer on my desk right next to the window. The photo is full of natural light coming in on the right-hand side. You can see how much more crisp, clean and white the picture is with natural light in comparison with the picture under artificial light in my kitchen.
As my kitchen is farthest from our large windows, the photos I take in the kitchen are often too fuzzy due to the lack of natural light. I’m working on improving the lighting in the kitchen. For example, I switched out the kitchen bulbs for “natural light” bulbs that mimic the quality of daylight.
Pro Camera: Best App for Improving Photos
I chose to download an iPhone app called Pro Camera, rather than using the camera which comes with the phone. This app is great as it allows me to manually control both the exposure (quality of lighting in the photo) and the focus. I can create brighter or darker pictures by adjusting the exposure which helps flatter the subject better or create a more dramatic effect.
The photo above has been over exposed to make the white background bright to let the contrasting green chili pop out more.
This is a picture of my personal trainer doing some gymnastics at our gym. I manually under exposed to make her silhouette dark against the bright background for a more dramatic photo.
Controlling Focus & Depth-of-Field
I can adjust the focus as well. I can have the full image in focus or make the focus tighter on an image in the foreground, making the background out of focus (having the background out of focus is known as “depth-of-field” and gives a photograph a more professional look).
Depth-of-field is where you focus in on an image in the foreground (the image nearest) and let the background slide out of focus. Though the depth-of-field is limited with the iPhone you can still get a bit of it but it takes some practice with the focus.
Tips for Better Depth-of-Field
To achieve depth-of-field the iPhone needs to be very close to the object in the foreground. I often put the camera only an inch away from the foreground object, set the focus, and then pull slightly away, until the background images are seen in the frame. I have found that if the camera is too far away, the camera just puts everything that is in the frame into focus and you cannot get that separation of focus. The key is, to get the foreground images much closer to the camera than the background images and then manually focus.
I also love the “white balance” feature. This adjusts the color temperature of the photo. Sometimes the photos look too yellow or blue, but when I select the white balance feature, the color adjusts to the most neutral and realistic coloring. This saves me a lot of time adjusting the color balance later on once I edit the photos.
In the images above, the photo on the right has a blueish hue. I pressed the white balance button on the picture and the color adjusted itself.
You can also manually set the white balance by changing the white balance setting from automatic (the button will read ‘AWB’) to manual (the button will read ‘WB’). Simply focus on a white object or white piece of paper, hit ‘WB’ and the camera will read the white paper or object as neutral white.
My Photography Setup
My set up is basic and simple. Most of the time I take photos on our dinning room table which is surrounded by natural light.
Then I got a little fancy. I wanted a white glowing background.
I pulled out my spare desk from Ikea, got two white poster boards and a large roll of white butcher/poster paper. I placed the desk up against the wall, put one poster board on the desk, propped the other up against the wall and draped the white paper over the boards. I had originally just used the white poster boards, but found that you could see the shadow line between the two boards so I added the white paper. Using the paper as a background creates a great seamless background and having the white poster board underneath gives the paper a more solid white appearance, as the paper is a bit transparent and my desk is black.
Sometimes I adjust the position of the desk depending on the direction of the lighting. If the lighting is very strong, like it was in the pictures above, I place the desk to the side of the window. If it’s an overcast day and the light is diffused from cloud cover, I’ll move the desk in front of the window.
I don’t usually use a reflector, but the day I took this shot there was not a lot of strong light. To bounce a bit more light back onto the mint leaves, I covered a box lid with aluminum foil and propped it up with a spare vase.
I always adjust the photos using iPhoto. It’s the program that came with my laptop and though there are fancier effects I could achieve with other programs, I find the basics is all I need (for now).
The photo above of the tea-cup was adjusted and retouched a bit from the original (below). You’ll notice in the original that the table has some scratches in it in the lower left corner, which I removed using the “retouch” tool and I enhanced the color value of the photo using the “saturation” tool.
I’m a big fan of color. So when I am adjusting the color in a photo, I always try to enhance the true colors and values of the pictures so it looks as full of depth and color as it does in real life. Sometimes I have a bit of fun and go a little beyond reality as in the photograph below, but I wouldn’t go as far as changing the color values so a blue sky becomes pink.
I love the photo above because of the strong colors. The colors are fully enhanced, though I did not change the color values but only adjusted the saturation over to ‘full’. This enhanced the color of the green grass and the purple hue of the tree trunks which were tinted from the setting sun.
Keep checking back for more photography tips and tricks in the future. I plan to have a few more articles on the subject coming soon.
For now, here are some of my favorite articles for go-to tips and tricks from other photographers I love:
Veggie Belly (where I was inspired to adapt her white background idea)
More sites with photography I love to look at:
Kuiadore ~ The first food blog I ever read and where I fell in love with her decadent food photography.
Bitter Sweet ~ Always delicious looking and artfully staged photographs. I always wish I had the patience to set up such beautiful sets.
Delicious Days ~ Casual, entertaining writing. There’s also a fun gallery page of food photography I could spend hours looking at.
Knitty Baker ~ This is a blogger with a baking group I joined near the end of their mission to bake through the wonderful cake bible “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”. Since joining the group hosted by Knitty Baker I have become a regular reader of the wonderful recipes with great photographs. She’s also an accomplished knitter in addition to making wonderful desserts…hence the name of the blog.
Meeta K. Wolf Photography ~ Simply beautiful pictures.
Penny De Los Santos – A superb photographer. I had the opportunity to take a weekend online workshop with her and learned a great amount from her lessons as well as getting to watch her in a live photo shoot.