One of the benefits of working in journalism for so long is having creative friends with loads of talent and knowledge. It seemed like a natural fit to start a blog series where these professional photographers, designers and editors answer your questions and share some great tips.
The first installment of Ask a Pro is on iPhone photography. I put the call out for questions a few weeks ago and I've enlisted the help of my friend Reza Marvashti to answer them. Reza has been an award-winning photojournalist and photo editor for 22 years, working at several respected newspapers including The Denver Post and The Free Lance-Star. (He also happened to be the photographer at my wedding; the big feather in his cap I'm sure.)
Q: Can you suggest Apps/filters?
A: With apps and filtering programs for the iPhone, the options are endless. I use The Best Camera, Instagram, Hipstamatic, Snapseed and Incredibooth. My favorite out of the bunch is Hipstamatic because it allows you to choose different lens/film combinations for tons of effects. I use it quite often to shoot food reviews for the newspaper and a ton in my personal life.
Q: In terms of composition, any thoughts on perspectives that work best?
A: Like anything else, composition has rules. I tend to break them mostly. I have a general idea what I'm shooting, but it always includes some 'extra' around the frame. I enjoy center weighted composition in a lot of my frames, but I also enjoy converging, leading and diverging lines. I rarely shoot from eye level and I almost always shoot with outstretched arms versus camera to face. The best possible suggestion I can give about composition is to find the style that feels comfortable to you, and work on perfecting it. Styles are very important when defining yourself as a photographer.
Q: Tips for framing images? Keep rule of thirds window up?, etc.
A: With the iPhone, I find framing to be the hardest thing to do. It is such a small device that it is very shaky when handheld. I personally find the rule of thirds window to be distracting. I like to brace the phone on something if possible, or breathe easy when shooting for composition. If you so choose, companies make external mounts and balancing devices for your phone. I think it takes away from the candid nature of the device.
Q: Any way to avoid grainy pictures when zooming?
A: Since the iPhone uses digital zooming (essentially cropping the sensor), there is no way to avoid grain. There are aftermarket lenses (like this one) that fit on the iPhone, but I think it takes away from the candid nature of the phone. Also, with any lens, the quality is only as good as the glass and aperture. Most of the consumer aftermarket lenses are made of poorly constructed plastic, not finely ground glass.
Q: How should I hold my phone to take pictures with one hand? I'm afraid of dropping it.
A: If you are scared of dropping your phone, get a very strong case that has a hole through the lens. Otterbox would be my suggestion.
Q: I never have any luck with photos when there is even a little bit of movement / action. Also, indoor shots (which I just simply try to avoid now) look grainy. Maybe an external flash?
A: Great question. If I could answer that one, I would be working for Apple. The amount of time if takes to click the shutter and make a picture is referred to as lag time. The iPhone has terrible lag time. Between the lag time and the low film speeds in the phone this is a losing battle. If you are worried about camera shake in low light, you can certainly purchase one of the many aftermarket tripods available for the iPhone. There is an external flash available, but frankly, it is a joke. You could use a constant light source such as an LED monitor set to white or a strong flashlight for pinpoint light on a subject or light painting.
Q: For editing photos for print, would you recommend downloading them at the highest quality setting and resizing the resolution from 72 to 300?
A: Simple answer here--I would always suggest downloading the image from the phone and resizing to 200dpi without changing the dimensions. One other thing is that you need to convert the color space from SRGB (native to iphone) to Adobe RGB as it has more color leniency for print quality work.
Q: I take a lot of self portraits so am especially interested in ideas, etc.
A: I am the wrong dude to ask about self portraits! One of the funnest apps I have used for newspaper projects, is the Incredibooth app. The app is basically a photobooth that can utilize either the front facing or rear facing lens on the iPhone. It shoots three or four images in s;uccession and combines into a photo-strip.
Q: Storage or transmission ideas?
A: For storage issues, it all depends on the size of your phone. If you are like me and shoot tons of photos, you will need to keep up with your images as not to bog down your memory. I usually delete unwanted photos soon after they are stored. For ones that I would like to keep, I either FTP, email or download to dated and sorted folders on my laptop or desktop which I backup on external drives.
Since I hate iTunes and iPhoto, I use a free app called iExplorer on my Mac that allows me to use the phone like an external drive. Once connected, you can browse and save on your Mac with ease. For transmission to remote source, I have an app that I love: FTPontheGo. This app allows you to save FTP connections, browse files on your phone and upload the choices as a batch. With a good 3G or 4G connection, it flies. I also use this app to transfer my DSLR images (via an Eye-Fi card) to my phone as the images are saved to the card.
Reza, thank you for sharing your know-how and beautiful images. I'm taking notes and downloading apps!
I labeled this iPhone installment Part One since this is the tip of the iceberg with iPhone photography. be sure to hit me with any additional questions. Future series topics also include feature writing and editing as well as a variety of design 101. This series is for you so, by all means–ask away!