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The iPhone And Your Photography: Using Your iPhone As A Camera And Digital Laboratory Bookmark and Share
So, you have an iPhone. You know it has a camera, and you’ve heard it can do neat things with/to your images. But where to get started? Let’s take a look at some hardware and software basics that will help kick-start your iPhone photography explorations.

My current home screen is shown in image (#1). I’ve highlighted the three important things that we’ll discuss in this section. You might want to refer back to this image as we discuss the Camera, Photos and App Store:

#1

1. Camera app, this is the iPhone’s built-in camera for taking stills and video.

2. Photos is where all your photos go when you shoot (with the Camera app) or when you save edited images from another app. It’s also in this Photos section that you find additional albums (libraries) that you’ve created in iTunes (or on your iPhone itself if you are running iOS5).

3. The App Store is where we browse and purchase fun and useful apps for our iPhone photography.

When you launch the built-in Camera app you have some choices to make. Take a look at image (#2) where I’ve highlighted some of the options at hand.

#2

Here’s a description of each item, working clockwise from the upper left:

1. Flash Control: you can turn the flash Off, On, or to Auto (the iPhone decides whether or not to use the flash).

2. HDR: On or Off. Yes, your iPhone can do High Dynamic Range imaging. More about this soon.

3. Choose your camera: standard (rear-facing) or front-facing camera. The latter is good for self-portraits and Facetime chatting. In case you’re feverishly looking for that front-facing camera on an older iPhone, remember that only the iPhone 4 and later has the two cameras; the iPhone 3GS and earlier will only have the rear-facing camera.

4. Still or Video Cameras: you can shoot 5MP stills or HD video via this switch.

5. Shutter Release: the mother of all controls, this button lets you shoot your stills or start-stop your video clips. Note: the shutter actually fires when you take your finger off the button so you can reduce camera shake by holding down the shutter button until the desired exposure moment. This will result in sharper captures than were you to jab at the shutter button.

6. Camera Roll Button: press here to see the images in your Camera Roll. The Camera Roll is where all your images go, whether stills or video. Also, when you save an edited image (from another app), it is also stored in the Camera Roll.

7. Default Focus and Exposure Area: unless you manually specify a different area for the iPhone to focus and measure exposure, it will use this central area (which is outlined for a moment when you launch the Camera app or recompose your scene).

Once you’ve mastered the basics of your iPhone camera’s features, you’ll probably want to explore some of its other capture options. One biggie is the ability to fine-tune your focus by tapping on the important subject area on the iPhone’s LCD. This added power comes with responsibilities because, not only does your iPhone focus where you tap, it also adjusts exposure for that same area, as shown in image (#3). If you tap on a part of the scene that’s too bright (as in panel #1), you risk getting an underexposed image. Conversely, should you tap on a section of the image that’s very dark, you can get an overexposed capture, as in panel #2. The lesson here is to tap on a middle-tone area to get a properly exposed image.

#3

Buying Apps (Or Getting Them For Free)
Eventually, the simple act of shooting with the built-in Camera app is going to get old. When the “I need more apps!” fever strikes (usually within 5 minutes of iPhone ownership), it’s time for a visit to the App Store.

You can visit the App Store from iTunes on your Mac or PC as in image (#4). Here I’ve highlighted the “Release Date” option, which will list the newest photography apps to appear on the App Store. Checking this way several times a week is a good way to keep up on the latest and greatest photography apps.

#4

For the strongest hit of immediate gratification, forego the desktop computer (and iTunes) and download your apps directly to your iPhone. This is the way I like to discover and purchase apps; there’s just something more natural about downloading apps right there in your palm. Note: if the app download is larger than about 20MB, you’ll have to use a WiFi connection instead of 3G. Image (#5) illustrates the App Store on my iPhone 4. You’ll see I’ve sorted by Release Date again to browse the newest photo apps.

#5

Sorting the apps by Release Date is a perfect way to keep up to date on new additions to the Photography category in the app store. But what if you’re fresh to the iPhone photography scene? Well, obviously, you can read articles like this one and check out my book, iPhone Artistry. The App Store has a way to help new comers, so all is not lost.

Once you’ve made a few app purchases, the App Store will start to keep track of the kind of apps you like. With this buying pattern information at hand, the Genius will suggest similar apps for you. In image (#6) I’ve gone to the Featured section (circled in red in the lower left) and then clicked on the Genius tab at the top. Reading down the list you can see the Genius suggestions that include Photography apps (Videoscope), travel apps (FlightBoard—Live) and even an organizational app (Underscore Notify). Above the app name is the “Based on …” heading that tells you which app it is that you’ve purchased (or downloaded free) in the past that has led the Genius to make the suggestion. I’ve discovered apps this way that I would never have found on my own.

#6

Once You Have Some Apps…
Now let’s assume you have indeed purchased a few photo apps. Did you notice that there are some apps designed primarily for capturing images (let’s call them “shooting” apps) and others for image-editing or stylizing? (Some photo apps even bridge these two classifications, including both shooting and editing in one app.) As with everything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages with both types. Some of the capture apps transform your image on the fly, with little input from you, the photographer. Hipstamatic and ShakeItPhoto are in this class. If you like this click-and-the-app-goes-to-work approach, one of these might be just your thing. I used Hipstamatic to shoot image (#7). The top half of this illustration shows how Hipstamatic displayed the subject when composing. The bottom half is the final processed image. Though you do get to choose “film” types and lens effects, your image look and feel are pretty much determined by the app itself.

#7

I’m more a fan of the shoot-it-straight-and-post-process school of iPhone photography. In fact, just about all the images I use to illustrate this issue were done with apps that allowed me to alter the image after the capture. You owe it to yourself to try both kinds of apps. You’ll get a good dose of the editing/stylizing later in this issue, I promise you!

Camera Roll And Additional Libraries
When you capture an image or save an edited image from another photo app, it goes into your Camera Roll. From there you can e-mail your photos, send them with text messages or even send them to your computer wirelessly with handy apps like Photo Transfer. As you’ll no doubt discover, your Camera Roll can quickly get out of hand as you accumulate hundreds or thousands of images. Finding a specific image (or a group that belongs together) can be next to impossible. If you need better organization of your images so you can show specific collections to family, friends, colleagues or others, you should create additional photo libraries (also called Albums) on your iPhone. In image (#8) you see the additional Albums I have on my iPhone.

#8

To create these Albums (remember, they are also called Libraries) on the iPhone, I used iTunes as shown in image (#9). Once the albums were created on my Mac, I synched the iPhone via iTunes and—presto!—albums and images were on my iPhone. Now I can have slideshows of specific groups instead of digging through the entire Camera Roll! Let’s look at the steps, (#9):

#9

1. My iPhone is connected to the computer via the USB cable so it shows up in the Devices section in this column.

2. Selecting this Photos tab at the top of the window will let you choose which photo you want synched to your iPhone. iPad users would do the same.

3. Noticed that I’ve checked the Sync Photos box. Once this is checked, I selected my Pictures folder as the source of images to synch. You have several options for location; Pictures seems to make sense for me. Also note that I’ve chosen Selected Folders (directly under the Synch Photos area). I did this because there are folders of images in Pictures that I do not want synched to my iPhone.

4. This Folders area shows all the folders (directories if you will) that are in my Pictures folder. I’ve checked the folders that I want synched.

5. Clicking this Sync button sets the process in motion. Depending on how many images you are synching to your iPhone, this might take a few minutes. When the synching is complete, you’ll see a “OK to Disconnect your iPhone” message in that greenish-yellow status area in the top-center of the iTunes window.

Assuming the digital gods are smiling on you, when you check your iPhone, you’ll now have additional albums of images to show your buddies.

Moving On
There you have it, the basics of shooting and organizing your iPhone images. This just scratches the surface but, hey, there are lots of pages after this to dig into the photographic particulars. Let’s hustle in that direction!

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