The Final Verdict
My trip to Monaco via Thailand is now behind me and I have finished downloading all of the images from my iPhone and have gone through the editing process in Lightroom. Right up until the point where I boarded the aircraft to start my journey, I was still uncertain about my decision to leave my camera gear at home and only rely on the iPhone to capture my journey. Well, after reviewing my images and reflecting on the trip, I am happy to report that leaving the gear at home was the right decision and I am quite please with the photos from the trip.
As expected, there was actually very little time for dedicated photography on this trip as it was primarily for business. Even outside my business obligations I was usually hanging out with non-photographers that weren’t that keen on standing around while I waited for the right light to develop. I did however, get up a bit earlier a few mornings armed with my tripod and ventured out for the opportunity to spend a bit more time and focus on my photography.
Of course the added benefit of not carrying the extra weight of my camera gear also made this trip a bit easier. So, here are a few of the things that I discovered when using the iPhone Camera as my prime gear.
iPhone Photography is Photography With a Different Camera
iPhone photography is at its core – still photography. Regardless of the camera you are using the same fundamental principles of photography must be observed. You need to pay attention to the light and shadows, ensure your exposure and focus are correct and quite importantly, use every composition rule at your disposal to create the most compelling image. I found that with a more limited arsenal of photography features at my command, composition played an even more important role.
The use of the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, the including of foreground subjects to create depth and paying attention to distracting objects in the background should be considered in every image.
Working through the basics of photography was key to taking a better quality of photos when using the iPhone Camera.
Keep the Lens Clean
I quickly learned the importance of continually cleaning the iPhone Camera Lens. As it is constantly being taken in and out of your pocket, pouch or purse, chances are you are touching the lens and leaving a dirty oily finger print on it. It should become a matter of practice to just give the lens a quick clean with a lens cloth each time you pull it out of your pocket.
Know Your Camera
As I stated in two of the previous posts – Getting to Know Your iPhone and Taking Creative Control, it is essential that you understand the operation of your camera apps and know which one to turn to in any given shooting situation. The go-to mode on a majority of my shots was the HDR mode on the Lightroom Mobile Camera app. This ensured I was shooting in DNG RAW and giving myself the widest dynamic range of light and shadows possible. Even handheld the HDR worked quite admirably.
I found myself turning to the native iPhone camera app to use the portrait mode and its various lighten effects when I wanted a real depth of field separation between the subject and the background. I was able to get some really interesting images just by playing with the lighting options in Portrait mode. I also used the Pano mode a few times to capture some quick scenic views. I could have taken futile images to stitch together later in Lightroom, but I found the iPhone Pano mode much easier.
Of all of the shooting situations I found shooting in low light and night scenes the most difficult with the iPhone. The size of the sensor makes it difficult to control the noise in low light situations. When it came to night shots I used the Camera+ 2 application in manual mode which allowed me to keep the ISO at 25 and drag the shuttle speed all the way to 30 sec when required. Of course the use of a tripod was essential. One of the features I truly love in the Camera+ 2 application is the ability to view the exposure settings while shooting so I knew exactly what was going on.
Having spent the time on the long flights to study and get to know each of the applications made it so much easier for me to make decisions about shooting modes for each of the situations I was presented with. Knowing your gear is also such an essential part of good photography.
A new tripod
Never one for missing an opportunity to purchase new gear and this trip was no exception. Although I brought along a lightweight Manfroto tripod and a Manfroto iPhone bracket, I still found the tripod too cumbersome for iPhone photography. A quick trip to MBK plaza in Bangkok provided a remedy for this situation. MBK is 7 floors of shopping with the 4th floor dedicated to all things related to smartphones and the 5th floor a photographers heaven, with a wide range of camera and photography goodies on offer. Unfortunately on this occasion the Aussie exchange rate was not in my favour and camera gear was actually less expensive in Australia.
However, the smartphone options on the 4th floor offered a wide range of gadgets for the iPhone and GoPro. I was able to pick a very lightweight tripod purpose built for smartphones and GoPro that even included a built in Bluetooth remote shutter release – all for a whopping $20. This made it so much easier for me to carry the tripod around everywhere I went and provided me with a better opportunity to capture quality images. OK…I may have also grabbed a cool selfie stick at MBK as well…..who doesn’t like toys!!
The Final Verdict
Having had the chance to review and edit the photos, I am convinced the the iPhone and the various apps are a valuable part of my photography arsenal. I feel that the images I took are of a quality that is more than adequate for sharing on social media and as a photographic record of my business trip. I personally don’t think I would be adding any of the images to my photography portfolio as the quality just isn’t up to my portfolio standards. Thats not to say that with a bit of time, more practice and more research I can’t get a better with this camera, but for the important shoots I’m still going to lug the Canon gear around.
There will be time that I don’t want to take my gear to events, or as in this case, business trips – but I am now confident that I will still have the ability to take memorable photos. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you!
If you would like to have a look at the images that were taken with the iPhone on my business trip to Monaco (via Thailand) feel free to check out this small selection of image from the trip – Monaco & Bangkok
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