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Why I Love iPhone Photography

I love point and shoot cameras.

They’re light, non-invasive, and they force you to think about the image before you make it.

But a step up is the smart phone with a camera that doubles up as a point and shoot. You can use it to make calls, connect in so many different ways, and if you’re the type who likes stylized photos—well, there’s an app for that.

When my old iPhone 3s died after I dropped it smack on its face, I ordered the iPhone 4s. As a smart phone user, I only ever used the iPhone to keep connected through Twitter and to check email while on the go, take visual notes, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until I read this great article about iPhone photography that I was convinced the iPhone was a great camera, too.

The first weekend I had the 4s, I took it out to an island off the coast of Pattaya on Thailand’s Eastern seaboard. But the phone was kind of a second string camera.

iPhone photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

Fish out of water, Koh Sark Thailand

I had a dSLR with me, so I mostly used that. But I did discover that Instagram had these nifty actions that could make images grungy, stylized pictures with a lot of atmosphere.

A week later, I left my dSLR at home as I traveled Northeast, and brought just the iPhone. The audacity of leaving my main camera behind felt funny. I always travel with the camera bag and its kilos of stuff. Now, I had a rectangular thingee in my pocket.

Here are some things I love about photography with the iPhone and the apps I bought last week.

1. It holds on to highlights and shadows really well. Amazingly, I was able to shoot complex, high contrast exposures.

iPhone photo in complex lighting copyright Aloha Lavina

Complex lighting? Piece of cake for the iPhone 4s.

2. I can do multiple exposures using an app called Pro HDR. This app allows you to take two exposures, but you have to hold very, very still while it does that. I was able to take a photo at night, and a man walking across the frame was captured twice.

iPhone photo multiple exposure copyright Aloha Lavina

Multiple exposure using the Pro HDR app.

3. The Pro HDR app also allowed me to take a long exposure of water. Because water was moving while the camera took two exposures, the water had that blur effect of a slow shutter.

iPhone photo slow shutter effect copyright Aloha Lavina

Slow shutter effect using the Pro HDR app.

4. To increase dynamic range, I used Snapseed. Snapseed imports your photo from the Library and has actions that can reveal shadows and highlights in great detail. I love this app for textured subjects.

IPhone photo shadows and highlights with textured subject copyright Aloha Lavina

Using Snapseed to get those shadows and highlights. Seedless. Juicy.

5. Moody images with vignette and grunge happen in Snapseed, too. Using the action for “Grunge” puts a vignette around the photo and adds texture. You can adjust how much of the effect you want.

iPhone photo using Snapseed to add Grunge copyright Aloha Lavina

Grunge using Snapseed.

Like all new toys, I couldn’t put the phone down. Everything became a potential image. The great thing about it was, I was no longer thinking of settings and lens selection. I was just thinking about how to make a good image with what I had.

And that was the most valuable thing I learned. I loved being an image maker again. Not having to worry about the settings and lens selection really freed me up to just think of the composition, color, and light.

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

And it works with closeups!

Would I give up the dSLR for just the iPhone? Probably not. But now wherever I am, I’ve got a ready point and shoot ready to use.

And it takes calls, too.

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

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