If you haven’t heard, it’s not you that makes nice images, it’s your camera. I’m sure we’ve all heard some rendition of that sentence. It can be cringe worthy. I try not to let what the people say get the best of me, especially when they don’t know what they’re talking about.I think part of my draw to iPhoneography is the challenge to create something most wouldn’t expect to come from a phone. I believe having limited gear/equipment, will help you break through creative, self-imposed boundaries.
I’m not really known for writing one of these blog posts. As if there aren’t enough write ups, by much more “qualified” photographers, about how to be a better photographer and make better photos. In fact, I try to avoid remedial topics, merely because I like to dwell in the more abstract concepts. But to be honest, part of my draw to photography was the mathematics/mechanics it takes to create an image. The fundamental building blocks. They’re essential. Well, these days you can allow the camera to do the vast majority of the thinking, but if you don’t understand all the decision making you’re relinquishing, you’re limiting your creative control. It’s a beautiful co-dependent relationship, one with which you should become quite intimate.
If photographers aren’t emailing me to ask me about when my next underwater workshop is (I swear it’s in the works, I’m still waiting on some permit issues and insurance), they’re emailing me to ask me about my iPhoneography. I take my iPhone image making process very seriously. You won’t find a hundred snapshots of me attempting to get the perfect selfie…not that I’m apposed to a good selfie:
Wave Photo Bomb Mother’s Day Swim Happy Birthday to Me
I just think the best way to improve your iPhoneography is to stop treating it like an iPhone. It’s a camera. I mean, who makes phone calls these days anyways?
To start, know and explore all the capabilities and limitations of your camera. I like limits….mainly because I view them as a challenge to find a fence to jump over and blow past any “Do Not Enter” signs. It’s the rebel in me. Just ask my husband. When he tells me “It can’t be done.” I bust out my best Barney Stenson impression: “Challenge accepted.” …but I digress… Before I ever turned on my first Nikon dslr, I read the manual cover to cover. Not only that, I googled any terms/functions/capablities that I wasn’t familiar with, which were quite a few. Since I’d never owned anything larger than a point and shoot, google became my best friend. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Making the technical side second nature will allow you to focus on your creative agenda and produce a better end result.
You can’t choose an aperture, iso, or shutter speed (at least not a numeric one) when shooting with an iPhone, but this doesn’t mean you relinquish control of your exposure/depth of field. It just means you have to get a little creative to diversify your possibilities.
Show off depth of field by focusing on something close to the lens…even if it’s not your main subject.
I snagged this photo while driving along the beach in Carlsbad, CA. A light rain had just started. With my obsession with water, I couldn’t not make a photo of a rare rainy moment in Southern California. I focused on the raindrops on my window and snapped a few photos as we drove by palm trees and lifeguard stations. Since I shoot with water all the time, I’m use to having to time moments perfectly…so I got lucky….or I used the burst mode.(Kidding, there was no burst mode when I took this photo, but now a days, I’m all about the burst mode).
Control your exposure to give the scene a more dramatic/dynamic feel.
I could have exposed for his face…the thing is, I don’t know him. In fact, he doesn’t even know I took his photo (some of you just got a little weirded out by me, I’d say you’re wrong, but who am I kidding I’m weird when it comes to getting the perfect shot). I was exploring tide pools with my kids at La Jolla Shores when I saw this guy coming out of the water. I quickly hastened my walk, held my phone down low (after locking in exposure) and nonchalantly, snapped this.
I’m not saying that exposure and depth of field are the only two factors that are going to make your images better, but knowing how to control them and utilize them in your creative process will take you a long way. Content, composition, palette, timing, editing etc etc are all essential.
Timing can really be everything.
Two different beaches, two different oceans, two different, wonderful memories. I have a minor obsession with birds…it’s more about how effortless and weightless they are. It reminds me of the weightlessness of shooting underwater. I look like a crazy bird lady when I’m shooting. I sit down in the sand/surf. Sprinkle some of my kids crackers on/around me and wait for the birds to swoop in. They add such beautiful movement/interest to my images.
Take advantage of your environment.
Of course my obsession with water shines through most of my imagery, but taking advantage of the elements or the weather surrounding you leaves you with new ways to interpret a single location. Both these images were taken with storm clouds. The top had a fiery sunset developing. Stormy sunsets are staggering and are worth the possible downpour and, in Florida, the thunderous lightning. The other was low tide on a rainy afternoon. Everything was blue, foggy and quiet, a complete contrast to top image. Tropical rain really is the best precipitation.
Composition has immediate impact and a lasting impact.
I’m not saying every image I take is earth shattering. Just be mindful of what you are allowing in the frame and what you’re keeping out of it. The top image was just from a hotel balcony. Our first mini trip after moving to Florida. I thought that gang of pelicans patrolling their territory was pretty killer. I remember hanging precariously over their railing to frame the image (sometimes it’s hard getting everything you need to get into a little square) and wait for them to loop around again. The sandy beach helps give context to an otherwise nondescript location. The second image was from another little mini vacation to explore our new home state. Framing a split level with a tiny iPhone lens is much harder than you’d think. And for those of you who are going to ask, I use this for my iPhone housing.
Photograph what you love and photograph who you love.
For me it’s simple: family and water…usually together. Love what you do and it will show. Love what you do and you will work at it tirelessly, relentlessly, obsessively and a number of other words ending in -ly at achieving that greatness. I think being great at anything will take you down a path of obsession. I don’t think that’s a bad thing…at least not until it interferes with your greater purpose (like being a mother or a loving human being).
Follow me on Instagram (@jennbischof) to see more of my iphoneography. I have a second (well, third) Instagram (@waterwatereverywhere) that use to make me be more diligent about shooting with my iPhone, but it’s been horribly neglected since my other account took off.
And if your less interested in my water imagery and more interested in my personal life, you can follow my personal Instagram (@thewhisperofadream). Be warned, I do not show any self control when posting.
It’s my new goal to try to do Instagram MeetUps whenever I travel. We need to connect more in person after connecting so much online. So, look out for those.
I encourage any photographer to place limitations on themselves. It doesn’t have to be your iPhone, but it’s an easy place to start since you always have it with you. Challenge yourselves. It’s the only way to expand your creative thinking. Worry less about what others are doing and more about what you can be doing.