eyePhone: Making stronger photographs with your camera phone by Al Smith, and released by Craft & Vision, describes Al’s theories for taking pictures with his iPhone. A professional photographer, Al never gave his phone’s camera a seconds consideration until caught with an eight-year old who wanted his photo taken on a swing and not even a point-and-shoot. His son pointed out that he could just use his phone and so reluctantly Al took it out, lined up a difficult shot that, with a DSLR, would have taken considerable thought and embarrassed that he – a professional photographer – was using a gimmicky phone camera, started to take the pictures. Instead of the noisy mess he was expecting, Al managed to capture a picture that he liked – and at that point he fell in love with his phone’s camera.
Al goes on to describe the limitations of the iPhone’s camera: fixed focal length and aperture; limited ISO range and shutter speed; only shoots in JPEGs with a tiny sensor; and it’s as “ergonomic as a slippery brick”. For anyone who doesn’t really know cameras, the English translation is that the iPhone, compared to a DSLR, is severely limited. However, Al suggests embracing these limitations as you would a theme or a project title. This is the first key point I took away from the book: that the trick to capturing great pictures with your camera phone is to run with it. You know that everything in your photos will always be in focus and that shooting at night is going to be about as successful as shooting underwater – but once you know that, you can deal with it. If everything is going to be in-focus, don’t try for perfect macro shots; if shooting at night isn’t an option, there’s always that other time of day – day time.
The second major point I took away was to develop a different style for your phone photos. No matter how hard you try, Al points out, your iPhone will never be able to take the kind of pictures your DSLR with a nice lens, a tripod and total control over the minutia of the shot will. However, where the iPhone comes out ahead of a DSLR is it’s portability, omnipresence and it’s ability to take and edit and share your pictures. Post-processing DSLR images is a time consuming task that requires expensive software and a good computer; post-processing iPhone images requires as little as five seconds and a 79 cent app. This point really resonated with me, when I shoot with my E500 I tend to shoot very realistic photos and convert a lot of them to black and white, it’s just what appeals to me. With my iPhone I’ve gone the opposite direction and have started shooting surreal, high contrast, high saturation images. If you check out some of my best DSLR photos (here and here) and compare them to some of my best iPhone photos (here) then the difference in style is obvious. It’s also obvious in the photos at the bottom of this post.
Al highlights a few apps that, for feck-all money, give your iPhone a complete photographic workflow. Despite the scorn that gets heaped down on Instagram, Al highlights it’s ability to quickly and easily share photos as the secret to its success. He recommends not using Instagram’s built-in filters, as they’re so recognisable, but using ones from other apps and then sharing the images through it. He also suggest replacing your go-to camera app with Camera+ (something I’d done ages ago!) as it gives you more control. Snapseed is also recommended for image editing – it has filters that go far beyond anything Instagram offers and gives you the ability to control there implementation. Al lists a few other apps but really recommends that you go out and find the ones that work for you.
For $5 eyePhone is a great buy. It’s short, at only 46 PDF pages, but the information and pictures in it make it more than worth the low price. Anyone with even a passing interest in making their camera phone photos look that much better should pick it up. I always have my phone with me and after reading eyePhone I feel I can now really get the best out of it.