Perfecting smartphone photography wherever your travels take you
By Vikki Moran, The Grateful Traveler
And you thought you had a lot of photos saved to your smartphone. Jack Hollingsworth has snapped more than 700,000 over the past eight years, after moving nearly exclusively to his iPhone to cap an illustrious 40‐year career in commercial photography. He’s taken pics in more than 30 countries using eight iPhone models and certainly knows what works and what does not. I, among many, feel he is the leading authority on the new art of iPhone photography.
I had the absolute privilege and honor to sail with Hollingsworth on the Emerald Destiny, the voyage that I chronicled for CRL’s July issue. For one exciting week, we visited wonderful sites in Germany, and Jack taught fellow guests and me his very targeted class on cell phone photography. As travel writers, my colleagues onboard, as well as myself, were especially enthralled.
Why were we so interested? The potential of not carrying bulky, expensive, and fragile camera equipment while traveling of course! This is a huge advantage to anyone setting out to see the sights.
Hollingsworth feels strongly that the journey into great smartphone photography evolves like anything else in life…practice, practice, practice. Begin by shooting everything that moves your soul and twinkles your senses. Don’t make the mistake of shooting “the one and done,” per Hollingsworth. If you like the subject, take many photos and review to find the winning one. One‐shot behavior can lead to missed opportunities for capturing what you wanted. When the opportunity passes you by, it is often gone forever.
Smartphones now have so many tools, but it’s not about the tools. It’s how to use them well.
Before heading out to shoot or off on a trip, always check to see if you have enough storage. Never ignore the smartphone pop‐up window that says, “Storage Almost Full,” a fatal error that even veteran photographer Hollingsworth made (exactly once). Within an hour, his iPhone crashed, and he permanently lost everything on it. Heed the warning that pops up about storage!
Know the difference between the terms megapixels and megabytes. Megapixels have to do with pixel resolution; megabytes have to do with pixel storage. Depending on the iPhone model you are shooting with, the average MB per photo is around 2 – 4MB. Darker images will naturally contain more image data and consequently be a higher MB count, around 4MB, whereas lighter images will have a lower count, around 2MB or so. The SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive is an amazing storage device for iPhone shooters who need extra storage space and don’t travel with laptops.
Rely less on apps and accessories and more on attitude and aptitude. With a crystal‐clear focus on the fundamentals of traditional photography (including exposure, focus, color‐balance, subject, composition, light, and color), your images won’t disappoint.
When taking a selfie, look directly into the FaceTime Camera (the front‐facing one). Always resist the urge to look at yourself on the retina screen below the lens.
Hold your iPhone with both hands to stabilize your shot. It may be lightweight, but you want to take a great photo without the shake of your one‐handed movement.
Use those grid lines. The grid lines (turned on in your “Settings”) create pleasing compositions and keep the horizon straight.
Turn the flash off most of the time. Use as a “fill flash” outdoors, or use in the evenings when there is little‐to‐no natural light available.
Be more intentional, less casual about your photography. And begin to think of your device less like a phone, more like a camera.
Know that there is no way to simply delete photos and videos from your iPhone without deleting them every way (if iCloud Library is turned on). Because your iCloud account (iCloud.com; use Apple credentials to sign in) is connected to your iPhone photos, simply selecting and deleting photo/videos from your iPhone also means permanently deleting those same photos/videos in your iCloud account. So be careful.
Hollingsworth recommends keeping HDR on “auto” all the time. When shooting photos and video, you have two image‐format options that can free up storage space, but as a professional, Hollingsworth likes the option of seeing both versions (activate in Settings).
Your smartphone camera provides options for time‐lapse, slo‐mo, video, square, and panoramas. Try them all – you will love the variety.
In most cases, activate your location services, which uses GPS, crowdsourced Wi‐Fi, cell towers, and Bluetooth, to determine your location. For obvious privacy reasons, you may not want to share your picture location with others. If this is the case, simply turn off this feature. If you use the ViewExif app (like Hollingsworth does), you can go in and edit out this metadata if you want to.
Turn off auto brightness. Adjust auto brightness instead. It helps save battery life, and Hollingsworth finds using the slider for brightness helps create ultimate control on sunny days. He goes on to mention that over the first few years of his iPhone photography, he defaulted to auto brightness. Every time his iPhone would slightly heat up (it will on yours, too, if you shoot a lot), the screen would “auto‐dim” to conserve energy. “This made outdoor shooting in bright sunlight difficult,” he says, “if not at times, impossible.” So, he began ignoring “auto brightness” and (manually) cranking up the brightness to full.
Life is complicated, but smartphone photography does not have to be. Edit your photos in seconds. Use the “enhance” feature, crop and straighten, apply filters, and adjust color and light. It is so easy and so consistent.
Never blow up the screen to bring subjects closer beyond 3X. It will greatly distort beyond 3X. Shoot closer with your feet! Personally, in listening and learning from Hollingsworth, this was the greatest takeaway, and the improvement has been astounding. Simply walking closer to the subject and using the pre‐loaded editing tools is an amazing start to better photography with a smartphone.
Turn on iCloud Library. All your new photos and videos are automatically uploaded and available, in the Photos app, on all your devices, with iOS 8.1 or later.
• All images are uploaded in full resolution.
• Any edits you make of that image are automatically updated everywhere.
• You can download your photos and videos from Photos on iCloud.com, using your Apple ID.
• The point here is to fill your library (in iCloud) and not the storage on your device.
I hope these few hints from a pro will help you take better pictures on your next vacation. Whether it is a magical river cruise in Europe or simply a selfie with your family, it can all be done like a master and made a whole lot easier. You can learn even more with Hollingsworth’s book, The Joy of iPhotography: Smart pictures from your smartphone. I am thrilled to call this wonderful professional “friend.”