Capturing the moment: Making the most from iPhone photography
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- October 31st, 2014
Choosing a tripod involves trading size and features against portability. If you’re after a full-sized tripod to hold your phone up near eye height, then you may be better off with a standard tripod and an iPhone adaptor such as the Joby GripTight. Tripods designed for the iPhone are usually less than 30cm high – designed to help your phone sit upright on a flat surface rather than elevate it.
The ATC Universal is a traditional- style tripod, which stands only 6cm high, while the flat, credit card-sized Pocket Tripod – a Kickstarter project – slips out of your wallet and folds up into a tiny iPhone stand. You’ll also find tripods with flexible legs designed to cope with more challenging environments.
Joby’s GripTight GorillaPod stand has bendy legs, which you can wrap around a fence or pole to get the perfect camera angle, while the GorillaPod Magnetic adds magnetic feet.
Click the button
To make it easier to press the shutter button on your iPhone, some third-party camera apps such ProCamera let you tap anywhere on the screen. Meanwhile the Triggertrap app offers a quick release option, which captures the shot when you take your finger off the button – which helps cut down on camera shake. Triggertrap also offers timers along with the ability to take a shot by shouting at your phone or knocking on the table.
Apart from wired and wireless headphones, you’ll also find dedicated iPhone camera triggers, which let you
press the shutter button from afar, from the likes of Kootek, JBtek, iStabilizer and HISY.
If the iPhone’s built-in camera lens isn’t up to the task, you can easily strap on something more substantial to improve your view of the world.
Olloclip is another Kickstarter graduate, which offers a range of lenses that easily clip onto your iPhone, such as the 4-in-1, which incorporates a fisheye, wide-angle, 10x macro and 15x macro lens in the one unit. There’s also a 3-in-1 featuring a 7x, 14x and 21x macro lens, along with a standalone 2x telephoto lens with an adjustable polarising filter to cut down on glare.
Photojojo also offers a range of interchangeable lenses, which lock into an adhesive removable metal ring that attaches to the back of your iPhone. Options include fisheye, super fisheye, 2x telephoto, wide angle, macro and polarising – which you can buy separately or combined in a kit.
Other options include the iZZi Orbit iPhone case and iPro Lens System that let you attach a range of lenses to the supplied phone case. Meanwhile, the Kogeto Dot attachable lens lets you capture 360-degree panorama shots.
If you’re ready to get wet, then look to an Optrix watertight case such as the PhotoProX, which supports four interchangeable lenses and is waterproof down to 10 metres.
Get a grip
If you’re struggling to come to grips with the iPhone as a real camera, the Snappgrip case features a handgrip, shutter button, shooting mode dial and digital zoom control. It helps the phone sit in your hand like a small SLR and supports a range of detachable lenses. Meanwhile the Incipio Focal case helps your iPhone feel more like a typical compact digital camera.
The Manfrotto Klyp+ kit includes an iPhone case, lens kit and external LED light for improving your shots.
Alternatively, you may look to external flashes such as iblazr or the wireless Nova flash, both Kickstarter projects.
Lend a hand
However good your iPhone may be, there are still times when you’ll want to put it aside and reach for a serious camera from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus or Sony. But don’t shove your phone back in your pocket, as it can serve as a handy photographer’s assistant.
The Triggertrap app is primarily designed to work as a remote trigger for standalone cameras, either using Wi-Fi or the range of Triggertrap dongles designed to suit most cameras. When the app is controlling an external camera, you can use your iPhone as a sound, vibration or motion detector as well as access a range of cable release, time-lapse and HDR modes.
These days most camera vendors offer an iPhone app, which includes at least basic remote control features, sometimes adding remote access to the view through the lens along with the ability to wirelessly transfer images from the camera to your phone. You may also look to third-party apps such as Capture Pilot, which lets you preview your camera’s shots on the iPhone during a photo shoot as well as rate and tag them.
Another option is the Wi-Fi-enabled Eye-Fi SD memory card, which works with any camera that accepts SD cards and lets you access the photos wirelessly from your computer, smartphone or tablet.
Your iPhone can also stand in for many of the other gadgets in your photography bag. Apps like Pocket Light Meter, Fancy Light Meter and FotometerPro turn your iPhone into a makeshift light meter, while the Luxi Light Meter Adapter takes things a step further as an accessory that fits over the camera on your iPhone.
Of course there are plenty of other calculations to be made when you’re a serious photographer. Apps like Triggertrap and Long Time Exposure Calculator offer neutral density filter calculators for determining long exposure times. Meanwhile DOFMaster assists with depth of field calculations, while PhotoCalc adds hyper-focal distance calculations, exposure reciprocity, flash exposure calculations and a sunrise/sunset guide. It’s also worth installing a well-rounded PDF reader app on your phone such as GoodReader so you can carry around your camera’s manual.
On the desktop
Whichever gadget you use to capture your photos, you’ll probably want to copy them to your Mac for safekeeping and a little extra editing.
Apple’s iPhoto is useful for managing your photo library and editing images, but its insistence on importing all your images into one giant database file can be frustrating – especially when it comes to backing up your files. You can tell it to avoid importing your images, but if you still find iPhoto bloated there are plenty of alternatives.
If you just need a quick and easy way to copy images from your iGadgets to your Mac, dip into iPhoto’s settings and tell it to open Apple’s Image Capture app by default when you connect a camera. This makes it easy to copy your photos into sub-folders within your Pictures folder.
Google’s Picasa is a handy alternative to iPhoto for managing and editing your photos, especially if you post images to Picasa Web Albums. If you’re looking for more advanced editing tools then consider Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, ACDSee, Corel Aftershot or the free GIMP – any of which should meet most people’s needs compared to the expensive Adobe Photoshop CC.
Prosumers looking for powerful photo library management features should weigh up Apple’s Aperture against Adobe Lightroom. If you’re going down the Adobe path, then the Creative Cloud software subscription may be a good fit for your needs.
Play it safe
If you don’t take the time to back up your photo library, then you could lose everything in a heartbeat. Copying your files to disc, USB stick, external drive or Network Attached Storage drive is a sensible precaution, but it’s also important to keep an ‘off-site’ copy away from home to protect against fire, flood and theft. This is where the cloud can come in handy.
iCloud is rather limited when it comes to backing up desktop files. Sync services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive are much more flexible and sometimes much cheaper. There are also dedicated backup services like Jungle Disk, CrashPlan, SugarSync, Cubby, Mozy and Carbonite. When you’re evaluating them, start with a small data set and test it for a while before you take the plunge and upload your entire photo library – which could take days or weeks.
iCloud is more useful for backing up images from your iGadgets, plus you can use Photo Stream to sync images between devices, although it doesn’t take long to use up your free iCloud allowance. Before you hand over money for extra iCloud storage, take a look at mobile apps such as Google+, Dropbox, Flickr and Amazon Cloud Drive, which can automatically upload your happy snaps to the cloud. Don’t trust them until you’ve tested them – some are supposedly designed to run in the background, but can leave you in the lurch if you haven’t opened the app for a while. Rather than backing up your mobile photos directly to the cloud, the PhotoSync app makes it easy to wirelessly back up your photos and videos from your iDevice to local or cloud storage. Along with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Picasa and Flickr, you’ll find PhotoSync also supports FTP, WebDAV and desktop software for syncing wirelessly to Mac or Windows.
If you’re looking to shuffle files to and from your iGadget, then also check out FileExplorer.
When disaster strikes
Prevention is the best cure, but photo recovery tools still make a handy addition to your software arsenal. iExplorer helps pull images off your iGadget should a software update go pear-shaped, and you may find also photos hidden away on your Mac in your ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup folder. Back up everything in that folder, rather than working with the originals, and then try changing the file suffixes to JPG and MOV to see which multimedia files you can recover. At this point, photo browsing software like XnViewMP for Mac can make life much easier, or IrfanView for Windows.
If you’ve accidentally deleted photos on your Mac or camera’s memory card, then you’ll need file recovery software, which tends to be expensive. Before you hand over any money, try the free PhotoRec from cgsecurity.org. If you are going to pay for recovery software, then look for software that offers a free trial or demo mode, such as R-Tools’ R-Studio or Prosoft’s Data Rescue 3, so you can see which files are recoverable before you spend that cash.