If you want to take better photos using your iPhone, we’ve got some great tips on how to do it. You don’t have to spend any money, but if you can, there are apps and accessories which will take your photos – and videos – to the next level.
These days, I tend to use my iPhone way more than my DSLR for photos and videos because it’s always to hand. It takes pretty good photos but there’s always room for improvement. Here are some tips on how to make sure you end up with images that are far better than mere snaps, as well as videos that look less amateur.
How to take better photos on your iPhone: add-on lenses
Smartphone cameras are getting better and better, but no matter how many megapixels manufacturers cram in you have one fixed lens to play with. Only a couple of smartphones have zoom lenses, such as the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, but what if you want a zoom on your iPhone?
You may not realise it, but you can buy lenses which clip over your iPhone. They include wide-angle, macro, fisheye and telephoto. You can even get miniature circular polarisers, so it’s possible to get many of the effects you can on a ‘proper’ camera without resorting to cheating in software.
Olloclip makes lenses for all iPhone models, including the 6 and 6 Plus. They’re not the cheapest, but as with DSLRs, you get what you pay for. We’ve found Olloclip’s lenses to be very well built and produce extremely sharp photos.
The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus 4-in-1 Lens is reversible and works with both the front- and rear-facing cameras, so you can use the wide-angle lens to take a ‘grouphie’ without needing a selfie stick. When you unscrew the wide-angle or fisheye lenses, there’s a macro lens underneath offering 10x and 15x magnification. It costs less than £60.
The latest from Olloclip is the Active Lens which has ultra-wide and telephoto lenses. It costs£89.99 from Amazon.
Here’s the difference between the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses (note that the edges of the image are quite soft – one of the disadvantages of using lens attachments):
If you don’t want to have to remove your iPhone from its case to attach a lens, you can buy the Ollocase for £24.99, or only £16.99 if you buy it with the lens system. It’s available for both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Olloclip isn’t the only choice, of course. If you have 35mm lenses, you can buy adaptors to mount those lenses on your iPhone. One example is the Turtleback DOF and another is Photojojo’s (although this works only with the iPhone 4 and 4S). Mounting a 35mm lens isn’t simple and requires a special case for your iPhone. It’s not for everyone, but if you really want to shoot SLR-like photos, this is how to do it without faking depth of field.
If you just want to take better macro photos and you’re on a budget, try the Magnif-eye which costs just £4.99. The results aren’t as good as Olloclip’s macro lenses (the area in sharp focus is much smaller), but it costs a fraction of the price:
How to take better videos on your iPhone
If you have an iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus you can shoot slo-mo video. It’s not too hard to hold the phone still for such a short amount of time, but the new time-lapse mode in iOS 8 means the phone really needs to be mounted on a tripod to avoid shaky footage.
You could try and rest your phone against something, but it’s worth investing in a case which can attach to a standard tripod or an iPhone-specific stand. An example is the Kenu Stance which clips into the Lightning port and allows you to hold your iPhone steady in portrait or landscape mode. A balljoint means you can adjust it to the perfect angle for a time-lapse of clouds rushing overhead, or whatever it is you want to capture.
In fact, a stand is also handy for photos, especially now the built-in camera app has a self-timer.
How to take better photos and videos on your iPhone: apps
Sticking with Apple’s own camera app is probably a bad idea. It’s a lot better than it used to be, but there are other camera apps such as Camera+ which offer more control.
For example, you can choose separate focus and exposure points, focus manually and even choose the exact shutter speed. It can be helpful if you want to get more creative. For example, if you want to get that ‘smooth water’ effect when shooting a river or waterfall, you can combine a stand to keep the iPhone perfectly still with a slow shutter speed and some exposure compensation.
Once you’ve taken photos (even in the stock camera app) Camera+ can import them and you get a vast range of enhancements including the excellent Clarity filter which brings out the detail in the photo. It’s well worth £1.49. It’s been around for years, but is still the best. You can read our full Camera+ review.
If you want to improve your selfies, CyberLink’s YouCam Perfect is fun, letting you do some virtual cosmetic surgery and smooth out those wrinkles and blemishes.
For video, try Filmic Pro. This brilliant app gives you the kind of full manual control that you’d find on an enthusiast-level HD camcorder. All for £5.49. You’ll be able to vary the framerate (up top 240fps on the 6 and 6 Plus), focus manually, change exposure, ISO, tint and more.
It has audio meters, support for stereo mics, and you can shoot in a variety of aspect ratios including ‘Cinemascope’ 2.59:1.