Do your selfies look drab? Is that photo of your cat looking like a blurry featureless ball of hair? Do the Instagram pictures of your food make it look like you’re dining at a cafeteria instead of that new hip restaurant you waited an hour and a half to get into? Up your photography game and get the most out of your iPhone with some help from Shatter Buggy!
The Nerdy Bits
The iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus each have a rear facing camera with an 8 megapixel sensor. This is only half the megapixels of some rival smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, which sports a 16 megapixel rear facing camera. Why isn’t Apple aspiring to have more megapixels? Essentially, megapixels are just indicative of what the maximum resolution the photo taken can be, not the quality of the image itself. Most cameras with 6 or more megapixels can produce a 1080p high definition image. In general, just because a camera has 16 megapixels does not mean it is taking a better image, it means it’s taking a larger image. If it’s not the megapixels that count, what makes the iPhone camera perform so well?
The Even Nerdier Bits
Apple pays special attention to the hardware that actually produces a higher quality image, not just the megapixel count. This generation of iPhone offers 1.5 micron-pixels for better low light performance, a ‘large’ ƒ2.2 aperture to let more light into the sensors and ‘focus pixels’ which can focus on the subject of the image much faster than ever before. Additionally, those lucky iPhone 6 Plus owners get optical image stabilization which counteracts the natural vibrations and movement of the hand taking the picture.
Taking Better Pictures with Your iPhone
We have the best camera hardware in a phone we’ve seen to date, now how do we take better pictures? With the introduction of iOS 8, Apple has baked in many new and useful tools into the iPhone’s camera software that are underutilized or not understood by your average iPhone wielding denizens. Learning what these tools are and what they do can take your iPhonography to the next level… of awesome.
Camera App Tips
The first step is knowing when to take advantage of HDR and when to avoid it. With the camera app open, HDR is that button on the top of the screen next to the flash on/off/auto toggle. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. When you press the ‘Take Picture’ button the phone takes three separate images, each at different exposures, to create the range from short to long exposure, then stitches the best parts of each image together to give you one beautiful looking photograph. You’ll get the best HDR results in high contrast settings, such as a landscape photo or low light situations, where there are dark and light areas that require different exposures. HDR will not be your friend if there is any movement in the picture, movement creates blurry results when HDR is enabled. With the release of iOS 8, Apple has taken the guess work out of when to use HDR with the addition of a new in-camera toggle for auto-HDR. The phone decides if HDR would produce a better image than without. With HDR-Auto enabled you will see a “HDR” logo at the bottom of the screen if the phone thinks using HDR is the best choice. It does a good enough job to justify leaving that puppy on all the time.
Next is my favorite new camera setting, an adjustable exposure function. With the camera app open, tapping the screen causes the camera to manually focus. Now, when that yellow square pops up, indicating the camera has received your manual focus command, there is an icon of a sun. If you press and hold this sun icon, a slider appears, allowing you to manually set the exposure by sliding up, or down. This is incredibly convenient and can make all the difference when trying to achieve the perfect image.
Lastly, the editing software built into the ‘photos’ app is very impressive and provides more than enough functionality for making that selfie look perfect. You’re able to adjust the photo’s exposure, shadows, brightness, contrast, saturation and more with only a few taps of the glass. If you’re unsure of what effect these levels have on your photos, play around and discover for yourself. After editing a few photos you get the feel for what a few saturation or exposure adjustments do for a picture. If you crave more knowledge, there are many free photography classes available through outlets such as Podcasts, iTunes U or YouTube. You can learn the intricacies of photo editing, photo composition, framing and much more, for free!
The ubiquity of smartphones has left no shortage of amateur photographers; investing an hour into photography education can help you produce dramatically better photos that set you apart from the pack.
“The best camera is the one you have with you”
-Shatter Buggy, Denver