iPhone photographer shares tips for taking better shots

Looking for inspiration to improve your iPhone photography? Look no further than Northern Ireland photographer Gerry Coe, the first person to be awarded a fellowship for iPhone art photography. Coe doesn't see himself as a pioneer of the art of iPhone photography, but he describes himself as: "Certainly a very enthusiastic user and always looking to make better pictures." He has plenty of tips to share though. Read on to find out more.

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  • 1 Gerry Coe Award winner
  • 2 Why the iPhone Why iPhone
  • 3 First iPhone First iPhone
  • 4 IPhone 5s as a camera The iPhone 5s as a camera
  • 5 Best iPhone Photo Apps How to take the best photo with an iPhone
  • Photo apps Best iPhone photography apps
  • 6 What an iPhone offers What an iPhone offers that a DSLR can't
  • 7 Morning light Catching the morning light
  • 8 Replacing cameras Replacing compact cameras
  • 9 Anyone be a Photographer Can the iPhone make anyone a photographer?
  • Book Cover iphone photo Judging a book by its cover
  • 1 Gerry Coe Gerry Coe
  • More stories
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Award winner

Gerry Coe was the first person to be awarded a fellowship for iPhone art photography by the British Institute of Professional Photography. When Coe received the award in 2012 it was the first time any award has been attributed to iPhone photography. 

The BIPP awarded Coe's panel of images created entirely on an iPhone with the “The Peter Grugeon Award”. This was actually the second time Coe had received the award – he also won back in 1999.

This feature was based on iOS 7, although many of the features are still available in iOS 8. Don't miss our top iOS 8 tips article here: 29 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features

And for more iPhoneography advice, see Best iPhone photography tips.

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Next Prev 1 Gerry Coe

Gerry Coe was the first person to be awarded a fellowship for iPhone art photography by the British Institute of Professional Photography. When Coe received the award in 2012 it was the first time any award has been attributed to iPhone photography. 

The BIPP awarded Coe's panel of images created entirely on an iPhone with the “The Peter Grugeon Award”. This was actually the second time Coe had received the award – he also won back in 1999.

This feature was based on iOS 7, although many of the features are still available in iOS 8. Don't miss our top iOS 8 tips article here: 29 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features

And for more iPhoneography advice, see Best iPhone photography tips.

 

Why photograph with the iPhone?

As a professional photographer, Coe's decision to use the iPhone as a tool might surprise. He explained that his initial interest in using the iPhone for photography was sparked by a friend who was producing images on the iPhone and selling them.

He explained: "I saw a friend in America producing some lovely images [with his iPhone] and when I asked him what he was doing with them he replied 'Selling them, Gerry.' So that made me think that this was to be taken seriously. I've never looked back."

 

First iPhone

Even before his interest in smartphone photography was peaked, Coe was an iPhone user. He explained that he selected an iPhone because he was already a Mac user and it seemed a natural fit. However, he explained: "At that time I was not really looking towards photography, as any self-respecting photographer would tell you that you cannot get decent quality pictures out of a wee plastic lens and a very small sensor. That was all to change…"

 

The iPhone 5s as a camera

Coe has since upgraded to the iPhone 5s, which he said offers: "Better lens and the quality of the image is a lot better with better colour rendition and shadow detail."

He also noted that: "The file sizes are a lot bigger therefore less enlargement is needed to get big four foot canvases."  

Coe added that: "Traditionally, if you wanted high quality, big files then you needed a big camera with lots of megapixels, but have I produced 6ft wide canvas Panorama images from my iPhone."

That Coe is able to get four-foot canvases from 8MP images demonstrates the fact that while Apple offers fewer megapixels on the iPhone than many smartphone manufacturers offer, it's quite sufficient and more megapixels only serve to make even bigger files. Read more about the megapixel myth here.

 

How to take the best photo with an iPhone

While the native camera in the iPhone 5s is really very good, according to Coe, and for most family pictures you need look no further, Coe revealed two tips for iPhone photography:

1) Like all cameras you really need to hold it steady to make sure the image is sharp. Coe recommends the purchase of a small tripod.

2) If you want to experiment then there are many very good "Camera" apps that can be downloaded from the app store.

 

Best iPhone photography apps

Coe uses a number of different photography apps on his iPhone, but his favourites are:

Snapseed: "My favourite go to app for basic adjustments and colour balance"

Hipstamatic, Oggl, 645pro, SlowShutter, ProCamera: "For taking pictures"

Grunge apps ScratchCam, Pic Grunger, DistressedFX: "For textures"

Coe also recommends: Impression, Big Lens, iResize, Superimpose, Laminar Pro, Photosync, Repix, Leonardo, Aquarella.

Coe edits his images using these apps, and then shares to Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. He explained: "I tend to upload the images from the apps I have been working with once I am satisfied with the final result."

 

What an iPhone offers that a DSLR can't

Coe noted that when a photographer uses an iPhone they assume a "totally different outlook" compared to using a DSLR. The iPhone offers a simple lens and sensor and this forces you to "think about composition".

Coe added that: "Unless you attach supplementary lenses, you have to work with a semi wide lens and the only zoom or extra wide angle you have is your legs."

With this in mind, the iPhone doesn't sound like a natural tool for a photographer. However, for Coe, despite these limitations when it comes to taking the initial shot, it's the flexibility of iPhone photography that is the real benefit. He explained: "Really it is the ability to almost instantly transform an image to a vision I may have had on the day and not have to go back and play around with Photoshop. Quite honestly I could not do what I do on the iPhone in Photoshop."

 

Catching the morning light

For Coe this flexibility means he gets to stay in bed while his photographer friends are out catching the morning light. "I don't have any favourite time, I just take pictures at all times and in all weathers. Some of my friends who are great landscape photographers get up early to get the lovely early morning light. I stay in bed and tell them I have an app to give me that early morning light!" he revealed.

 

Replacing compact cameras

Coe is such a fan of iPhone photography that he believes that the days of the small cheaper compact camera "are numbered". He explained: "For most people, taking photos with your phone, whether it's a family group or a landscape, it is a natural thing to do."

Coe still sees a place for more advanced cameras, however. "I still think high-end small compacts and the new breed of mirrorless cameras are the way forward," he said.

 

Can the iPhone make anyone a photographer?

Coe makes it all sound so easy, but he doesn't think that the iPhone can make anyone a photographer. "Everyone thinks they are a photographer, nowadays," he said.

"Just because everyone has a great camera [in their pocket] does not make them a great photographer. Too many weddings and portraits are ruined by not employing a properly qualified photographer. People really should only use photographers who are qualified members of organisations like the British Inst. of Professional Photographers, the Master Photographers Association or the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers. Why spend thousands on a wedding and then get a cheap photographer when all you will have left afterwards are the photographs?"

 

Judging a book by its cover

Coe's iPhone images, as well as winning awards, have been selected for use by book publishers. One of Coe's first, and favourite iPhone photographs was of a winding dirt road approaching a lone tree. It was taken in Italy. You may be familiar with the image – it was used on the front cover of Sebastian Faulks' A Possible Life.

 

Gerry Coe

You can see more of Internationally acclaimed Portrait Photographer Gerry Coe's work at www.gerrycoe.co.uk and www.iphone-art.co.uk.

Gerry is a Fellow of each of the four main photographic organisations: the British Institute of Professional Photographers, Master Photographers Association, Royal Photographic Society and the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers. He is the first Double Fellow of the BIPP in Ireland and one of a very small group of double Fellows worldwide.

Photos

You can read more about taking great photographs on your iPhone here:

How to get iOS 8-like apps for Time-lapse now

The best photography apps for iPhone, iPad

Everything you need to know about Apple's iPhone Camera in iOS 8

Tips for taking great iPhone photos from a professional photographer

Find him on Twitter at @gerrycoe

Read: iPhoto and Preview tips for free photo editing on a Mac

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