As an enthusiastic iPhone-only photographer, Matt Oliver firmly believes in the potential of your cellular device to take brilliant images and to increase access to art-making. He even refers to his pop-up exhibition space in the Lower East Side as the “physical Instagram feed” of @mattoliver. The 16 prints, each 12 x 15 inches, are remarkably sharp for an iPhone 6s, but Oliver isn’t surprised. He says the photos could be printed twice as large without sacrificing their quality.
Oliver’s camera of choice often attracts skepticism and snobbery, but he sincerely prefers its convenience and casualness. In fact, he didn’t get into photography until he began shooting with an iPhone. What matters in a photograph is the composition and framing, Oliver says, not the specific apparatus that produced it.
Here are Oliver’s tips for taking better pics with your very real camera that also plays music, calls late-night Ubers, and delivers addictive cat games:
What makes smartphone photos “bad,” Oliver believes, is how people approach photography while using one. Would you take selfies in a dark bar with a Leica or Hasselblad? Treat your phone as seriously as an SLR camera, and consider lighting, framing, and focus. If you want an impressive photo, act like you are taking one.
“It sounds obvious,” Oliver shares, “but it’s really overlooked.” Make sure that your camera is absolutely still to create a sharp and focused picture, especially since you can’t control the shutter speed. You don’t need a tripod – you can lean your phone against a wall or your shoe.
TAKE PHOTOS WITH YOUR HEADPHONES (OR BLUETOOTH).
Not only will this help you avoid jabbing at the touch-screen button and shaking the camera, but it also allows you to take sneakier shots. People don’t pay attention to phones like they do to massive camera bodies or telephoto lenses, so they won’t become self-conscious and alter their behavior. Simply plug in your headphones or pair your Bluetooth, and use the volume button as a remote release.
EXPERIMENT WITH PERSPECTIVE.
Push yourself and your viewer to see the world from new angles – turn your phone upside down, set it on a strange surface, or place an object in front of the lens. For example, Oliver often uses a credit card to cover half of the camera lens.
TRY A TIMELAPSE APP.
Oliver likes Average Camera Pro. You can select how many photos you would like to take over what period of time, and then the app automatically combines these into a long-exposure style image. The timelapse app can be used to smooth out water and skies or to blur boats and car headlights.
USE REFLECTIONS TO GUIDE THE VIEWER’S EYE.
Puddles, glass, the hood of a car! A reflection visually repeats what you want the observer to look at and gives them no choice but to focus on the desired subject.
DON’T GO WILD WITH EDITING.
Oliver cautions against over-processing your photos. He admits to using the preset filters available on VSCO and Instagram, but he usually applies them at 50% or less. Play with exposure and contrast, but step away from the clarify and sharpen tools.
KNOW WHEN TO LET IT GO.
Sometimes, a photo simply isn’t working. The concept is more interesting than the final product, and no filter can make it look aesthetically appealing. Don’t overthink a difficult photo, and move on.
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