Getting Started with iPhoneography… and Instagram! By Lolita B.
I’ve loved taking photos since I was a child, a love affair that continues today. As an adult I did all the things most amateur photographers do: invest in a good DSLR camera, take courses and determine what my path in the wide world of photography would be. That path took shape in a very unexpected way in March 2011, when I downloaded a then-unknown app called Instagram. I was immediately hooked and my devotion to iPhone photography began. As a result, many doors have opened, I’ve made some wonderful friends…and my love for photography has increased tenfold! Here, I’ll share with you tips and advice that I’ve acquired along the way which can be applied to Instagram, iPhoneography, social media and even good ol’ DSLR photography!
1) “A Good Snapshot Stops a Moment from Running Away” – Eudora Welty
Wherever you go, wherever you are, always look for interesting sights and candid moments to shoot. Because when those moments happen,and they will, you want to be ready to capture it. Proceed confidently, if you find something eye-catching, your audience will likely be intrigued by it too. And don’t be afraid to stop and wait to see if a photographic moment unfolds before you. That’s what happened in the photo below. I was fascinated by this man gathering cans to be recycled for money. I waited for the right moment to capture. Then it happened: another man approached him and kindly offered him some food. I started clicking away immediately and used the app PicFrame to piece the photos together.
2) Exposure and Focus
When taking a photo did you know that by tapping an area of the iPhone screen, you can adjust the exposure? And by tapping and holding…you can improve the focus? Try it!
And here’s even better news: if you have challenging lighting conditions, the camera has a focus and exposure LOCK…which nails down exactly what lighting and focus you’re trying to achieve:
a) Aim camera at your subject.
b) Tap and hold area you want the focus and exposure locked onto.
c) Hold until you see “AE/AF Lock” at the bottom of the screen.
d) You can now take your picture…or…move the camera and take a picture of something else entirely. Your focus and lighting settings will remain set! Tap again to end AE/AF Lock.
Here, the first photo shows the ceiling lamp when I simply point my camera to it. The second photo shows the difference after locking the exposure and focus….
After you’ve taken a photo…look at it closely. Can it be cropped to make it stronger? Cropping can instantly improve a photo by removing any distractions. This persuades the eye to focus on the message or subject you’re trying to convey.
Here, the first photo was originally a full-bodied shot of the kissing couple. I cropped it to focus on the woman’s feet reaching up…to me this is where the story is. To make it even stronger I used the app Color Splash to convert the photo to black & white…except for her red shoes.
In the second photo, I cropped out about half of the amusement park ride so the eye lands specifically on the solo rider.
To crop: choose a photo in your Camera Roll, then tap the “edit” button on the top right. Tap the crop icon on the lower right. Now use the four corners of the grid to crop your photo.
4) Apps and Filters
It’s almost impossible to discuss the topics of iPhoneography and Instagram without these topics coming up. The more you start enjoying iPhone photography and Instagram, the more you are likely to experiment with editing and filtering your photos.
For basic editing (cropping, straightening, rotating, flipping, exposure, color/hue adjustment, etc.), I highly recommend an app called Photoshop Express.
And now the fun really begins. Adding filters and effects to your photos can dramatically transform their look. There are tons of apps for: oversaturating colors, converting color to B&W, creating blur effects, vignetting, and much much more. The Instagram app itself even comes with a built-in collection of filters…try them! It also allows you to manipulate blurring… just look for the droplet in the top bar after you choose a photo.
My favorite apps for filtering & effects: Snapseed, Noir, FX Photo Studio, Dynamic Light, Big Lens and Tilt Shift Generator.
And the one app every Instagram user should consider owning: SquareReady, which automatically resizes any photo into Instagram’s square-shape format!
Here, the first photo was shot at Coney Island, on a foggy afternoon. The second photo is the exact same shot, after applying a filter in the Noir app. The difference is like night and day…literally!
The photo below was created using the app “Nightcap”, excellent for night photography with your iPhone.
5) Write a Caption
I personally add a caption to every photo I post on Instagram. I feel it adds a personal touch and deeper meaning to my photos, and often helps deliver the message I want to convey. It could be a clever or witty title, a quotation or a song lyric. Some Instagrammers even write long emotional prose to accompany their photos! But my favorite type of caption (both to write and read)…is the photo’s back story. If your photo has an engaging or unusual story behind it, consider sharing that with your audience! By the way captions are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea…many Instagrammers prefer to let their photos stand and speak for themselves.
Tags can be your best friends on Instagram. Why? They serve a dual purpose, including a few with your photo can easily add traffic to your shot…much the same way Twitter hashtags work. But tags are also a great way for newbie iPhoneographers to learn and be inspired. Want to see how people are photographing skyscrapers? Search #skyscraper or #architecture on the app. Need to see examples of street photography? Try #streetphotography or #bw_streetphotography. Want to see what kind of filters or effects a particular app creates….before you buy it? Search the name of the app (e.g. #Hipstamatic, #Snapseed, #Noir, etc).
You can add tags in the Comments box after you upload your photo.
7) Learn from Others
Instagram is not only a photo-sharing app, it’s the best photo gallery of iPhoneography you’ll find! When I first downloaded Instagram, before I posted a single photo, I spent quite a bit of time studying how others used the app: what they shot, their individual styles/themes, their accompanying captions (if they wrote one), use of tags, how they interacted with fellow Instagrammers, etc. Check out some of the “Suggested Users” within the Instagram app for starters. I also highly recommend the following Instagrammers for their excellence and style: @BrooklynTheory, @LydiaNoir, @SionFullana, @Anton_in_NYC, @CXCart, @Astrodub, @Joanna, @JourneyofNow, @NewYorkCity, @Bridif, @Takinyerphoto, @BrianPodolsky @JohnDeGuzman and @Iamakittehcouch…and of course, me, @LolitaLens!
8 ) Sharing and Community
So you’ve shot some cool iPhone photos and you’re ready to share. With almost 80 million users Instagram is the Mother of all photo-sharing apps (alternatives include Eye-Em and Tadaa). What I love most about Instagram is the community. It’s fun to spend time on the app, liking and commenting on others’ photos. And people will do the same for yours. As a result of these dialogs I’ve made many friends online and in person with fellow Instagrammers around the globe.
Also, many cities have dedicated Instagram communities. For example, NYC’s popular and dedicated group meets monthly for photo walks, scavenger hunts, presentations…and recently toured a Broadway theater. These “Instameets” are a great way to meet people, exchange tips & tricks and just have fun. Check to see if there’s one in your city!
Another terrific aspect of Instagram is the ability to share your photos on the other big social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare)…from within the app itself! You can share to these other sites as you’re uploading to Instagram. But you can also share long after the photo’s been posted: just find the shot, then click on the three dots on the lower right. Hit the “Share Photo” button, and a list of social media sites will appear for you to post to. Many long-time Instagram users (including myself) take full advantage of this and maintain Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs that also serve as photo galleries of our work.
So now you have some tools to start using that iPhone camera and Instagram to full effect, have fun! Feel free to add more suggestions or ask questions in the comments below.
Lolita loves capturing street photography with her iPhone, and uses her DSLR to shoot sports and concerts (including the WNBA and rapper Busta Rhymes) for BrooklynFans.com. In May, 2011 less than three months after joining Instagram, she was profiled on Instagram’s own blog here. Later that year she discussed her Occupy Wall Street photos as part of a photojournalism panel at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art, where one of her photos was also exhibited. Lolita shoots with an iPhone 4S, Sony A77 and Panasonic Lumix LX5.
See More of Lolita’s Photography
Instagram: @LolitaLens (http://statigr.am/viewer.php#/user/2308262/)
Twitter: @LolitaLens (https://twitter.com/LolitaLens)