INSTAGRAM PHOTOGRAPHY: TIPS, TRICKS & APPS
There are thousand of articles about photography tips & tricks in general, and social media photography in particular, with even more apps out there which promise to let you achieve better results but I can only talk about my own experience – both as a professional photographer (www.juliapogodina.com) and a mommy blogger. The subject is wide and endless, and I don’t intend to cover it all, but I am happy to share with you my favorite iPhone apps and photo equipment which I use to create pictures in my IG feed for @dreamingofleonardo. I will try to keep it short and itemized, and you are welcomed and encouraged to do further research. Also curious to hear your suggestions and creative ideas! Let’s start?
EQUIPMENT I USE
1. Canon 6D
My “big” camera of choice is semi-professional Canon. After years of using their top of the line models and then switching to top of the line Nikon DSLR, I went back to consumer level 6D which has full censor (that is – no crop factor on lenses), manual controls, is compatible with top of the line lenses, has WiFi feature and it doesn’t weight too much. And that’s all that matters to me when it comes to cameras (not megapixels or fancy features like many people think!). At the end what makes the difference is the good lens, not the camera itself. And in comparison with Nikon I personally love Canon’s colors better – they are more vibrant and warm. I don’t know much about other camera brands, but I also used Fuji in the past and I do love their color rending but It’s not as good as Canon in many other aspects.
2. Canon 50mm 1.2f lens
This is the good lens I was talking about above, and this is what makes the difference. Alas, good lenses are expensive, but good news is that they never come out of fashion or style and are meant to last forever if you take good care of them. I chose 50mm focus lens as my one and only lens for couple reasons: 50mm focal lens gives you a true-to-eye perspective without distortion – it’s not too wide and not too zoomed in; also, its relatively small and doesn’t add much extra weight to already heavy camera. 1.2f aperture is what makes this lens expensive but it gives me a luxury of shooting in dark lighting situations as well as it adds beautiful bokeh and blurred background to make the main subject stand out. I generally suggest to look for fixed focal point lenses (that us without zoom) with at least 2.8f aperture available.
3. Fujifilm FinePix XP80 Waterproof Digital Camera
I bought this camera for Leo to start practicing digital photography, and he loves it. It’s water resistant and shock proofed, compact and good looking. Honestly, I love it too and I do use it once in a while when I need wider lens than my 50mm Canon or when I do overhead shots and need to attached camera to the ceiling (which is nearly impossible to do with Canon).
4. iPhone 7 Pro
The best camera is the one that is always with you, and nowadays it’s our phones. After trial and error and a bit of resentment I did settle for an iPhone – yes, Apple is not as innovative as it used to be but they still make the best phone and best camera software out there. (Disclaimer – I didn’t try Google phone which is am curious about..) if I could I would switch to iPhone X because I heard that the camera is even better, but for now 7 pro does the job pretty well, provided you spend a little time editing the photos after (subject I will cover in detail below)
I do a lot of self-portraits both at home and on the go so having lightweight and sturdy self-stand support for my cameras is important. For Canon I use two different types: one little one that can be left on camera and that allows me to place it on any flat surface without a risk of tipping or scratching and heavy-duty but lightweight travel tripod for situations when I don’t have a safe surface or I need extra height or particular angle. Since my photography years when it comes to tripod I only trust Manfrotto – Italian brand that specializes in camera support. I recently upgraded to these 2 models and I use them both:
5. Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support
6. Manfrotto traveler BeFree Tripod with Ball Head
While for shooting both Canon & Fuji remotely I use iPhone apps (which we’ll talk about below), for the iPhone itself I use
7. Wireless Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote Control
Little device that lets you operate your phone camera from the distance. You don’t necessarily need it and you can use iPhone built-in self-timer or special app (also mentioned below) but I do love the full control over when I am talking a selfie versus guessing and trying to make it happen when the timer goes off. This is my must-have for #dreamingwithleonardo series – photos of my son and I napping together. I would be able to shoot this series I needed to constantly jump up and down to set up the phone time and pose for it. Remote allows me to be more natural and relaxed.
8. iPhone case with a stand
This is a phone variation of Manfrotto large pocket support – basically a regular iPhone case with a built-in mini tripod which I can pull out when on the go and want to take a selfie. Very useful little thing!
9. iPhone tripod w/ flexible legs
Just like with the big camera, little stand might not always work and sometimes you need to place your phone on an uneven surface or even attach it to smith. This is when these kind of tripods with flexible legs come handy. I rarely carry it around but I always do when we travel.
10. Magnetic car mount for the phone
This is my best kept secret. No, it’s not for taking selfies while driving. I have a magnetic car mount with ball head attached to the ceiling in our bedroom so that I can easily attach and direct my iPhone to take overhead shots and specifically for #dreamingwithleonardo series. I’ve seen other people recommending to use gaffer tape and cardboard U-shaped box which will service the same purpose, but I like thing to look pretty & minimal so the tiny magnet worked better for me and my bedroom.
Quick disclaimer: This is post in not sponsored by any of the above mentioned brands but everything I mentioned above can be found and purchased directly from my Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/shop/dreamingofleonardo
There are so many amazing apps there but it’s a matter of deciding what you need, finding the right one and testing it out. The problem with paid apps is that you can’t return them if you don’t like them, so I compiled a list of free and paid apps I personally love and use a lot. They are grouped in different categories so you can jump directly into the one you are interested and skip others.
1. Photo Timer+
It lets you set up your phone camera timer for up to 10 photos taken with 5 different options for time intervals.
2. EOS remote
Canon native app that turns your iPhone into a remote control for their DSLR models that have built-in WiFi functionality. It’s a little buggy and doesn’t allow you to focus, but if you manage to figure it out – it works!
3. CamRemote for Fujifilm
A little bit better designed than Cannon’s app, it does the same thing plus let’s you see through all the photos taken on Fuji while on your phone, download them, send them directly to social media, etc, etc. Autofocusing feature makes it easier to work with too.
While I do think that iPhone has the best camera out of all the phones, their camera controls could be better and more versatile – especially since the software actually allows it. The apps I listed below are made exactly for that.
1. ProCam 5
It turns you iPhone into DSLR with all the controls a semi-pro camera would have: shutter speed, ISO, white balance, exposure bracketing. I particularly like their composing grid options, including golden section that prompts you where to place your main subject to make the photo interesting. Camera modes include: photo, night, burst, slow shutter, portrait mode, and even 3D photo.
iPhone camera specifically designed to shoot night scenes. It has options like choosing your file format (JPG, HQ JPG and TIFF, timer, ISO, noise, light boost, and it lets you create effects like long exposure mode, light trails, etc. and 4 dedicated astro-photography modes (for romantic souls who like shooting falling stars)
An app made to shoot photos AND videos at low-light with the best quality, with up to 32mpx (vs usual 8mpx) possible. 5 captures modes: HDR, video-hdr, lo-light, zoom, high-res.
PHOTO EDITING APPS:
One thing I know as a professional photographer and retoucher is that it is NOT enough just to take a good photo – all photos need to be edited, be that cropping or color correction or retouching. It’s always been like this since photography exists. Before it was dark room, then it was Photoshop, now these are thousands of editing apps for all kind of devices. The question is – which are the good ones? My favorite editing apps are listed below in the order of my preferences:
1. PS Express
Being a professional retoucher myself I obviously give #1 place in my list to the application I know best so I might be a little biased here I think that their mobile version is nothing short of perfection, and it has it all from basic color presets to pro tools, as well as RAW and TIFF support. Special bonus features are crop presets for every kind of social media from Facebook header to YouTube thumbnail – important for those showing casing their images on different social platforms. I also love the fact that I can send the photo from my phone straight to Photoshop CC on my computer and continue editing on the big screen if needed.
Almost as good as PS Express, with less controls but a bit more simple interface for those who are not into professional post-production. My favorite features are perspective adjustments, image extention and portrait mode for natural skin smoothing.
3. Photoshop mix
The app lets you to cut out & combine elements from different pictures, and blend layers. Great for creative photography & collaging.
4. Photoshop Fix
The app lets you edit facial features, including everyone’s favorite Photoshop’s liquify feature.
5. Facetune 2
Does what Photoshop Fix does but in a more extreme and artificial way. Can be a great app if used lightly but please don’t get carried away with face & body modifications (unless you want to look like Barbie doll).
Great color presets, though I personally never use them because I believe that all color trends and treatments make your photos extremely dated.
Same as ColorStory, gives you variety of color presets. Great social community and exposure too.
Creative retouching if you want to punch your image a little other than natural. Great feature for removing one particular color (for example, removing all cyan and green for images according to the current IG trend, and adding sepia/golden 70s effect on top) I am obsessed with their artist filters but I didn’t find a way to apply it to my IG photos yet *)
SPECIAL EFFECTS APPS:
This app groups existing photos shot at the same time/location into animated GIFs or Live Photos. Let’s say you shot smth as a burst, or someone sent you your childhood photos all at once on WhatsApp – the app will recognize it and suggest you a GIF made from theses photos. Similarly, there are ways to trick the app into thinking that these particular photos need to be combined into a GIF. After GIF is compiled you can also edit it color-wise, add text, music, etc.
A simpler app to compile GIFs from existing photos. It’s up to you which photos you want to use, so if they are not related and coming from a burst your GIF will look more lies a stop animation.
3. Stop Motion studio
Full on animation studio for creating beautiful stop motion videos. It has as a lot of pro controls and can inspire you to create beautiful visual stories or even cartoons for your little ones. (I am planning to do that for Leo’s birthday this year)
4. Slow Motion Fx Video Editing
Adds slo-mo, time lapse & stop motion effects for your regular iPhone videos with an option of adding music. I always thought that build-in feature to shoot a slow-no video is limiting – you never know how the video will come out. With this app you can shoot normal videos and decide if you want to add this effect later.
Photo animation tool that adds motion to your still image. Have you seen last year’s IG trend about moving waves? That’s Plotograph! Motion is limited to imitation of the water, but can be applied to repetitive and/or fluid patterns like grass, hair, water, textiles, surfaces. I used to make my hair move in this image of Leo and I sleeping together: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbfj71xD23V/?taken-by=dreamingofleonardo
Thanks for staying awake and reading this far! Please please please share your own tips and tricks – so curious to hear your feedback!