By Chris Gampat
Fact: Some of the best street photographers today use their smartphones to capture photos on the streets. It makes sense – so much is in focus at a given setting, the image quality and sensors have improved. Tag onto this that they’re always available in your pocket, and when combined with their low profile nature they make fantastic tools. To get more out of your phone though, you typically need editing software or add-on lenses. A great option like the ExoLens®1 PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle exists – and with that said, it makes both urban geometry and street photography easier.
Here are a few tips for photographers looking to get more out of their phone.
Keep the Lens of Your Phone and Your ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Clean
One of the biggest problems with phones and very small lenses are that they are very prone to smearing from your fingerprints. This results in a lot of streaks across your images when you shoot. It’s evident with lots of images – like when someone goes to a concert and there are lots of streaks across the photo caused by the lights, street photography images with strong backlighting, etc.
These oils tend to degrade the image quality – and if you consider what the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle is capable of rendering, you’re doing yourself (and your wallet) an injustice.
Bring a small microfiber cloth with you when you shoot. ZEISS makes wipes for your lens too. But what also works is a little bit of isopropyl alcohol on a Q-Tip or a splash of soap and water on a paper towel. Just be sure to get it all off and dry it properly.
Use the Burst Mode and HDR
Many street photographers tend to not machine gun shoot with their cameras, but with a phone it’s much easier to do that. The iPhone®1 has a hard button for taking images and simply holding that down can create a burst image – which gives you more variety to choose from when shooting. To boot, the autofocus speed and accuracy on an iPhone® still can’t outdo a proper DSLR or mirrorless camera, so you sometimes need to overshoot to ensure you get a higher chance of actually getting the photo you want; or at least something that you find to be usable.
The iPhone® also has the option of creating HDR images – and it does a pretty darn good job too. These photos will be far better for you when you move onto a later stage like editing.
Combined with the sharp image quality of the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle and proper lens maintenance, you’re bound to capture great moments.
Wide angle lenses do this thing: it’s called rendering a wide field of view. So because of that, you may think that you’re very close to a subject but it may not appear that way. With the ExoLens® with ZEISS Optics Wide-Angle, you’ll almost always just need to get closer no matter what. This gives us a framing that’s very personal and results in a better viewing experience.
With the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle, you’ll almost always just need to get closer no matter what.
One particular example of how this can work without getting super close to a person is by looking for something interesting in a scene. From there, you sit around and wait a while for something or someone interesting to walk by and interact with it in a photogenic way. The wide angle lens’s ability to capture the bigger scene with ease lends itself well to photography in big cities.
Shoot From the Hip or Mid Chest Level
Lots of photographers will tell you not to shoot from the hip simply because they want people to know that they’re taking a photograph. This works and is totally fine sometimes providing you’ve got genuinely good intentions and the people skills to talk through a particular problem. No matter what, you should always have good intentions when you go about doing street photography lest you try to exploit people in bad situations.
The argument for shooting from the hip isn’t one that is exclusive to just being more low key about your photography, but also one of a totally different perspective. The world looks totally different from a lower perspective and can lend itself to helping you capture more interesting moments with your phone when combined with the wide angle field of view of the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle.
The other alternative if you don’t want to bring your phone up to your face and look through the LCD screen is to bring the phone up to the middle of your chest and to shoot that way. It’s still a low profile way of doing things but you need to remember that you have to get close to a subject. This too can give you interesting results that you’re not used to seeing.
Otherwise, simply just hold the phone up to your face, focus as fast as you can, and shoot. One of my biggest recommendations is to use certain apps that really help you take full advantage of what the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle is capable of doing. My favorite app for shooting street photography with my phone is Manual. The reason is because you can use manual focus and then apply all your knowledge of zone focusing to a certain area away from you. With that said, all you need to do is zoom/focus with your feet.
Pre-focusing to an area means that the camera can just focus on shooting and metering – which speeds up the whole shooting process.
The Magic Comes Out in Editing
While the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle is very good as it is, lots of the magic of street photography happen with editing. Here are some of my favorite apps:
- MuseCam: MuseCam has a built in camera and a whole slew of editing features that are incredibly detailed and fine tuned.
- Creatic: Similar to MuseCam with its own take on creativity. Creatic also has its own built in community.
- RNIFilms: This is the absolute must have editing app for every iPhone® photographer. Their black and white emulsions are amazing and you can even do things like add dust to your images for an even more appealing look.
- Lightroom: Lightroom mobile has an incredibly solid editing interface overall. Some may like it more than others.
Otherwise, I enjoy sharing my images on VSCO, EyeEm and Instagram. I tend to pick and choose what platform to put them on.
As it is, the ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Wide-Angle is really great when it comes to making your phone more capable of shooting excellent images. If you’re a street photographer, it can make shooting very fun.
The three ExoLens® PRO with Optics by ZEISS Lenses, wide-angle, telephoto and macro, can be used on the iPhone® 6 family and now also on the iPhone® 7 family with customized mounting brackets. Starting at the end of January 2017 a new Edge bracket with six device-specific inlays will be available at camera specialty stores .
1 ExoLens® is a registered trademark of Fellowes, Inc.
2 iPhone® is a brand of Apple Inc.
About Chris Gampat
Chris Gampat is the founder of The Phoblographer and he manages all of the daily tasks. He has worked for a large number of publications on the web and spent some time at both Magnum Photos, and B&H Photo Video. He specializes in content development and Social Media marketing campaigns for the creative industry. Chris is a former paparazzi, portrait photographer, wedding photographer, and photojournalist. These days, he’s primarily a photo editor.
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