You don’t need an expensive DSLR to capture sellable photos. Try these simple tips on shooting images for stock on your iPhone 11.
There’s no denying it: the iPhone has revolutionized stock photography. By 2017, the number of iPhone photos on Shutterstock exceeded one million, proving once and for all that the mobile phone could be a viable tool for commercial photographers.
iPhones democratized photography by allowing people to take high-quality pictures for a fraction of the cost of a DSLR, and beyond that, they’ve also ushered in new aesthetic trends. The demand for authentic, first-person imagery has only increased, with pro photographers finding inspiration in user-generated photos on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and more.
From “slowfies” (slow-motion selfies) to dual and triple lenses, the new iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max have photographers buzzing. Only time will tell how these new phones will influence licensing trends and the future of stock photography, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at just a few quick tips for shooting photos on the iPhone 11.
Use the ultra-wide for landscapes and groups.
Landscape photographers the world over were thrilled to find that both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro have a brand-new “13mm” ultra wide angle lens. This lens also comes in handy if you’re working with a group of people for a lifestyle shoot. A quick tip? Invest in a grip if you plan to use this lens a lot (no one wants a finger in their ultrawide shots).
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to choose between the ultra wide and Night Mode; unfortunately, you can’t use both. Save the ultra wide for shooting in bright environments.
Speaking of lenses, it’s worth noting that the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have a third (telephoto) lens, but the iPhone 11 does not.
Take advantage of Night Mode.
For stock photographers, this new feature is a game changer. While once smartphone cameras struggled to work in low light, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro’s Night Mode will get you more detail and less noise. If you use a tripod to hold your phone still, you can also use it to take long exposures of up to thirty seconds. The universal tripod is a good option.
Toggle on “Photos Capture Outside the Frame.”
You’ll find this setting under “Composition” in the Camera menu. If you enable it, your camera will capture the area outside the frame so you can edit your image and alter the overall composition. It’s a handy setting for stock photography in particular since you’ll want to give buyers as many options and as much variety as possible.
Pay attention to your edges.
Keeping a close eye on the edges of your frame is important if you’re shooting with any camera phone because you’ll have limited cropping space, but it’s doubly important if you’re using the ultra wide angle lens. There’s no way to avoid distortion around the edges, but you can plan for it by composing your shots thoughtfully.
Also, consider placing your main subject in the center of your frame. The rule of thirds still holds in some cases, but if you place an object too close to the edges of your frame while using an ultra wide lens, it’ll just look wonky.
Remember to grab videos too.
The iPhone 11 shines when it comes to shooting 4K video (60 fps), so get some footage for stock while you’re shooting stills. The phone even allows you to switch effortlessly between the two if you use QuickTake Mode. Need more convincing? Selena Gomez’s latest music video was shot on the 11 Pro.
When possible, shoot RAW.
Shooting RAW will give you more freedom during the editing process, and it will also ensure your photos are high-quality and suitable for stock. Third-party apps like Halide ($5.99) offer RAW support for phones. Unfortunately, you can’t shoot RAW using the ultra wide lens.
Use Portrait Mode for a blurred background.
As filmmaker Rubidium Wu explains in his recent review of the iPhone 11 Pro, these phones tend to make everything sharp and in-focus. That’s mostly great news for stock photographers—unless you’re specifically looking to isolate your subject from your background using a shallow depth of field.
One solution is to use Portrait Mode. On the newest phones, this setting will focus on people, pets, and even objects while giving you that nice blurry background.
Zoom with your feet.
If you opt for the iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max, you’ll have an impressive 4x optical zoom range—but if you go with the iPhone 11, you’ll miss out on the telephoto lens.
That’s not necessarily an issue; if you don’t have the 11 Pro, just remember to get closer to your subject. One thing to keep in mind: if you’re using the ultra wide lens, it’s best to keep a safe distance (a yard or so) from your subject so it remains in focus.
Use HDR wisely.
The new iPhone creates better and smarter High Dynamic Range (HDR) images than any previous model, so it’s easier than ever to get rich detail in both your shadows and your highlights. Take advantage of this feature, but do so with care.
For stock photography, everything needs to look natural and realistic, so if the HDR effect results in supercharged colors and artificial-looking textures, it might be better to avoid it. Examine each image individually to see what works; in the end, your eye is smarter than any camera, no matter how stellar that camera is.
Avoid strong filters and effects.
There are tons of creative editing apps for iPhone, but when it comes to stock, your best bet is to play it safe. Focus on having technically perfect images for your stock portfolio, and use restraint when it comes to editing.
Don’t rule out editorial photos.
For the most part, you’ll want to shoot images that can be licensed for commercial use simply because the market is larger, but Shutterstock contributor Nicole Glass warns against limiting yourself to shooting only commercial content with your phone.
Here’s why: you carry your phone everywhere, so it allows you to capture on-the-go shots that would be impossible with a traditional DSLR. Often, those shots will include elements you can’t include in commercial photos: strangers who haven’t signed a model release, visible logos and storefronts, etc. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the photo; these images could still be accepted for editorial use only, and that’s always better than uploading no images at all.
Download the right apps.
Make your new iPhone stock photo-friendly by downloading a model and property release app like Releases ($2.99). That way, you can get all your forms signed and ready to go seamlessly, whether you’re shooting on location or enjoying an impromptu photo session with friends.
You can also get everything ready to go by downloading your favorite editing apps like Lightroom or Snapseed. Last but not least, get the Shutterstock Contributor app for easy uploads on-the-go.
Cover image via jointstar.
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