The robust iPhone 4 and 4s camera, collection of apps, and accessories have all led to the rise of “iPhoneography,” a type of photography that allows anyone with an iPhone an expressive way to capture the art of their everyday lives. This beginner’s guide to iPhoneography at Walt Disney World and Disneyland provides iPhone-photographers with a list of apps, equipment, and tips that are “must owns.” At Walt Disney World and Disneyland, iPhoneography is especially fun and popular, and these spots are great for iPhoneography for many of the same reasons they’re great for photography. They’re beautiful places and have a lot of great subjects. Disney as a subject of iPhoneography, like all iPhoneography, has exploded in popularity in the last year. There are communities of Disney fans sharing their iPhoneography, and the common equipment and intuitive tools to capture the photos is a great equalizer that puts all fans on (mostly) the same playing field.
Why has iPhoneography exploded in the last year? It has a lot to do with the old adage, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” As the iPhone camera has continued to evolve into something very nice on the iPhone 4 and 4s, and since most people have their iPhones (or other smart phones) with them at all times, iPhoneography has become popular. So popular, in fact, that the iPhone 4 is the most popular camera according to Flickr upload data. New apps have been introduced to assist photographers in producing more creative images, and ways to share those photos have become easier. All of this has combined to make iPhoneography a very popular hobby for a lot of people.
A lot has been written about iPhoneography, including blogs devoted to the topic and entire books, I feel that the most important thing to capturing good iPhone photos is to capture the moment creatively. iPhoneography is great because it’s a way for the average person to capture any moment without extensive training in photography and without a lot of equipment. Although there are some fun ways to enhance your iPhone photos, I think daily blogs and books on the iPhoneography sort of defeat the purpose of iPhoneography in being a simple means of artistic expression. How do you best express yourself creatively with the iPhone?
Here are some tips from Sarah and me, along with some of Sarah’s excellent iPhone photos from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disney Resort to illustrate some of the advice and techniques. She took these photos with an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5.
The first step, assuming you already own an iPhone, towards great iPhoneography is having the right equipment to enable you to capture a good photo. Depending upon how serious you want to get with iPhoneography, this can mean nothing besides an iPhone, or it can mean a tripod, lenses, and bags full of other gear.
I’m quite casual with my iPhoneography, whereas my wife, Sarah, is a bit more seriousness. We both currently use the iPhone 5. Sarah previously used the iPhone 4, and she had the Olloclip for iPhone 4 and 4S to go along with it. Now, she uses the iPhone 5, and also uses the Olloclip for iPhone 5. The Olloclip is a three lens set that includes a fisheye, wide angle, and macro lens for the iPhone. It’s a bit expensive at $70, but reviews are great, and compared to some photography equipment I’ve purchased, it’s a drop in the bucket.
Sarah has used the Olloclip for just about all of her photos since 2012, and absolutely loves it. The creative possibilities it opens up are great. The following were all taken by Sarah using her Olloclip:
As you can see, for a phone, the quality is solid. More importantly, it’s a ton of fun!
I actually think it’s a really good value, as other lens systems of comparable quality for the iPhone cost $199. My capsule review would be that the fisheye lens is the most useful and brings the most distortion to photos (for creative use); the macro lens is an incredibly fun, high quality, and powerful tool, but I think it might be tough to find viable subjects in the parks to use it on.
That lens will really require some creativity at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but it’s really nice. The wide angle lens offers a wider field of view than the regular iPhone lens, but my preference would be to use the fisheye and just crop as necessary. Sarah uses the Olloclip for about 50% of her shots in the parks, so even for $70, she feels that it’s well worth it!
Sarah also has a tripod for her iPhone. Admittedly, she doesn’t use this nearly as much as the Olloclip, mostly because it’s a lot of work…and is sort of dorky. We had a hard time choosing a good one, as there are a lot of negative reviews out there, but we finally settled on the iStabilizer iPhone Tripod. It’s $22, but it has the consistently highest reviews for an iPhone tripod. We figured that it was worth it to spend a bit extra, because a new iPhone (without a contract) costs about $700, so it wasn’t worth trusting a $5 tripod with something that expensive.
I’ve learned my lesson on trying to cut corners to save money with DSLR camera equipment and it has cost me more money in the long run. I don’t make that mistake anymore. If budget or space were an issue and I had to choose between the tripod and the olloclip lenses, I’d definitely choose the olloclip set. The tripod will be nice at night for longer exposures, but I don’t think it’s as important to achieving fun and creative shots as the olloclip. Those lenses really should open up a lot of possibilities.
Recently, we got Sarah an underwater case to use for her iPhone. We were a bit nervous with this purchase, as the stakes are high (one leak and you have an expensive paperweight), so we ultimately settled on the iPhone DiCAPac. We went with this one because DiCAPac is a popular brand for underwater camera cases for ACTUAL cameras (I have their cases for my DSLR and Sony RX-100 point and shoot camera), and they make good products. This case is advertised as working for the iPhone 3Gs, 4, and 4s, but it works just fine with the iPhone 5, too.
Here are some sample photos from Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach that Sarah took using the DiCAPac:
Another important accessory if you’re into iPhoneography at the parks is an external battery. There are some really nice external batteries, like the Trent iFuel External Battery. This is about the 6th backup battery we’ve used for our iPhone, and we really like it. We used to cheap out with these, but the $10 ones were failing so much that it was becoming foolish to go cheap and only get a couple uses out of the battery.
There are thousands of great photography apps for the iPhone, so choosing the ones to use can be very daunting. Sarah generally uses two apps for iPhoneography: Camera+ to take the photo and Instagram to share the photo and engage socially with other iPhoneographers. She’s not too big on post-processing, but uses the apps below for that.
Camera+ app is basically a replacement for the default Camera app in the iPhone. It allows a lot more fine-tuned control over the camera, and also has some really nice processing options. We rarely purchase apps, especially with so many great free apps out there, however after reading many reviews, we made an exception for this one. It allows more control over exposure by allowing the iPhoneographer to choose the focus and exposure points separately. The exposure adjustments are very important for sunrise, sunset, and nighttime photography.
This is very useful because often the iPhone’s camera will automatically choose an exposure point that makes the photo darker or brighter than necessary. It rarely chooses the exposure point correctly on its own, so this alone is a huge game-changer when it comes to photo quality. There’s also an anti-vibration option that can prevent the camera from taking photos until the camera has been stabilized. Another nice feature is the timer mode. The timer mode removes the shakiness thus resulting in a sharper picture. Constant updates promise further improvements. Many iPhoneographers are hoping that a multi-exposure HDR feature is in the works.
The aforementioned options are great, although the real value of Camera+ is the post-processing features.
For editing, Camera+ is a one stop shop. As mentioned above, it does lack true multiple exposure HDR, but Sarah has never missed this feature. If you do want to do actual HDR with the iPhone, there are plenty of stand-alone programs that will accomplish that, the best of which is Pro HDR. Aside from HDR, there are tons of options, like borders and cropping, but the real value is in the number of different post processing effects and your ability to adjust their intensity. You can accomplish just about any look with Camera+ in just a few seconds. Sarah used to do a lot of editing in Instagram, but now rarely edits in Instagram because the options are too limited. Camera+ allows far more control over the editing. Overall, Camera+ is well worth the $1.99 investment.
Once she’s done editing the image, she posts it to Instagram, which then shares the photo on our DisneyTouristBlog.com Twitter and Facebook accounts. She adds hashtags like #disney, #waltdisneyworld, #epcot, etc., depending upon where the photo was taken, so others can easily find it. Others “like” the photo and comment on it, and share it with their friends. This is all a lot of fun, and is a great way to share a day in the parks with those stuck at home.
Because I don’t take iPhoneography quite as seriously as Sarah does (it’s more about the social component for me), I can’t justify even the $1.99 investment on an editing app. Instead, I use Instagram for the social component, along with the free Snapseed app, which has some great post processing options. Ultimately, while the paid apps are nice, I think Snapseed is the only app you really need.
Snapseed and Instagram are the basics that everyone taking photos with their iPhone should have. There are a lot of other photo editing and sharing apps that are worth checking out if you want to get a little more serious about your iPhoneography. Here are the best-of-the-best:
My biggest tip is to have fun. As cliche as that may sound, it’s important to remember since iPhoneography should be about self-expression and fun, rather than chasing the perfect shot in a “serious” manner. If achieving the perfect shot is your aim, you should be using a DSLR, not an iPhone. For me, iPhoneography is really fun because it’s social, expressive, and anyone can easily be an iPhoneographer without training or a lot of knowledge about photography.
Thus, my biggest tip concerns creativity. Look for new angles and different perspectives. Don’t go for the ordinary “postcard” photos you’ve seen hundreds of times of the Castle. The iPhone isn’t going to produce publicity-materials quality photos, so trying to hold your own against these types of photos just won’t work. As impressive of a camera as the iPhone has, it just isn’t on par with even the most basic DSLR. Instead, you need to think differently, looking for intriguing angles or perspectives, or shots that will lend themselves to a particular type of processing.
Since processing is such a big part of iPhoneography, you should have the finished photo in mind when you compose your shot. If you’re looking at Space Mountain, don’t just think about what might make an intriguing composition, think of what composition plus processing would produce an interesting photo. If you have a strong blue sky, consider how the juxtaposition of the clean white lines against that deep blue sky will look after being processed, and balance the sky against the Mountain. This may seem ambitious, especially if you just consider iPhoneography as a way to snap fun photos, but once you start thinking this way, it becomes second nature. Trust me, it will really improve your iPhoneography if you envision your finished photo when you compose the shot, rather than taking a photo, and randomly applying different filters to see what works.
That said, I’ll offer a cautionary note on iPhoneography: even more than regular photography, iPhoneography is suspectible to trends. This is most evident in the popular Hipstamatic app, which produces photos with a very distinct faux-vintage look. While very cool in moderation, this look does get old. Have some variety in your processing–not every image needs to look like it was taken with a pinhole camera from the 1970s! Make your photos stand out from the pack by deviating from this style. If everyone uses the same “unique” processing style, it ceases to be unique.
For Disney iPhoneography, light is incredibly important. Taking photos with the iPhone is easiest in bright, front-lit situations (meaning that the sun is squarely behind you when you take the photo). This will produce the most vivid shots without much noise. This makes it really easy on the camera. That said, it’s not the only way you should go. Shooting into the sun can be interesting, especially if you put the sun near the edge of the frame or peaking out from behind a subject; if you do this, you’re likely to have rays of sunlight streaking through your photo.
You can also use light creatively. Look for the areas of contrasting light and darkness as light hits objects and creates shadow and light play. This is best accomplished in the early morning or just before sunset, when soft light from the lower sun creates long shadows. Your shots at these times of day that involve careful uses of light will undoubtedly be more interesting and moody that photos shot in the middle of the day with the sun directly overhead. These times of day are when the light is “best” and you can really use it to your advantage. At Disney, look for shadows from tall palm trees (or metal palms in Tomorrowland!), Mouse ear balloons, or from fixtures in World Showcase (the Morocco pavilion is especially good for this) to really make your photos pop.
Another tip is to focus on the details. The “Disney Details” are great iPhoneography subjects. I already mentioned this a bit with Morocco in the World Showcase, but there are many other great details shots you can get around Walt Disney World, especially in World Showcase. Signage at Walt Disney World or Disneyland can make a great and distinctly Disney photo subject, as can merchandise in shops! Things as simple as repetitive patterns–common on the walls of buildings in Disney’s Animal Kingdom–can also make excellent photo subjects, and can be a fun “where in the (Walt Disney) World?” games with your friends via social media.
Whether you’re focusing on big picture subjects or the tiny details, process in a manner befitting of the subject. If you’re photographing the vibrant neon of Tomorrowland or the beautiful blue and yellow subs of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, don’t choose a type of processing that washes out color. Embrace the color with a contrast-y and vibrant processing method that makes the photo pop. Sometimes, though, it can be fun and interesting to totally fly in the face of this advice: process a photo of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Wishes!, or “Remember… Dreams Come True!” in black and white. Just don’t make this exception become the norm, or it will lose its impact.
Unless you purchase a tripod and use the Slow Shutter Cam app for nighttime exposures, you’re likely going to struggle with these. The iPhone’s sensor, although it continues to improve, just isn’t made for this type of photography. If you do shoot at night without these tools, make sure to find some way to stabilize your camera. Shots will have noise, but you still might have some success.
The same goes for dark ride photography. I’ve told Sarah many times that she should just give up on dark rides because the iPhone isn’t equiped for them. Time and time again, she has proven me wrong, but she’s also had a fair number of dark ride photos that have been trashed due to motion blur. There is no solution to this because shooting a large number of shots and hoping some turn out. Personally, my advice would be to just holster the iPhone during dark rides and enjoy the attraction because the hit-to-miss ratio is not in your favor. If you do decide to take photos on dark rides, be prepared for a lot of failure!
Notwithstanding these occasional failures, you’re bound to have a lot of success with iPhoneography at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. The place is a veritable goldmine for iPhoneography, and share photos you take in the parks via social media is a lot of fun. So grab some apps and accessories, and get out there and shoot! If you take a shot of which you’re especially proud, share it on Twitter and mention @DisTouristBlog. We’ll retweet our favorite Walt Disney World and Disneyland photos!
If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts:
Photography Buying Guide: Way More Than You Ever Needed to Know…
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Neutral Density Filter Buying Guide
Travel Tripod Buying Guide
What iPhoneography secrets and tips do you have? Favorite apps? Favorite accessories? Favorite photo spots in the parks? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!