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It has been said that the best camera in the world is the camera you have with you when you want to take a photo, because life keeps moving forward even if you are not ready to capture it. Hopefully the following tips, accessories and app suggestions will make taking photos this holiday season a little easier and a lot more fun.
Low light photography
When taking photos indoors, the challenge is getting enough light in front of your subject. You can certainly do your best to try to get between your subject and the brightest light source in the room, but that strategy does not always work out. With iOS 8, you can take control of the camera’s exposure manually and increase the amount of light in your photos. Just tap on the subject of your photo and you will see a square with small icon image of the sun. By sliding the sun up and down on the screen, you can manually adjust the exposure of the camera. Sliding up allows more light into the photo and sliding down lets less light in.
While adjusting the exposure of a photo in such a manner will be enough of an adjustment for most point and shoot photographers, using an app like Camera+ ($2.99, iPhone) will allow you to take even more control. To start, go into the settings for Camera+ and enter into the Advanced controls. Here you will be able to toggle on the ‘Full manual’, ‘Live exposure’ and ‘Always show’ modes of the app. This will enable additional controls on the screen for manually adjusting the shutter speed, ISO, focus and white balance of the photo.
While a slower shutter speed will let in more light, it will also potentially create blurry photos when things are in motion. Another thing to keep in mind that while a higher ISO setting can help with low light situations, it can also make the image somewhat grainier. Overexposing a photo can often times have undesirable effects; take a few practice shots first to see how you like the results.
Taking group photos
What helps with low light situations and is also a must have accessory when taking group photos? A tripod. There are many tripods to consider, but when it comes to your iPhone what you really need is a way to mount the iPhone onto the tripod. I have been using iStabilizer ($15, Amazon) for a few years now. The great thing about it is that it works with a variety of smartphones and can even accommodate whatever case you are using. It works by gripping the phone between a set of spring operated levers. Be careful not to pinch the volume control in the process of setting it up, otherwise you will end up taking more photos than you bargained for.
Once you have your iPhone mounted on a tripod, you will want to have the camera take the photo while you, the photographer, can be in the photo as well. Within the iOS 8 Camera app you can set either a 3 second or a 10 second timer. The flash will count down the seconds and the camera will take a burst of ten photos for you to choose from. That way you can review all ten photos to see whose eyes were open and whose eyes were shut. In general, using burst mode is a great way to take posed shots when there are multiple subjects to control.
Stepping things up a bit, you can also opt to get a Bluetooth remote for your iPhone and control exactly when each photo is taken. I have found the Satechi BT Media Remote ($35, Amazon) to be that remote. Originally purchased to control my Keynote presentations on my Mac, I discovered that once paired with my iPhone, the Satechi BT Media Remote could also be used to take photos. The great thins is that it is a Bluetooth remote and not an IR remote found on other types of cameras, which means you do not have to be within the line of sight to use the remote; you can keep the remote out of the picture. Used in combination with the timer, you can take multiple different poses without having to run back and forth to the tripod.
Adding festive holiday backgrounds and text
Once you have captured the moment, it is time to have a little fun and add some backgrounds, text and frames to your holiday photos.
Juxtaposer ($2.99 Universal) is a quick and easy way to replace the background of a photo while keeping the subject front and center. It works by selecting two images, the foreground and the background. You then begin to erase sections of the foreground image exposing the background image. You can zoom in and out of the photo gaining more detailed control of what part of the top photo you want to erase. It works in a similar fashion to the popular Color Splash ($0.99 iPhone, $1.99 iPad) by the same developer.
Over ($1.99 Universal) is a typography that will allow you to add professional looking text to your photos. You can adjust the size, color, tilt and location of the text you place in each photo. The included set of fonts are enough to get started, but there are additional font packs that you can purchase if you find that you have reached the end of your creative limits. Other apps do allow you to place text on a photo, but not with the same level of control that Over has to offer.
Halftone 2 ($1.99 Universal) is a comic book layout app that can take a series of photos and turn them into a story. You can get creative and create events this holiday that never really happened. Use your creative license. With captions and a variety of different layouts, you can quickly and easily pull together a several different photos and add dialog to make the images come to life.
Pic Collage (Free Universal) is more than just a way to add multiple photos into a collage. When you get started using the app it will feel like a normal framing app. By tapping on the “+” button, you will find an array of different options to add more of a holiday theme to your collage. And don’t think that you have to add multiple photos, you can use it to dress up a single photo as well. You can select from several different background patterns, search for background images, and even add stickers to your collage. It is a great way to create a digital Christmas card to sent to your family and friends.