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My iPhone Photography Kit

Photography has long been a hobby of mine, and for the past few years I’ve pursued this using my iPhone. I’ve owned digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras in the past, but the iPhone eventually made a separate camera redundant. Nowadays, I shoot with an iPhone X, and it’s the best camera I’ve ever owned.

Latourell Falls in Oregon.
Latourell Falls in Oregon. Taken with iPhone X using Halide. Edited in Darkroom.

iPhone photography is more than just the performance of a CMOS sensor though. It’s also the ecosystem of third-party apps and accessories that can be used to help produce great photos. As I’ve become a more experienced iPhone photographer, some of these have become an essential part of my hobby.

Halide

I take a lot of photos using the built-in Camera app, but I use Halide ($5.99) whenever I want more control. The app has a range of options, such as ISO and focus, and supports RAW. Halide also provides full support for switching between the 1X or 2X lens of dual-lens iPhones1.

A highly polished camera app.

You can see how deeply the developer cares about iPhone photography as Halide is one of the most highly polished apps for iOS. One of my favorite features is the way it uses the curved corners at the top of the screen on the iPhone X. Instead of leaving those corners empty, the developer puts the space to good use, displaying a histogram and exposure information.

Darkroom

I’ve used dozens of iOS photo editing apps over the years, but Darkroom (Free, $7.99 to unlock all tools and filters) has been my app of choice for some time. It’s a fully featured iPhone app with a wide range of adjustments and filters, including support for RAW photos. Edits can also be saved as custom filters to use with other photos.

Darkroom's impressive array of adjustments.

Darkroom has deep integration with the iOS photo library and there’s no “intermediate” library you have to import and export photos with. Edited photos are labeled and can be easily filtered, and edits can be reverted directly in the app.

Darkroom keeps getting better and better, and the developers just updated the app with more filters and a framing tool. The one feature I do yearn for, however, is iPad support. For now, I edit all my photos on an iPhone X, but I’d really like to edit photos using the larger screen of my iPad (and maybe using Apple Pencil, too).

The developers of Darkroom and Halide have been collaborating to make their apps work more closely together. Both apps have a shortcut button to open the other app, which makes it a seamless experience to take a photo and immediately start editing it.

Moment lenses

I’m a huge fan of Moment lenses as they add another layer of creativity to iPhone photography. I own the macro, wide, and tele portrait lenses—along with an assortment of accessories—and have taken some really great shots with them.

Tele portrait, wide, and macro lenses. Also pictured: cleaning pen and lens case.
Tele portrait, wide, and macro lenses. Also pictured: cleaning pen and lens case.

Moment’s mounting system is built into the iPhone photo case. To attach a lens, I just place it on a mount point and turn it clockwise. Since the iPhone X has two cameras, there are two mount points that the lenses can be mounted over.

A close-up of my dog's eye. Photo taken with Moment macro lens and iPhone X.
A close-up of my dog’s eye. Photo taken with Moment macro lens and iPhone X.

The mounting system makes the photo case a little thicker than other iPhone cases, but it’s hardly noticeable. There’s even a place at the bottom of the photo case to attach a wrist strap. It’s actually a solid case that I use all the time to keep my iPhone X protected.

This was the first shot I took with the Moment wide lens and iPhone X.
This was the first shot I took with the Moment wide lens and iPhone X.

If you’re interested in buying a Moment lens (or two), you can use my affiliate link to get 10% off your order.

DxO One

Due the smaller size of the iPhone’s camera sensor, there are times when it just can’t match the performance of a regular camera. The DxO One ($465) is an iPhone accessory that’s a 20MP digital camera. It has a 1″ sensor—much larger than that found in the iPhone—which is the same one found in Sony’s advanced RX100 compact camera. As a result, the DxO One can produce some exceptional photos that are simply beyond the current reach of the iPhone.

DxO One attached to my iPhone X. This photo was taken with an iPad mini 4.
DxO One attached to my iPhone X. This photo was taken with an iPad mini 4.

The DxO One app offers as much control as any camera, with the usual PASM options and full RAW support. It doesn’t have to be attached using the Lightning connector, as the DxO One can be connected over Wi-Fi, turning the iPhone into a wireless viewfinder.

I’ve written about the DxO One before, and it’s an accessory I still use, though not as much since I upgraded to the iPhone X and invested in Moment lenses. I mostly use the DxO One nowadays for night or long exposure photography. One of the photos I’m most proud of is this night shot of Manhattan, taken with the DxO One.

One of my favorite photos. Taken in September 2016 with DxO One.
Manhattan. Taken in September 2016 with DxO One. f6.3, ISO 100, 8 seconds.

Joby Micro Tripod

The Joby Micro Tripod ($23) is a handy accessory, especially for night photography. I use it with the Glif so I can stand my iPhone X on something like a table or wall. When not in use, the Micro Tripod folds into the size of a memory stick.

A portable tripod solution.

The mounting point at the center also pivots, providing some flexibility in positioning. In a pinch, this combination has even come in handy to hold my iPhone at a comfortable viewing angle while I watched a movie on a flight.

Despite the diminutive size of the tripod, it’s very stable. I’ve used the Micro Tripod and Glif to hold my iPhone X with the DxO One attached.

Glif

The Glif ($30) by Studio Neat is a deceptively smart tool that every iPhone photographer should own. It’s a portable tripod mount that works with almost any phone and case combination, thanks to the way the jaws wrap around the device and the lever locks it in place.

The Glif attached to the Joby Micro Tripod.

The three mount points allows it to work in either portrait or landscape; even attach other accessories, such as microphones or lights.

Anker and Yoozon monopods

Ok, these are technically selfie sticks, but hear me out. Selfie sticks get a pretty bad rap, mostly because of the obnoxious way a lot of people use them. Fundamentally though, selfie sticks are just handheld monopods, which are an extremely useful photography tool. I own two selfie sticks, one from Anker and the other from Yoozon.

Anker and Yoozon selfie sticks.

Both of them have a rechargeable Bluetooth shutter button, making it easy to hold take photos one-handed. If I want to take a photo of something up-close, I can just extend the stick and move my iPhone closer; I’ve been able to take some great photos of flowers and animals by using a selfie stick to get a bit closer than I normally would have been able.

A selfie stick allowed me to take an up-close shot of this butterfly. Taken with iPhone X.
I used the Anker selfie stick to take an up-close shot of this butterfly.

I prefer to use the Anker stick most of the time, simply because the build quality is excellent. The Yoozon feels flimsy in comparison, but it has a few features that make it more useful in some situations. The handle of the Yoozon stick can open up into a tripod, saving the need to carry a separate one with me. In addition, the Bluetooth shutter button is also removable, so I can set up my iPhone and take photos without needing to touch it.

The Yoozon selfie stick used as a tripod.

If you’d like to see more of my photos, follow me on either Instagram or Unsplash.

  1. The built-in Camera app doesn’t always use the 2X lens when selected. Instead, the app might still use the 1X lens and apply digital zoom. Halide’s option is an explicit hardware choice, so selecting 2X means the 2X lens will be used. 

 

4 replies on “My iPhone Photography Kit”

I am trying to take a close up of one snowflake using: iPhone 7+ with moment macro lens, manfrotto mini tripod and a light box. Ideally would be to have a way to angle the tripod directly above the snowflake. Is there any attachment on a tripod to do so?

You’ll need a different tripod, one that can pivot face down and maintain the weight of the phone. A larger tripod with a ball joint so that you can elevate the phone and pivot it face down would work.

My iPhone photography workflow includes sharing some of the photos I’ve taken to Instagram. I usually include relevant hashtags to increase discoverability and have a collection of frequently used hashtag sets—different hashtags for the same topic—that I can choose from. I also include a five-dot prefix (each dot on a separate line) to separate the photo’s caption text and hashtags. This is a commonly used method for hiding hashtags “below the fold” so they’re only visible when tapping the more button.

I’ve used a few different methods for managing my hashtag collection and wanted to share my experiences with each.

iOS text replacement

iOS has built-in text substitution that can be used to replace a shortcut with a longer piece of text. For example, a shortcut of ,,iphone could be replaced with #shotoniphone #iphonexs #iphonephotography.

iOS text replacement is useful for handling a small collection of hashtag sets.Text replacement is a good option if you occasionally use hashtag sets. You can easily add them to an Instagram caption without leaving the app. It’s basic organization and need for you to remember what shortcuts you’ve created isn’t well suited for more frequent users or those with a larger collection.

Copied

Copied is a clipboard manager app for iOS and was the first standalone app I used for managing hashtag sets. Each set can be saved a separate clipping and accessed directly from Instagram using Copied’s custom keyboard.

Copied’s custom keyboard makes it simple to insert snippets of text.

Clippings can be organized into lists and the custom keyboard also includes a built-in search, both of which make Copied useful if you have a lot of hashtag sets.

Darkroom

The popular iOS photo editor has built-in support for hashtag set management. Darkroom makes it easy to manage and create new hashtag sets and provides some useful ways of accessing them.

Hashtag support in Darkroom is a really nice touch.

Hashtag sets can be selected and copied to the clipboard—along with an optional five-dot prefix—as part of the photo export flow so that you can switch to Instagram and simply paste the hashtags in. You can also use Darkroom’s Today View widget to select and copy hashtag sets to the clipboard.

The app also supports Siri shortcuts for quick access to hashtag sets. You can select which hashtag sets to include and then record a phrase to use with Siri. Once invoked, the hashtag sets are copied to the clipboard.

Shortcuts

My preferred method for managing hashtag sets nowadays is, unsurprisingly, with a shortcut. I created Instagram Hashtag Sets to manage my hashtag collection and use them whenever I post a photo to Instagram. The shortcut is more flexible than other methods I’ve tried and also includes some additional functionality.

It can be run as a normal shortcut or from the Share Sheet, the Shortcuts Widget, the Home screen, or as a Siri Shortcut. I primarily use the Share Sheet by selecting the caption text I’ve specified and tapping Share; the shortcut includes the caption text when it copies hashtags to the clipboard to make it easier to simply paste it over the existing text.

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The shortcut contains a dictionary of my hashtag sets, each of which is an array of hashtags. When run, it displays a list of these hashtag sets for you to select from. All of the chosen hashtags are copied to the clipboard, after which it switches back to Instagram and displays a notification. The shortcut also includes support for a five-dot prefix and includes this if the option is enabled.

Each hashtag set is represented as an array of text values.

Instagram limits the number of hashtags per photo to 30. The shortcut counts how many hashtags have been included across all hashtag sets and allows you to deselect individual hashtags if there are more than 30. The shortcut also repeats the check until there are 30 or fewer hashtags.

The shortcut allows you to unselect individual hashtags if you exceed the limit. It will also repeat this process if you don’t unselect enough.

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