Traditional photographers keep telling us that iPhone snaps aren’t “real” art—some even think smartphones are “debasing” photography. And sure, they’re not using the expected equipment to snap a photo, but these progressive influencer-photographer hybrids are being exhibited in galleries across the country, selling pieces to collectors, and earning a living as professional artists. By using a combination of iPhone-available editing apps, good lighting, skill, and Instagram, photographers like Robert Jahns, who has nearly a million followers on the app, has earned a reputation as a prolific modern photographer. Other smartphone artists like photographer and stylist Danielle Nachmani use this offbeat technique to create content for fashion brands like Jennifer Fisher and glossy mags like Vogue Australia.
So what’s the difference between your photos and theirs–aside from the fact that you celebrate double-digit likes, and they’re earning a living from theirs? Well, first they’re pedantic about lighting, and the pros we spoke with exclusively use natural light. Jahns usually chooses dusk or sunset to avoid harsh light. Another iPhone artist, Robert-Paul Jansen, also warned against using the zoom function. “The iPhone lens just can’t zoom, so all you’re essentially doing is cropping the image. I tell people to take the shot without the zoom and concentrate on the exposure and composition, and crop in post processing,” he said.
Then, there are the apps you should use to actually take a photo, like Camera+ and ProCamera, that save photos in a higher resolution than the compressed JPG format your regular camera app uses. “You can even get some long exposure stuff with AverageCamPro or Slow Shutter,” Jahns added, explaining that CortexCam is the best when shooting in low light. “Honestly that app will change your life when it comes to smartphone low light photography,” he said.
These guys also use attachable mobile lenses that can really enhance the shot, like Moment or Olloclip, which you can pickup online for about $50. “I personally dig the wide-angle lenses,” Jahns added. Then, if you’re really getting serious, try using a tripod like Gorillapod, which Jahns’s favorite.
When it comes to editing your snap, look for apps like ArtStudio, Filterstorm, Snapseed, VSCOcam. “I work a lot with masks, also brushes to paint with light and shadows. When it comes to great color looks, VSCO or Lightroom is great, I created my own presets to get my bright colorful look,” Jahns said.
Priime is a new app that Jansen says is the absolute best for storing and filtering your photographs: “This smart app uses all the new possibilities of iOS 9 and therefore it’s easy to use and doesn’t make your photo roll look like a mess. You can edit or even delete photos right from within the app without having to import photos. The filters are superb and it’s very easy to copy edits from one image to another so you can have the same overall look,” he said.
Before you get busy using your iPhone as the prized piece photography equipment that it is, head into the gallery to see how other influential smartphone artists are earning a living from their snaps.