A Travel Photographer shares iPhoneography Tips

Shanghai at sunset. Photo Credit: Jimmy Cohrssen, shot via Instagram

by Tracey Greenstein |

When I began to travel frequently, I decided it was time to invest in a DSLR camera. I felt I needed something “professional” for my articles and blogs, something more than just a small digital camera.

However, I noticed that my fellow travel writers weren’t always hauling a bulky camera on trips. In fact, in some cases, they brought no camera at all. They relied entirely on their iPhone for clear, sharp and compelling photos.

My iPhone camera moment of truth happened in Israel, when my iPhone 4S captured an incredibly detailed photograph of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The iPhone camera is so impressive that “iPhoneography” has become an actual term and technique for journalists, and many writers now refer to themselves as “iPhoneographers”.

wilight at Le Méridien, Bora Bora. Photo Credit: Jimmy Cohrssen

International photographer Jimmy Cohrssen – who in the past worked with brands Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Helmut Lang and Virgin Records – is a master in the art of iPhoneography. His work led him to travel to the end of the world and back, ranging from Bora Bora to Shanghai. Cohrssen partnered with French brands Le Méridien (owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts) and Air France to launch A Photographer’s Journey: A Discovery of Details from Takeoff to Turndown. The exhibit showcases his finest photographs – some of which are shot from the Instagram app – from Le Méridien’s exotic hotels all over the world.

Common to almost every travel writer out there, Cohrssen loves to Instagram food experiences from his travels (sit down with travel writers at a restaurant and flashes go off all night long). For Instagram, Cohrssen says to remember that “it’s a square, so catch people’s eye with vibrant color, humor or tasty food. “ He says that framing helps too, especially for sunrises and sunsets. The first photograph above titled “Shanghai at sunset” was shot with Instagram while Cohrssen was standing on the 70th floor rooftop, on the ledge, without a guardrail. How’s that for impressive?

Here are some of Cohrssen’s favorite tricks and tips for turning your iPhone into a professional tool to capture every moment with precision.

Le Royal Méridien Shanghai Aquarium.  Photo Credit: Jimmy Cohrssen

1.  Are there any iPhoneography techniques you frequently use for your photos?  How do they help improve your work? 

In Photoshop I often use masking, perspective control and color balance.  In Filterstorm or Photoshop Express EXPR +0.00% for the iPhone, I often use the exposure control, perspective control and sometimes sharpening, but I find the sharpening that either application does is a bit heavy on grain pattern, so I try not to (apply) too much.

2.  Many people have traded in their pocket-size digital cameras and use their iPhone camera instead (myself included!).  Do you ever use tripods for your iPhoneography? If so, how effective are they and are they worth the purchase for a novice photographer? 

I haven’t used a tripod for my iPhone as of yet, but I could see it being a good idea.  A steadier hand is always good, but the slowness of having a tripod might make some people take more time to compose an image.

3.  Do you use special lenses?  I see that there are clip-in lenses available for the iPhone camera.

I’ve seen there are some out there and they are on my shopping list. Turtleback has really interesting products (for iPhoneography).  Aluminum cases for the 4S have a thread mount for lenses which opens up a world of possibilities, and their 5 version with multi-lenses looks amazing as well.

Tea with a view of Pudong from Le Royal Méridien Shanghai.  Photo Credit: Jimmy Cohrssen

4.  Aside from Instagram, do you use other apps?  Which apps do you recommend the most?

The apps I use are Photoshop Express and Filterstorm.  I try to keep the retouching to a range of creativity that would mimic what I might accomplish in Photoshop…nothing too wild.

5.  Do you have any specific iPhoneography tips for apps that you routinely use?

I would say one great tool is the HDR setting on the camera for the iPhone.  It takes two photos at once, so you have a light and darker version; and this often comes in handy.  In addition, in the new iOS, the panoramic setting works really well.

And, Cohrssen’s final words of wisdom: “Don’t mimic, just create.  The glory of our digital age is that you can shoot thousands of images and not spend a penny at the lab…so go nuts.”  Thanks Jimmy!



via Forbes