Twenty20 Photographer Hannah Argyle (@hannahargyle) lives in England with her husband, two young sons, pet dog and a cat. Professionally she is a photographer and owns a successful framing company, but she is also a master of taking styled still life shots with an iPhone. Here Hannah tells us her entire creative process — from setting up the shot to editing.
Setting up the Shot
I love to use my DSLR, in my work, and when I’m capturing my children playing and running around you can’t beat the control, clarity and accuracy of using a good camera. However, I also love to take pictures with my iPhone, and around a third of my Twenty20 gallery is taken using my iPhone 5s. Specifically I find the iPhone camera is great for more two-dimensional images. I nearly always use it for “styled” shots: food, flowers, and on the table images.
Tip #1: Great light is important with iPhone images, as they become grainy very easily in low light.
The grain can be a desired effect for some some photographers and it adds ambience, but I like my images to be clean and crisp. I position myself near a window, with as much natural light as possible. Sometimes I use a cheap reflector, or piece of white card to fill in harsh shadows a little and bounce the light back onto the image, but sometimes the shadows add a little character and dimension. Evenly lit images can look very flat and almost abstract.
Tip #2: I tend to use either a white wall, a piece of white card or a wooden or white painted table as my backdrop.
If you don’t have a characterful wooden table, white card is easily available from craft shops. I work as a picture framer as well as a photographer so I’m very lucky and have an endless supply in my workshop!
Once your scene is set, then snap away! You can play with angles, composition and negative space, take as many as you need to until you are happy.
Tip #3: If I have any motion in the picture (for example a child’s hand taking some food, or your own hand pouring a drink) you can press and hold the shutter, and your phone will take multiple shots until you release the shutter.
You can then choose the one you like best and discard the rest!
Editing in Action
So, what does the editing process look like in its entirety? Let’s take a look. Below is an unedited picture I took of some cherries and a cup of coffee. I chose a spot a little further away from the window, as I wanted a more moody shot and I like the play of light on the different textures of the fabric and the backdrop, therefore I moved a little further back from the window. This shot is perhaps a little darker than I would normally have it, but that’s ok as I know I can sort that out in editing, the fact that the light is interesting and becomes a part of the picture and composition is what I’m going for here. I tend not to change the exposure on the screen of the iPhone, as I think it can make the image a little flat.
I put the picture into PicTapGo, as I really like the tones the filters give to whites. I used a small amount of lights on, and then the air filter at about half strength and the bright side filter at about 1/3 strength. This is the result after it has been edited in PicTapGo:
For me it still looks a little warm, as the later afternoon sunshine gives quite a warm yellow light. So I then opened the picture in PSExpress, and I sharpened it, reduced the noise (not too much that it looks like a painting, but just enough to smoothen out the image) I increased the highlights slightly to lift the whites, decreased the shadows a little, and the thing that I think makes the biggest difference to this particular image, I altered the temperature, to the cool side only by about three points. And that’s it! The whole picture took me just a few minutes to set up, photograph and edit all within my phone.
Apps For Editing
Once I’ve chosen my image, I usually edit phone images in PicTapGo app, I like the Air and Brightside filters. VSCO and Snapseed are also great. Snapseed has a very handy tool to selectively adjust areas, so you could brighten an area of the picture that fell into deep shadow, without blowing the highlights. After I’ve edited my picture I always tweak them in PSExpress. The sharpening is excellent, and the noise reduction is great for iPhone images. You can also crop and make any final adjustments here.
See more from Hannah in her Twenty20 Gallery @hannahargyle