I’m delighted to welcome back guest blogger Tom Mason this week with a fascinating look at iPhone photography. With photography the flavor of the month in the Nature’s Home mailbag and a record submission of reader photos on the back of the Autumn issue, I hope this will encourage even more readers to get snapping. As someone who regularly finds himself in a position with a great species in front of me, and no camera, my trusty phone has helped me with many a retrospective ID - and also the occasional decent shot! Here’s Tom and some more of his superb photography…

Wild phone-tography

The modern age is a wonderful tech filled place. We have more technology now than ever, and each year it develops with mind boggling pace to deliver sci-fi dreams of past generations, into the pockets of today. With this, I’m always annoyed when people say “my camera isn’t good enough”… That’s why in this month’s blog, I’m going to kick out the DSLRs and bring it back to basics. Nature photography on an iPhone.

The advantage of always having your phone with you is that great nature moments don't get missed. Photo by Tom Mason.

A little disclaimer first. I know that an iPhone in most situations will not be as good as a DSLR for nature photography, but it doesn't matter. Whether you are just starting out or a full time pro, photographing on your iPhone (other brands are available…) is simply great. It’s good for developing as a photographer, it’s attainable for all and of course its a boatload of fun! I’m lucky enough to shoot with some top class equipment day to day but I still always shoot images on my iPhone. It’s my visual diary, a way of taking inspiration as well as putting photographic power in my pocket no matter where I am, and as wildlife enthusiast, we all know great wildlife sightings can turn up at unexpected moments!

The basics of iPhone photography
Pretty much everyone knows how to use a phone camera…Open it up point it and shoot, right? Well if you want pretty blurry, poorly focused images then yes, but actually there are a few things you can do to ensure you get a much better shot. First up, let’s get holding the phone in the right way. Stop holding it in one hand and treat it like a camera! Using both hand securely round the frame will majorly increase the strength of your grip giving you instantly better results. To add to your technique keep your elbows tucked into your body to sure up your position even more.

When shooting an image make sure to tap focus, not only to get everything sharp where you want it, but additionally to get the exposure reading from that section on the frame. Often clamping the phone in your left hand, between the thumb and forefinger and then placing your right middle finger along the back gives the best holding position. It also leaves your forefinger free to press the shutter button (up or down volume control) and your thumb for focus. Now already your phone will start to feel more like a camera.

A great shot for a DSLR, but amazing for an iPhone. Photo by Tom Mason.

If you want to get really fancy and take iPhone photography to another level you can of course get hold of a small tripod to help hold your phone even more securely. Some special phone clamps are available that are excellent if you want to sure up your camera in low light or remove vibrations. An extra tip is to use your phones headset as a remote release to reduce vibrations even further. Excellent for trying some macro or close up photography.

Subjects to try
Now with your technique sorted its time to get out and shoot.

In terms of subjects especially when related to wildlife you are going to be limited by what you can get close to due to the wide focal length of the camera. Often the best results come from shooting landscapes, close up macro of insects or plants and abstract or patten images.

Never miss a great aerial moment by taking Tom's tips. Photo by Tom Mason.

Subjects of course can certainly present themselves, whilst walking home one evening from a party I found a toad crossing the road. With none of my camera gear with me I simply used my phone to get some close up images, adding the light from the camera to act as my primary source of illumination in the dark. Phone photography really is all about adapting and using your initiative. Something that will pay dividend when you go out shooting with your normal kit too.

Another subject that I have always enjoyed shooting is that of aerial landscapes and patterns. When flying my gear is often all tucked away for travel but the iPhone can pick out some excellent images out of the cabin window, something to keep you entertained when heading home or off on holiday, especially if there are delays when you are coming in to land!

What are you waiting for?
Phones are a fantastic photographic tool, allowing us to document our day, record visual reminders and shoot opportunities as they happen. Wildlife can appear at a moments notice but even a smart phone can be a wonderful photographic tool to create some excellent images. Photography isn't all about the best gear, the big shiny lenses and cameras, its about taking images and having fun. So next time you see something awesome and you don't have a camera, pull our your phone and give it a go. Of course on top of all that with todays great apps and social media, you can edit on sight and share it with the world!

Don't forget to share your shots. Photo by Tom Mason.

I would love to hear your thoughts, do you use your phone for shooting images out in the field, have you got any great images on your smart phone? You can tweet me @tommasonphoto or find out more about my work on www.tommasonphoto.com