10 Tips How to Master Street Photography with the iPhone

Hi everyone, my name is Michael, I am a street photographer, I shoot with an iPhone.

The iPhone offers me three things that a big camera doesn’t – it is discreet, it is always with me and it is easy to use.

I have been using the iPhone since I moved to Melbourne, Australia in February this year.  The iPhone lets me concentrate on scene and structure instead of dials and lenses.  I feel more connected to the process because there is no glass in the way.

Eric has asked me to share some hints to help make the most of the iPhone when shooting the street.  So here we go.

1. Always be ready

As street photography requires quick reflexes I try to improve me odds by holding the phone in my hand when going for a photo walk.  Because I use the iPhone 4 I have placed the camera app in the bottom corner of the dock.  This lets me launch the app easily, knowing where to touch.  I do, however, miss the double click, quick launch option that is available on older iPhones.  It helped preserve battery and was by far the easiest way to launch the camera.

2. Use a soft rubber case

As I walk around clutching the iPhone I have found that a soft rubber case helps improve grip.  This is particularly useful when you’re shooting from the hip, trying to shoot over a fence or anywhere near a river!  I use the Case Mate Vroom, it has a nice tyre tread that grips well.

3. Expose for the highlights

When I shoot I mostly expose for the highlights, touch exposing for the brightest spot on the screen. It is always easier to recover shadows than highlights. Again, it is about finding interesting light and playing with the camera exposure till it looks right on screen.

Here are a few shots that have used this technique…

4. Watch your exposure

One of the downsides of the standard issue camera on the iPhone is the lack of exposure lock.  I often find the exposure thrown out when someone walks through the scene and the camera tries to compensate. Recent apps include exposure lock in the feature list, overcoming the problem.  One such app is almost DSLR, I have been using it for the past few weeks and am loving the ability to set the exposure (particularly going into a bright Aussie summer).  The below photo used this setting to keep the bright white wall from blowing out as people passed through the scene.

5. Keep your camera still

When shooting with my iPhone,  I try to tap the shutter button as softly as possible. I know others keep the button depressed and shoot on the release.  This is a great way of making sure you’re not bumping the phone – but I personally can’t get used to it. Some apps, including Camera+ have anti-shake functions but this does not lend itself to shooting on the fly.

6. Fully charge your batteries beforehand

Make sure you have fully charged the phone! The battery on the iPhone 4 lasts about 2-3 hours when shooting nonstop.  This is halved for the 3Gs.

7. Keep the lens clean

Use a microfiber cloth and keep your fingers off of it.

8. Turn off the shutter sound

You don’t want the fake camera sound giving you away when chasing an interesting scene.

9. Never hesitate

Take photos of everything you find interesting.  It is all about confidence, the more you do it the easier it gets.

10.  Relax

Lastly, try to relax when walking around, look don’t search, I find that if I start forcing images, more often than not I fall back on clichéd compositions.


Feel free share some of your own suggestions (iPhone or not) or ask questions below.

More of my work is available on my blog (mishobaranovic.tumblr.com).  You can also follow me on twitter (@mishobaranovic).



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  • Lynnie

    Hey Misho,
    I love street photography and even though I use a micro 4/3rds camera I still find it cumbersome.
    Your photos have inspired me to try out my camera phone (Samsung Wave)on the streets. It has a very stiff shutter button and I end up looking like I’m lifting weights, but I’m going to give it a go!
    Thanks for all your tips I’ll be sure and use them….cheers from Brissie!
    See you on Flickr!

  • http://moricostudios.com Ken

    Any tips for reducing camera shake / blur? I have both the original iPhone and iPhone 4, and the biggest problem I’ve found is camera shake. Do the apps help in this regard? The standard app only gives you focus and no shutter speed adjustments.

    Thanks, Ken

  • Joris

    How do you turn off shutter sound on iPhone? Mine is not jailbroken.

  • http://www.foto-rhetoric.org/ Nacho

    Ken, when it comes to camera shake holding the iPhone closer to your body, and stabilizing yourself as well as you can is usually better than sticking your arms out to shoot. So, if possible, try that — it is also less noticeable and less disruptive to the flow of events.

    I am one of those who depresses the button and holds it until release. I find it makes me jerk the camera less. Three other options: 1) use a camera app with sound release (Camera Genius does have it, but it has not been updated in some time) but keep in mind that speaking might disrupt the moment, 2) try a camera app with burst mode, 3) find a perch or good stable spot, scope out the scene, set the camera to a countdown timer and hold it steady (this might work best when you are capturing a particular locale over some time)

    Regarding blur… sometimes you want it! Most of the time, especially with the iPhone, it might be a matter of subject motion rather than your own. Regardless, don’t throw away an image too quickly because it has a measure of blurry-ness to it. Also, take your time. Shooting and moving the camera out of the way too quickly (to remain unobtrusive) is a cause of missed shots for many folks starting out.

    Joris: if using an iPhone 3, 3GS, and 4… see the buttons on the left hand side? The top one slides and is a way to turn-off sound (ringer). No need for the iPhone to be jailbroken.

    Thanks again Misho! : )



  • http://mishobaranovic.tumblr.com Misho Baranovic

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the kind comments guys.

    Lynnie, glad i’ve made you want to go out and take some shots with the phone. Feel free to send through some pics of Brissie to my email, would love to see them. Hopefully the rain will ease up and you can get some nice, sunny ones.

    Joris and Ken, it looks like Nacho answered your questions. Ken, I do try and get myself into position and lock my arms in to my body to try and keep still. I do recommend the update to Photofx, the image stabilizer is alot faster than the previous model. I do agree that image blur remains the most difficult obstacle to iphoneography.

    Thanks again guys,


  • http://www.pd-jkt.com/ Thomas

    Great tips, Misho! Again, you don’t need a Leica to start street photography :)

  • ED

    I read your tips and I love it I got for Kmas a new Ipod Touch and getting use to it. In Tip No.4 you mention: ” One such app is almost DSLR, I have been using it for the past few weeks and am loving the ability to set the exposure (particularly going into a bright Aussie summer). The below photo used this setting to keep the bright white wall from blowing out as people passed through the scene.”

    Can you let us know which one it is to get it, thanks in advance.

    My Name Ed

  • http://moricostudios.com Ken

    Thanks Nacho and Misho… I’ll give my human “steady shot” position a try. I’ve found some great iPhone 4 street photos on Flickr… like other cameras you can search by the EXIF tags and see what’s possible. Given that the resolution isn’t bad on the iPhone 4, and it’s fairly sharp, it makes the photos good for black and white conversion… no need to worry about color saturation if there is no color… that’s my tip. I’ll look into those apps…

    Thanks, Ken

  • http://www.nique88888.com Dominique Jost

    Great article Misho!

  • http://mishobaranovic.tumblr.com Misho Baranovic

    Hi Ed, the app is actually called “almost DSLR” it works as a camera replacement and lets you set the exposure and focus. Let me know how you go.

  • http://fokkomuller.nl Fomu


    I like your article very much.
    I use Procamera for iPhone. You can use the whole screen as a shutter, but you can also set a selftimer to 0,5 seconds. In that way the push on the button will not create extra blur.

    Recently I bought The Glif. With this gadget you can fix your iPhone on a tripod. Cool!

    Have fun on the streets!

  • http://www.studio1photography.co.uk/wedding/ John G

    Thanks Misho, a very useful post for me. I’ve never bothered experimenting with my iPhone camera but these pointers will help a great deal. I’m downloading the almostDSLR app as I type.

  • http://www.justwhatisee.com Greg Schmigel

    Nice job, Misho…I really enjoyed the read.

  • http://jtinseoul.squarespace.com Josh White

    Great write up here Misho! Have always been a fan, and these are some beautiful images!

  • http://dcrunographer.wordpress.com/ DC Runographer

    Great tips here, especially #9. I learned not to hesitate the hard way…by hesitating and missing an otherwise awesome shot that now only exists in my memories!

  • http://twitter.com/leviszekeres Levi Szekeres

    Now I can shoot myself. After I tell my mom that my college and all the visual academy was useless. The afterschool would be “then use Instagram to add mist, blur and other useless side-effects to your facebook photo”. Hit F5 from time to time and wait for the likes. Enjoy!

    • steven

      yes, please shoot yourself.

      this was an article for people who shoot with an iphone because they either have no other camera or because they want to try something different. nobody is knocking any other gear that you may use and nobody is knocking whatever educational background you may or may not have.

      you’re entire comment was irrelevant to this post.

      • Levi Szekeres

        I can buy a good camera for the price of one iPhone and this article is about advice, read “educational purposes”. That means your reply is totally subjective and out of place, Steven. Your opinion would be respected if this wouldn’t be a reply. Sorry, but they try to enter on sacred fields on the backdoor.

    • mishobaranovic

      Not sure what you’re worried about Levi, or why you’re having a dig at this post? This post was done pre Instagram days, no ‘side effects’ were used either.

      Would prefer if you’d criticise the photos rather than the device, then I could actually get something out of it.

      Oh and if you’re interested, have a look at the follow up I did last month –

      By the way your website is awesome, looks like your schooling was worth something.

      Cheers Misho

      • Levi Szekeres

        You’re right, Misho, most of the photos are good, maybe this is what’s bothering me. Because it looks like a good accident. One shot out of thousands. If this guy capable of doing three good out of thirty shots, I can respect that.

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  • Daniel

    The easiest way to silence the shutter it’s to put the ringer in silent/vibrate mode using the side button. That will do the trick.

    Also, you can also press the + volume button to release the shutter instead of tapping the screen to avoid camera shake.