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Photography

5 Smart Ways to Use Your iPhone in the Photo Studio

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This post is part of a series called How To Use Your iPhone Like a Pro.
When and How to Use Your iPhone on the Job (and When Not To)
How To Use Your iPhone Like A Pro Video Camera

The iPhone is a lot more than just a camera; it’s a powerful tool that can be used in many ways by all kinds of photographers. One area where its usefulness is often overlooked is in the photo studio.

In the previous article I discussed when it was (and wasn’t) appropriate to use your iPhone’s camera on the job. In this article I’m going to look at some of the other ways it can be used while you work.

While I’m saying “iPhone” throughout this tutorial, everything I show will also work perfectly well—and often better—on an iPad.

1. Keep Your Reference Material at Hand

One of the simplest way to use your iPhone while working in a studio is as a tool for working with reference material. An iOS device is perfect for storing all the information you need for a shoot. Even better, because they are small, portable and easy to use, they don’t get in the way on set.

With access to the Internet, you can instantly use an iPhone to access almost any information you need. However, if you’re scrambling to find reference material in the middle of a shoot you probably haven’t prepared enough.

evernote references
Some reference material from a recent shoot in Evernote.

Instead, use apps like Evernote or even Lightroom Mobile to prepare all your reference material in advance on your computer. Download and save your reference images, lighting diagrams or other resources to Evernote or Lightroom. Sync all the material to the corresponding iOS app and it will be there when you need it.

An iPhone or iPad can also handle PDFs perfectly so if you are working from a commercial posing or lighting guide you can have it on hand.

2. Smooth and Easy Client Review

We've previously written about how to review images using Lightroom Mobile and how to shoot directly to your computer by tethering your camera with Lightroom. It’s possible to combine both these ideas. With a bit of clever set up you can photograph as normal while the client, assistant or art director reviews the images as you shoot them on your iPad.

The simplest way to make this work is to create a watched collection that feeds Lightroom Mobile. First, create a collection. Name the collection "Tethered Shoot" and set it to sync with Lightroom Mobile. Then right click on it and make it the Target Collection.

Follow Andrew’s tutorial on setting up tethering in Lightroom and, as you shoot, send any images you want to the iPad by adding them to the Tethered Shoot collection. You can do that by hitting the B key on your keyboard—it’s the shortcut to add a selected image to the target collection.

review lr mobile
The client can review images as you shoot using Lightroom Mobile.

The client, assistant or art director can then flag or reject images as they see them without having to hover over your (or your technician's) shoulder. Lightroom Mobile’s interface is simple enough to explain in a few moments to even the most technophobic people. Any ratings they make will be synced back to your main Lightroom collection.

3. Advanced Camera Control

I’ve already shown how you can use your iPhone to take time-lapse and long exposure images with the TriggerTrap mobile dongle. You can also use it in much the same way as a remote trigger in the studio.

Connect your iPhone using the TriggerTrap dongle and set it to Simple Cable Release or Self Timer mode. If you’ve two iOS devices you can use one as a master trigger and one as a remote connected to the camera. I used this set up to take the self portrait below.

selfie triggertrap
I shot this self portrait using TriggerTrap to control my camera.

If you’re also taking self portraits or doing other things that keep you away from the camera it can work well. There are, however, other methods that give you more control.

If your camera has built-in WiFi, both Canon and Nikon have mobile apps that you can use to control it. With both apps you can use your camera’s live-view, change focus and exposure, trigger the camera and import photos to your iPhone. If your camera supports it, this is a slightly more flexible option than TriggerTrap as you only need one iOS device to set up wirelessly.

If your camera doesn’t have built in WiFi, you can use CamRanger—a $300 device that connects to your camera and creates a wireless network. You connect to it and can completely control your camera, use live-view and import images using their iOS app. Like TriggerTrap, CamRanger is targeted more towards wildlife, landscape and time-lapse photographers than studio photographers but it can still be useful.

4. Pump Up the Jams

With all the fanfare over fancy features this is an easy one to overlook: the iPhone is a great music player. With a dock or a set of bluetooth speakers you can keep spirits high with some upbeat tunes. Just be careful not to offend your client's taste in music.

5. Document What You Do

Despite all your amazing lighting diagrams and great plans, once you get into the studio things change. Something you thought would work often doesn’t and a random little change you make can lead to great results. If you don’t record what you’ve done, you’re unlikely to be able to recreate the effect at a later date, or work out what made it so successful.

You can either use your iPhone’s camera to take a video of the setup or, if you’re more organised, use the same app you used to create your reference materials—likely Evernote or Lightroom—to document the whole set up including what lights, modifiers and power settings you’ve used. This has the advantage of keeping all the information from a shoot in one location.

The results don’t have to be just for you—you can also use your iPhone to create great behind the scenes footage for sharing with your audience.

Conclusion

Walking into the studio no longer means turning off your phone. If you’re clever about it, you can use it as the shoot bible, a tool for your clients to review the images as you work, a camera remote or even just a way to keep track of what you’re doing. The iPhone’s camera, justifiably, gets a huge amount of press but there are so many more ways the whole device can be used by photographers.

How do you use your iPhone when you’re shooting? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me up on Twitter. I’m interested to hear.

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