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Won an iPhone 3Gs – now what for a photographer?

  |   Articles and reviews, iPhone, Photography Business, Photography Ideas   |   19 Comments

Winning a phone with a camera

How useful is it?

In 2009 Keith won an iPhone 3Gs and wrote this…

Updating our articles for the new 2017 version of the web site, this might be an article we’d not keep (nope – we kept all of them) were it not for the fact that the 3Gs is still Keith’s only phone, and that now he needs glasses to read stuff, it gets used even less. Yes, he is one of those people who genuinely doesn’t care if he leaves his mobile at home…

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What use an iPhone?

You know those emails that say – ‘Fill in our survey and win an iPhone’ (or some other techy gadget).

Well it appears they do indeed give away kit. I just won an iPhone 3Gs

All good and well – but I use my mobile phone rarely, usually just to make a few phone calls. People know that it’s far easier to contact me on the main Northlight Images number, and friends know that sending me a text has only a 50/50 chance of being read within 2-3 days.

So, I’m not exactly in the target market for phone manufacturers… I’m no technophobe*, but one of those people who gets by with some post it notes and a pencil.

Well – I thought I’d ask people here.

Please let me know some good uses of an iPhone for a commercial photographer?

Even the most obvious is of interest – It was suggested that I use it for some slideshows of my work to carry around. Excellent, I’d just not thought of the device this way.

Oh, and I had noticed it has some form of tiny camera in it :-) :-)

iPhone, coffee machine and Canon 1Ds Mk3

iPhone, coffee machine and Canon 1Ds Mk3

At the moment it’s the third most useful device in the photo above.  The compass and maps feature do look useful – it was only about 10 metres out when estimating the position of my kitchen.

*As to my ‘secret’ techiness – I’ve already set up the iPhone as a SIP extension to Northlight’s Trixbox phone system, and am looking at our VPN configuration for connecting to it when the iPhone is connected to a wireless network

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  • Roland Major | Nov 23, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    There a number of useful apps aimed at the hobbyist, who is carrying an iphone anyway. I like the following

    PhotCalc great help with Depth of field and hyperfocal focussing distances also working out how long to expose 6 and 10 stop filters for.
    Sunrise and Sunset gives the times based on location and date
    Handi 5dMk2 – which has the user manual in searchable form, but this is rarely used now.

    I also have DSLR remote, which is not something I use, as already said you need a wireless server

  • Andy Baker | Nov 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    As a landscape photographer, do you use OS maps a lot? If so, a nifty little app I use on my 3G iPhone is something called GPS2OS from – it converts your current GPS co-ordinates into a standard OS grid reference. It seems to work perfectly well when there is no phone signal and has been useful once or twice out in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. I haven’t used a 3GS iPhone but I guess the same applies – linking to Google Maps is all well and good in a town centre but not much use if the Google Map is a big expanse of blank (or you have no signal to download the Google Map in the first place).

  • Keith | Nov 13, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Sure will Iain :-)

    I suspect that the internet access side of things will be the biggest change from using the iPhone – I’ve already set up email and phone access to the Northlight phone system. Now I can make calls over my local landline phone connection from anywhere in the world I’m online. All good fun :-)

    Just took some pictures with a direct link between phone/wft-e2 but no camera control other than shutter release.

    Personally I’d probably go for the 5D2 :-)

  • Iain Ledingham | Nov 13, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Keith – stick to your guns (as I am sure you will). We all have different expertise. It’s just when they are in different areas, we don’t understand why other people can’t keep up. I wouldn’t know where to start with a ‘1’ series, but I have graduated through the dizzy heights of a ’10’ (yes, I admit it and I have still got it), via a ’20’, and am now operating from the dizzy heights of a 450. How lucky am I? lol.

    I am probably one of the biggest fans of Northlight Images, and welcome every update. You were kind enough to respond to me on Twitter, earlier this summer (iainled). From the point of view of perspective, the conversation was conducted, from Bulgaria, on an iPhone via a cafe wireless internet connection.

    Anyway, enough of that, – the real question, for an enthusiasic amateur, which one – 5DMk2 or 7D.

    All the best – Iain

  • Keith | Nov 13, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Thanks again everyone – I’m actually starting to use this phone a bit more :-)

    Using it as a camera is fine, but it’s just not the sort of thing that fires my enthusiasm for any great length of time. It doesn’t take long before I take a photo and just curse the quality of the output.

    OK, I’m spoilt by using 1 series Canon gear and L lenses, but that’s what I do…and I cart the kit around a lot. It’s much like using the M42 screw fit Zeiss Flektogon 20mm lens on the 1Ds3, nice manual focus lens, but after a few shots, my interest fades. Yes, I do have a short attention span :-)

    All the vast array of iPhone photo effects and photo tweaking apps, just remind me why I edit images on a big colour managed screen with the benefits of a keyboard, mouse and comfy chair :-)

    And no, I’ve never liked camping much either ;-)

    Time perhaps to have another go at taking some pictures…

    On a more techy matter, it seems that DSLR Camera Remote only works with a laptop sitting in between the camera and iPhone. The WFT-E2 I’ve got does have a web server in it, so I’ll have a go at doing a direct iPhone< ->camera setup.

  • Tom H | Nov 12, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Phil Coffman has taken some fantastic shots with his:

  • Jeff Strauss | Nov 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    You need to simply have fun with the new toy! Get some fun programs like Shake it photo or camera bag and DSLRemote if you want to use it in conjunction with your love for photography. Google is a MUST have and there are many fun games that my kids play with (even interactive learning games like multiply and basic math). A couple of others that I really enjoy and use frequently are USA today,Cool facts, strange laws.

    Enjoy the new toy!

  • Doug Wenk | Nov 12, 2009 at 7:18 pm


    I have the i-Phone 3G in the US and love it. Not for photos but for everything else it does. The GPS is great and when I’m out and need to find a place to eat its great to have the map and search function. While waiting I can use the web function to read the latest rumors on Northlight! I have apps for sailing (nav. maps), for game scores and e-mail is great. Play with it; I think you will find that it can be a lot of fun.


  • IllOgical42 | Nov 11, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I’m expecting a lot from augmented reality. Since my phone hasn’t got a GPS, I haven’t tested any specific app. There are a couple of apps available, like YELP.

  • Keith | Nov 11, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Whoa, thanks everyone for all the various suggestions!

    I’ll check out some of the apps people have suggested and see what suits.

    The phone now has a growing portfolio of my commercial images, resized to 480×320 and specifically sharpened to look goodt on the 160 ppi iPhone screen using the display option in Nik sharpener pro.

    Ian – some of my attitude to using mobile phones comes from doing nearly 10 yrs research into advanced technologies and their impact on organisations during the 90’s (see my bio on this site) As such I found the technology fascinating, but ultimately of no real interest for much of my day to day life. I knew that at some point the technology would catch up and I might take it up ;-) I’m not that organised a person and am quite happy not to be in permanent connection with the mobile world. I’ve always been unusual in having feet in the techy/scientific and artistic camps – I really don’t care most of the time I’m out, if someone wants to contact me – it’s probably nowhere near as urgent as they feel :-) :-)

  • Iain Ledingham | Nov 11, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Keith, for a man that can instantly analyse internet rumours, and dissect the plus and minus points of a new camera with surgical precision, your attitude to mobile telephones baffles me.
    The iPhone is a good bit of kit. For what it sets out to do, and achieves, its good. Play with it, awhile, get used to it. Its not a real camera, but quite useful if you don’t spend 24/7 with a Ds3 hanging off your shoulder! All things to all men – but good at it. Enjoy, and use your 1 series when it’s important!
    All the best

  • Jim Westveer | Nov 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I would second Mathew’s suggestion to look at Chase Jarvis’s thoughts about the Iphone.

    You do not need his cheesy camera application, the point is though that you probably have the darn thing in your pocket, so you might consider using it. I have the 1dsm3 and an Iphone. The Iphone is always in my pocket, and the 1dsm3 is not. As a camera it is not partictulary good, but it is a camera that can take photos at least as good as a 1dsm3 with a pin hole lens. ;-)

  • Charles | Nov 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Keith, this is probably the completely wrong place to mention this, but I wanted to extend a huge thanks for your excellent write-up of the Color Munki.

    I have just (2 days ago) purchased one, based in part on your comments. My initial reaction is very positive. Here’s why: I have two Apple 30 inch Cinema displays side-by-side. With my former monitor calibrator, an X1 Eye-Rite (or whatever they call it), I could NEVER get them to match. Sliding an image from one screen to the other would always reveal a color cast. Now, they are absolutely identical. In addition, the Color Munki has helped me tame the over-the-top brightness of the Cinema Displays. Well worth the $400 US, and I haven’t even tested printer profiles yet.

    Thanks for the insightful review!


  • Matthew Musgrove | Nov 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Chase Jarvis has a entitled “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” and an iPhone app “Best Camera”. I haven’t read the book or used the app but apparently many pros use their iPhone to take pictures either as their main camera or to compliment their main camera. Weird, right? :)

  • Charles | Nov 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Keith, great question. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately.

    Here’s how I have been having fun with my iPhone as a camera: When you photograph with it, you have almost no control over any of the things we are used to being able to manipulate. Depth of field, shutter speed – it’s all gone. The only thing you can truly control is composition (and that requires some sneaker zoom, as opposed to just twisting a dial).

    Strangely enough, I sometimes feel more in tune with a photo/subject when I use my iPhone. I have to really think about what’s on the screen and how I want to make the capture. All my focus is on composition.

    Just an idea. Hope you have a good time with your new iPhone!


  • Luben | Nov 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Keith,

    I don’t actually have an iPhone (I’m a Blackberry man), but one feature that I’d love to see, on any GPS-enabled phone that has an accurate digital compass (or a standalone GPS device from the likes of Garmin or Magellan), is a way to predict the direction of sunrise & sunset for your current location. Not only that, but it would be great to see the sunrise and sunset positions at this location throughout the year, so you can make a decision on what is the best time of the year to come back to this spot in order to get the shot you want. This will be really helpful for me as I am a landscape photographer and especially when photographing seascapes knowing the exact point at which the sun will rise/fall will be of big advantage.

    For that matter, the likes of Google Maps & Google Earth could also use this functionality when doing location scounting before a trip.

    My 2 pence


  • Tim Parkin | Nov 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Google ‘Photographers Ephemeris’

  • Martyn | Nov 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    The OnOne camera remote is apparently very good and can beam back live view images from the appropriate cameras. I also rely heavily on the iCal and address book sync. We use the mobile me subscription to sync all calenders and contacts in the house so if a new appointment is added, I know in about 5 mins!

  • Barry Reid | Nov 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

    The iPhone’s camera is surprisingly good in decent light but a bit limited otherwise that’s part of the fun with it. There’s a terrific range of software for manipulating the images you take on the phone. I’d recommend Photoforge as a mini photoshop, Camerabag for toycam fun and Autostitch for OK-ish panoramics.

    See also this blog some of the stuff in the showcase postings is fun.

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