Back in 2010, I posted 10 tips for shooting neon. Now more and more people are carrying around their iPhone as their primary camera. I thought it was time to post a follow up with tips for shooting neon signs with a iPhone. Many of the same tips for shooting with a DLSR apply to the iPhone as well!
- Know Your Camera
Neon is bright. Especially at night, this brightness can confuse the camera app and the exposure will not be what you want. However, most apps will let you set which spot is used for exposure and focus. For example, to set exposure and focus on the Camera app that comes with the iPhone, just tap on the screen. Holding down will lock the exposure and focus so you can compose the shot. Learning how to make the camera behave the way you want will make sure you can get the shot exposed just how you want it.
- Know Your Apps
There are hundreds and hundreds of photography apps to choose from on the App Store. Knowing what the apps you have will do for an image is key to getting the image you want. Spend some time with each photo app you download, learning what adjustments it can perform and how they affect the image. Knowing this will help you pick the right app to get the look and feel you want.
I like the way the Hipstamatic app combination of John S Lens and Kodot XGrizzled Film work with neon signs.
- Shoot Day Or Night
Neon looks amazing at night, but don’t ignore it during the day. Often there are details that cannot be seen at night, and some signs no longer light up. But they still look good!
- Shoot During The Blue Hour
Shooting neon when the sun is low in the sky will allow you to capture the glowing tubes as well as the surrounding context. This is a great time to shoot signs!
Get close. Shoot reflections. Get under, behind, and above signs. Use the neon as part of the image, but not the only thing in the image. Use experimental photo apps, and combine the results of different apps. There’s no harm in trying things – pixels are free!
Here are some apps that will do interesting and unexpected things to your photos:
Interlacer (Full Disclosure: This app was written by me)
This image was made with Hipstamatic and Interlacer:
Also check out Doctor Popular’s Appsperiments
- Look At Other Photos
There are a lot of people shooting neon with their iPhones. Look at what they are doing. Get inspired! Here are a few to get you started:
Sean Calvey (scalvey)
Sharlynn V (sv1)
Frank Prosnik (innerstate1)
The more you do practice, the better you will get. Make time to shoot. Seek out interesting and vintage neon signs. Go have fun!
You can see all of my iPhone neon photos on Flickr.