How to take epic motorcycle photos with your iPhone

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Photographer Clay Enos rides an Aprilia Mana 850 GT between movie sets, crossing the country in the process. As he does, he snaps away on his iPhone4 while his DSLR stays in the bags. Look at this gallery of bike porn and epic landscape photos and you’ll understand why there’s no need for the bulky Nikon. Want to shoot this well yourself? Here’s how.

Clay’s quick tips for pro iPhone photos are:
- Composition is key. Remember to use the whole frame, not just the middle 
- Explore the scene (take lots of photos then choose the best later)
- Have a vision of the final image but allow for spontaneity
- Keep your apps simple and try not to do what everyone else is doing
- Share them with the world and print some. Photos make great gifts. 
- On the road, do your best to get off the interstates, slow down, and listen to your gut and embrace the u-turn.

To which, we’d add, apps are key. The stock camera app is pretty basic and some of the more expensive aftermarket photo editing apps are just too complicated and too time consuming to pinch and swipe your way through.

Clay is using Camera+ for a lot of these photos and couple of these photos are also taken with TiltShift Gen, which I hadn’t discovered yet, but am going to go download now. He also likes Pano for the obvious reasons.

We use Camera+ too, which brings easy editing and photo developing after you take the photo and composition tools to help even amateurs like me put together a decent photo.

I’m nowhere near as talented as Clay or Grant, but here’s two photos I took of recent toys using my iPhone and Camera+:

Both these were developed using the app’s Clarity effect, delivering a quasi-HDR look. It’s a little cheesy, but it helps turn my fairly lame shots into something much more dramatic. The general rule here seems to be that experimentation leads to good results.

There’s a bunch of Clay’s photos in this gallery, it’s well worth taking the time to check them out. You can see more of his work on his website and a road trip story he shot for us here.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    Ok, but any tips on how to hold the camera/take pictures while riding? That’s my biggest issue.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      There’s a huge variety of mounts available. I know Clay mounts his to his bars.

    • Rob

      Mana850- former Clutch hand becomes Camera hand!

      • dan

        and a great bike. clutching is over-rated and will go the way of the dinosaurs.

        • 85gripen

          I don’t know, dan: there are quite a few of us who refuse to use those “manumatic” transmissions in cars and insist on a manual transmission still. There’s something about the feel of driving something rather than feeling like it’s driving you. Not that I’m slagging on the Mana or clutchless transmissions, they’re just not for me.

          • brutus

            agree

    • Kirill

      I use a cheap point-and-shoot for this that I put either into my jacket pocket or tankbag (if I’m using it) and then carefully slide the wrist strap on. Its actually more difficult to take the strap off after you’re done than to put it on (at least when you’re wearing gloves). I don’t think I’d try taking pictures in motion with a phone, the shutter speed probably won’t be fast enough, and, well, do you really want to risk dropping your phone like that?

  • robotribe

    Nice work. It’s played out, but I still love shooting my rides with Hipstamatic.

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

    …noted. Its pretty amazing when your phone can more-or-less replace a $500 camera.

    Instant-uploading is another plus of smartphone photography.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      No kidding on the instant access. It used to be a matter of taking a shot, grabbing a cable and hooking up the camera, bringing up a photo app, editing a pic and sending it off. Now it’s a few seconds away no matter where you are.

      I love me some technology. It’s an amazing time to be alive.

      • RocketSled

        Pish….youngun! It used to take CHEMICALS and a PITCH BLACK ROOM!

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

          I think you forgot about the journey to the photo lab. Something about a two hour walk through five feet of snow and softball-sized hail without boots, ya old fart.

    • casey

      my 7D and lens collection hate that my iPhone is deemed “safe” for rides. I occasionally bring out the big guy for rides, but the gear is always in the back of my mind in a turn.

      • Sean Smith

        I cruise around with the 20D, 60mm macro and tripod pretty regularly. Riding with the knowledge that if I crash and break the camera I can’t afford to replace is more effective at making me slow down a bit, and ride nice and smooth than anything else.

        • Toby

          Does no one on HFL insure their camera equipment? I have a seriously comprehensive policy on $5k of camera gear and it costs ~$6 a month…

          Just saying there are alternatives to slowing down ;)

  • hedrives

    I prefer ProCamera to Camera+. Cheap, check it out.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      What does it do that Camera+ doesn’t?

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        Biggest difference in favor of ProCamera is that it supports video. Far as I’m aware, at least.

      • hedrives

        Wes,
        I like the interface: separate exposure sensor & focus sensor in expert mode, auto white balance switch, camera level guide, anti-shake on/offm rapid fire, full res zoom all on the shooting side. It also opens pretty fast.
        I’ve got Camera+, but like ProCamera much better & get good comments on many shots I take.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Cool, I’ll try it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

    Looks like someone discovered the Camera+ “Clarity” feature. It is pretty darn smooth. Camera+ is the best camera replacement app on the market, no question.

    The best app I’ve used for cleaning up images – like that “Clarity” feature, but with more control and less exaggeration – is Perfectly Clear. It’s a bit buggy at times, but it does a fantastic job with a lot of room to tweak.

  • markbvt

    TrueHDR is a nice little app too, especially useful for getting a decent exposure out of the iPhone despite the low-quality sensor.
    http://www.swyve.org/stuff/xrinwinter.jpg

  • NickP

    Several of the shots I took for the Thunderdrome article earlier this week were taken on an iPhone 4. Because of how often I actually use it anymore, my 20d might be up for sale pretty soon.

    I just bought camera+ and it looks pretty good. I really like the HDR feature of the built-in camera app where it takes 3 pictures and merges them. Not always the best look and the colors need adjustment every time, but in situations with bad lighting conditions it can pick up details that 1 shot never could. Are there any other apps that do that? It looks like camera+ just fakes it…

    • 85gripen

      I think even the built-in HDR in the iPhone (the three-shots combined thing)is pseudo-HDR simulation. True HDR is done through Photoshop and similar photo editing software. I have Camera360 for Android and it has an HDR simulation function. Combined with the excellent 8MP camera on the HTC Droid Incredible it turns out some nice shots.

      • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

        Just got camera360, wich also includes a key -omg-the-idiots- feature missing from the default app: disabling the shutter sound without muting the phone.
        I like the “touch the screen to compare” (the original and modified image) feature and the possibility to save the original automatically.
        Thanks for the tip.

    • markbvt

      See my post above. TrueHDR is what you’re looking for. It takes multiple exposures (you can indicate the metering point) and combines them into an actual HDR image.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        This comment thread is useful.

        • brutus

          surprised??

      • NickP

        yeah haha I saw your post right after I made mine. I tried out TrueHDR and I really like it. Works really well (at least here at my desk) and I like that it saves off the individual shots so you can DIY in photoshop.

        But the built-in app is definitely real HDR. Evidence is in shots of fast-moving objects, you can see the main exposure and ghosts of the two supplemental exposures. You just can’t adjust it all.

  • Will

    Camera+ is the best all-rounder, but I use CrossProcess for everything, all the time. No border, blue filter. Brings out so much great clarity and texture.

  • Thom

    Here’s another iPhone Photo tip that an automotive photographer ( yes yes I’m an all around gearhead so deal with it ) had put up last year .

    Lighting . Make sure the subject is back lit and with substantial available light . Its amazing what these little things can do

    FYI ; To extend battery life by 20 -30 % disable the Location Finder . Sure it also disables your GPS but it takes a half a second to turn it on and off so …

    Also I’m loving my Mophie Juice Pack Air ; a protective frame and additional battery . Extends your usable time by double .

    And no for the skeptical at heart I don’t work for either ( Apple or Mophie ) Just sharing what I’ve found to make the iPhone experience a bit better .

    • Thom

      Here’s the link to the other iPhone Photo Article

      Worth a read ;

      http//jalopnik.com/5504168/how-to-take-car-photos-with-an-iphone

  • Azhar

    Are there Android versions of these apps?

    Will be trying these tips this weekend at Silverstone during TTXGP round 1.

    Filed this under: “Darn Useful”

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

      I’ve found Vignette pretty useful. Its got a lot of effects, but most are pretty subtle (though you can also go full hipstamtic with the “toy camera” ones).

    • 85gripen

      Camera360 for Android has an HDR simulator functionality.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Clay Enos, no shit! His Watchmen book is fucking awesome.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah it is.

  • Brook

    I use PS Express and love going crazy with the effects and contrast settings. I will have to check out Camera+.

  • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

    I’ve used tiltshift for a year or so. Pretty good, but you can get carried away easily and end up with massively over saturated images and mega vignetting!

  • ike6116

    All I know is that IF I had iOS 5 installed on my phone (and I am in no way saying that I do) I’d probably think that with the hardware shutter button (volume up) camera+ would be unnecessary.

    Also i agree an iPhone mounting article would be helpful to me

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      I think the hardware shutter “feature” is a complete dick move on Apple’s part. The Camera+ team released it first, several versions back, and Apple kicked their app out of the App Store until they removed that feature. Now, they’re the great white knights? Bah.

      The iOS 5 camera app duplicates (hijacks?) the key functions of Camera+, including separating exposure from focus, but there are still reasons to stick with Camera+. Amongst those: Shot stabilizer, grid overlay, direct linking to sharing resources, comprehensive in-app editing, and more.

      And the good chance that you’ll get to use whatever Apple feels like borrowing next long before they officially implement it.

      • ike6116

        It’s a dick move for apple to improve their product?

        People who think Apple is “stealing” from them can cry me a river.

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

          You missed the point. Apple banned an app (twice) for including a feature, claiming that feature conflicted with their laws of design. Now they sweep in and implement that very same feature. It screws the developer. That’s a dick move.

          I could care less about stealing had Apple allowed the original app to keep the feature. I’m just not particularly impressed by it. Hopefully, they allow developers to add that feature back in.

          • ike6116

            Apple doesn’t allow 3rd parties to redefine the hardware buttons on their product, that has always been the rule and is still the rule today. It’s a quality control issue.

            As a matter of fact it would surprise me if the people who reject things on the app store and iOS developers are on the same team. I doubt it was Apple saying “OOOH what a great feature let’s steal it from them!” and more like “All of our customers want a hardware shudder button but Steve will stab us in the genitals if we add a button… how do we solve this?”

            • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

              Ike – I’m sure you’re right regarding the App Store team and the iOS developers, though the issue got a lot of attention for anyone who paid attention to the app scene.

              I really like my iPhone, but I’ve seen enough shady moves from Apple that I find it hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, I’m not satisfied with either Android or Windows Phone 7 to change once my contract is up.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Booyah!

    I have been using Camera+ for a little bit, never yet game enough to take photos while on the bike. I have a cheap $20 wide-angle ‘toy’ camera, I think I’ll take that with me today and have a play around.

    There was a guy on one of the forums (maybe ADVrider?) who uses his dSLR while riding – he has a massive thread with photos – awesome stuff!

    • Kirill

      Yeah, it was ADVrider, I remember reading that thread a whie back. There’s another guy on there that has a huge thread that takes a ton of pictures with his point-n-shoot.

  • Sean Smith

    The Jack Pine and FJ44 hang out at the same rugged manly man whiskey bars.

  • rohorn

    I really don’t get the appeal of making new pictures look old.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      Some find it fun. Others like how it masks some of the imperfections. Still others yearn for older times, glorifying the old days with their authentic cafe racers and… Oh wait.

  • paul

    Oh man I feel old school, I still hang my Mamiya 6×7 rangefinder around my neck when I go for a ride, mind you I’m not trying to shoot whilst riding. The iphone definitely has it’s place. Some nice frames there!

    • Toby

      Heh, I use a Mamiya 6. Great cameras, both.

  • HammSammich

    After reading this and looking at the gallery, I grabbed Camera+ and had a blast with it this weekend. Worked great when I came across a Morgan Super Sport (I think 1934) on a trailer this weekend.

    Thanks for the tip!