Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer shares tips on snapping the perfect iPhone pic

by Jessica Weiss
Oct 30, 2018 in Multimedia Journalism

Like most professional photographers, Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer David Hume Kennerly takes his photo gear seriously. He’s an avid Canon user--the Canon 5D Mark III, to be precise.

But that doesn’t mean Kennerly can’t also work his magic on a simpler device. Since 2013, he’s enjoyed capturing images with the convenient, fixed lens camera that’s always in his pocket: his iPhone. After all, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” Kennerly recently told IJNet.

To shed light on how he captures such impactful images on his smartphone, and to share some of his favorite shots, Kennerly recently published a book entitled “David Hume Kennerly On the iPhone: Secrets and Tips from a Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer.”

Alongside breathtaking iPhone photographs, the book explores what makes a good picture, through themes like finding the moment, street photography, simplicity, architecture and overcoming familiarity.

IJNet recently spoke to Kennerly about the book and some of his top tips, useful for both amateur and professional photographers. Some highlights:

Think first about the story

Kennerly recommends thinking of the iPhone camera as a storytelling tool. Before using it to shoot photographs, ask questions, like: “Why am I taking a picture?” “What is the story I want to tell?” “What am I trying to show in this photograph?”

“Thinking a little more about what you’re doing will lead to better pictures,” he said. “There will be a reason for taking the picture.”

On using filters, apps and other tools

“When it comes to filters and apps, use whatever you like,” Kennerly said. “Apps are a great tool and I enjoy using them, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s all in how you exercise your point of view.”

But rather than use 10 different apps, Kennerly recommends people “get to know certain apps--perhaps one or two--and work with those first.”

He also cautions that a filter or an app isn’t necessarily going to make a picture shine. At the end of the day, it’s “not about the apps, but about the eye and how you see things,” he said.

Among the tools Kennerly has used are the Hipstamatic app, the iPhone’s panoramic feature and the 6x6 app.

Edit down

A lot of people tend to put everything they shoot online without any thought. But Kennerly recommends “editing down your pics” by “picking out the one that means the most to you.” That will force you into thinking about what you’ve shot, “while also helping you know what to do better the next time around.”

Practice, practice, practice

“If you want to be a better photographer you’ve got to work at it like everything else,” Kennerly said. “Practice will improve the quality of what you’re doing and what you’re seeing.”

To help hone your ability to see novel scenes, Kennerly suggests eager smartphone photographers practice what he likes to call his “photo fitness workout”: “Go into your neighborhood or your own house and photograph five things you look at everyday but don’t see.”

Photo courtesy of Kennerly.