How Andrew Bartholomew Takes Stunning iPhone Photos

I’m really pleased to share this interview with Andrew Bartholomew, a talented photographer who shoots incredible photos with his iPhone. With a passion for architecture, he creates stunning compositions that instantly catch the eye. In this interview you’ll learn more about Andrew, and how he uses his iPhone to capture such wonderful images.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from New Zealand but currently live in the Gold Coast, Australia. I’ve been in Australia for about 20 years.

I worked for many years as a graphic artist and art director, but in 2010 I left my job to start a photography and film-making business with my wife Hailey. I now focus mainly on architectural photography.

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How did your iPhone photography journey begin?

In 2011 lots of people I knew were getting into Instagram. I didn’t get it for a long time – I didn’t understand the point of it.

I took pictures on my iPhone but would just show them to people when I saw them. Eventually it dawned on me what everybody else knew – there was an easier way to share your pictures!

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Originally I mainly posted pictures of my kids at the park, a cool car, anything vaguely interesting. Before long though I was drawn to more creative compositions.

I started noticing light and shadow, details on buildings, bright colors in unexpected places. I hunted around on Instagram and found others who were doing similar things but much, much better!

It inspired me to take it more seriously, improve my skills in shooting and editing, and observing everywhere I went.

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You take stunning photos of architecture with your iPhone. What draws you to this kind of photography?

I’m not sure – I guess it’s the way I’m wired! As a graphic designer I’m moved and inspired by beautiful design – either created or in nature.

When I see symmetry appearing in an impressive building it speaks to me like a piece of art – so naturally I’ll want to take a picture of it.

Thinking further in graphic terms, intersecting lines or planes, long flowing curves, and strong geometrical shapes all inspire me to try to achieve a great capture.

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Many people struggle to take good photos of buildings. What advice would you give to people who want to capture better images of architecture with their iPhone?

First of all, constantly keep your eyes open. Usually great pictures don’t just leap out and hit you between the eyes – although that does happen sometimes and it’s wonderful!

When you’re driving around or walking through the streets of a city or an industrial area, look for details and look for compositions.

Watch the way the sunlight brings a scene to life or casts long shadows that can add drama and tension to your image.

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Finding symmetry is great and I do look out for it, but often finding a strong, balanced asymmetrical or even abstract layout is just as rewarding.

Use perspective to draw the eye into an image. Think about capturing or positioning a person in the shot to provide a sense of scale and point of interest.

Always look up – you’ll often see angles or lines you haven’t seen before. Frame your capture to cut out distracting objects or other buildings if possible, leaving the strongest, purest shapes in the shot.

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Going back to light, sometimes you might need to come back at a different time of day in order to draw the best shot out of the building.

Some architectural photographers I know actually research and observe a building for a whole day before attempting to get the best shot!

Apart from architecture, what else do you like to photograph with your iPhone?

I photograph things that inspire me, and when I do I get the best results. One of my favorite places to be is on the beach.

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We live down the road from the Pacific Ocean and this provides never-ending opportunities for beautiful photography.

Although the subject material is very different from architecture (arguably opposite), I try to bring the same rules to my shots – keeping it clean, soft color palette, perspective, and sometimes positioning a human subject to provide scale.

Also I find travel incredibly inspiring and I always have my iPhone on hand to capture interesting things as they happen!

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A lot of your shots of landscapes and urban locations include a person in the scene. How important is it to include a human presence in your photography?

As mentioned above, a picture can be much more relatable if there’s a human subject in it. My family members come in very handy in this regard!

Sometimes this is to provide a sense of scale – as everybody knows roughly the size of an average person. But sometimes it’s great to capture a real moment of genuine interaction in a space.

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These moments can’t be set up and can take your picture to another level. As street photographers know, you need a lot of patience to get great results!

You’ve travelled all around the world taking pictures. If you could only shoot at one location that you’ve been to, which place would you choose and why?

This is a hard question because I’ve enjoyed shooting at so many places around the world, and if you look hard enough good photos can be found in almost any location!

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But one place I’ve travelled to that stands out to me just because of the sheer volume of photographic opportunities for my style in particular would be Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This is a vast city, and you could get dropped off at any part of it with the guarantee of finding an abundance of fascinating material to work with.

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Thanks in no small part to the influence of international architectural luminaries like Oscar Niemeyer, this is a place I could spend a lot of time in! (Not to mention the incredible eating opportunities too!)

Let’s talk about photo apps. Are there any apps that you use for taking photos besides the native camera app?

On the iPhone I only use the native camera app.

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What are your favorite apps for post-processing?

Instagram has so many editing tools these days – and the filters have come a long way. There’s some really beautiful ones.

However I almost always run my pictures through VSCO first as I feel like these best represent my style – how I like my images to appear.

If I’m doing a landscape I often experiment with Mextures (landscape enhance) or Faded. To get the nice green skies I used to do all the time I use Luminance.

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Do you use any iPhone photography accessories?

No – I’ve experimented with these but found they didn’t work out great and became an unnecessary extra level of complexity that I don’t need when shooting on the iPhone.

Can you briefly explain the story and editing process behind your three favorite iPhone photos?

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The story behind this photo describes exactly how I love to shoot. I was in a new city to me (Portland, OR) walking around with my family – iPhone in hand.

As anyone familiar with Portland knows, there’s no shortage of interesting subject material there – but I love these moments when they happen.

Not only was there a beautiful wall painted in one strong color, but there’s also an interesting arrangement of cool square windows, and to top it off there’s a workman on a hoist working on one of them.

An irresistible alignment of chance, color, geometry, and human interest. What could be better?

As for editing, I would have used the SKRWT app to square everything up, and VSCO to pop the color.

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You know those light industrial areas where they have acres of big box shops? Furniture outlets, distribution warehouses, etc?

I’ve found you can often find some very pleasing compositions there – especially if you’re interested in color, symmetry and geometry. I’d driven past this one so many times and never noticed it before.

Big ugly signs are either side of the arrangement above, and when the sun isn’t in the right spot it certainly wouldn’t catch your eye. But one day it did as I was driving past on the highway.

I made a note of the time of day and came back at that time when the sky was clear. There was a beautiful sheen on the facade material and great shadows that gave depth and interest. Once you have everything in frame, the rest is easy.

Careful cropping is really all that’s required. Color-wise with a layout like this, practically anything looks good! There’s no wrong answer.

I adjusted the hue in the Luminance app to achieve my signature (at the time) green sky and that was that!

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I was scouting for an architectural photography shoot on a beautiful day when I noticed right next door this beautifully renovated retro style hotel.

I always go a bit weak-kneed when I see white painted walls against a beautiful blue sky – especially when there are gorgeous strong shadows, lines and modernist blocks like these.

I convinced my somewhat reluctant daughter to model for me and took lots of shots. It’s always good to have options!

With a shot like this, squaring up is of utmost importance to make the most of the natural geometry, and usually I can manage this in SKRWT.

Once again I like to adjust the hue in Luminance and then pop into VSCO to make sure the whites are white but there’s still detail in the highlights.

Do you shoot with any other cameras, and if so, when do you prefer to use the iPhone?

When I’m shooting for a client I’ll use a DSLR simply because I have more flexibility for different conditions, and also because they often need high resolution pictures.

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I personally prefer to go out shooting with just an iPhone when I’m shooting for myself.

It’s so convenient and the results are usually perfectly good for posting on Instagram. It works well for how I usually like to shoot which is in strong daylight.

You have a huge following on Instagram. What does this online community mean to you and what effect has it had on your photography?

The online community that is Instagram is of huge importance to me. It’s one of the things that drew me into Instagram in the first place.

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The people I met on Instagram have encouraged me, inspired me and helped me take better pictures throughout my entire time using the app.

Looking around to see what others are doing motivates me to push myself a bit harder to be able to create the sort of images I really want to.

Not that I copy what they’re doing, but I might think a little more laterally about how to capture something really special. Sharing information about different editing apps is helpful too.

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I’ve also found the community to be very supportive personally and to others when they’re going through hard times.

It’s so nice to know that people you haven’t met and might live on the other side of the world actually care about what’s going on with you!

What tips do you have for beginner iPhone photographers who want to start taking more creative photos with their iPhone?

As I said before, look around and see what others are doing – but don’t stop there. Tap into your own creativity and discover new and better ways to take the photos you’re passionate about.

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Never compare yourself to other more popular accounts on Instagram – this is usually a very discouraging trap to fall into and doesn’t breed creativity or life!

Find what it is you love to photograph, and do it the very best you can! The rest will come naturally.

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Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?

I have a big list of photographers that I admire. One of the best guys around using an iPhone would have to be Olivier Morisse @oliviermorisse (check out our interview with Olivier).

Where can we see your iPhone photography?

On Instagram @surfistatomato.

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