How Lucy Hamidzadeh Takes Stunning iPhone Photos

I’m really pleased to share this interview with Lucy Hamidzadeh who takes wonderful photos of urban and landscape locations. No matter what she’s shooting, she always makes use of stunning light and excellent composition to help tell interesting stories through her images. In this interview you’ll learn more about Lucy, and how she takes such great photos with her iPhone.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in South East London by my Iranian father and English mother. I still live there with them and my younger brother.

I currently work for a tour operator, writing online travel content and producing holiday brochures.

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How did your iPhone photography journey begin?

Ever since I was little I’ve always enjoyed taking photos. I think my love for this was encouraged by my Grandad, and by taking photos on family holidays.

However I guess my iPhone journey began when I first got my first iPhone 3GS. Back then I just used to walk around and snap photos.

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It wasn’t until I went to my first Instagram meet that I really found my love of photography. After that, I began to practice and learn more.

I also went to a few Apple iPhone photography talks, and the one that really inspired me was a talk by Emmanuel Cole (@ecolephoto).

Since then, my love of photography has grown and become my favorite hobby. It’s also where I’ve met some of the most amazing people, many of who are now good friends.

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What inspires you to take photos with the iPhone?

I always have my iPhone with me, and it’s perfect for capturing the moment. The other thing I love is seeing what the iPhone can do. I see it as a challenge.

It’s also great as you can edit immediately. I do all my editing on my phone. What I love is that you can pretty much snap, edit and post immediately to any social media platform.

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Do you have a favorite photography genre or do you like to experiment and try new things?

I don’t really have a favorite genre, and I don’t really like to categorize myself into a specific genre of photography. In a way, I guess my photography reflects on where I am or who I’m with. I’m open to experimenting and trying new things.

I guess I love street photography and cityscapes. It’s hard not to get caught up in city life when living in a big city. The shooting possibilities are endless. There’s always something new and different to be found.

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The challenge is often to go unnoticed, so that you capture people unaware. These make the most interesting photos as you’re capturing moments in someone’s life.

When shooting in urban environments, many people struggle to take good photos of buildings. What advice would you give for capturing better images of architecture?

It’s amazing what you can stumble across. I’ve found some cool staircases by just exploring the fire escapes of buildings. Ceilings and staircases can make quite dramatic photos, and symmetry and lines are pleasing to the eye.

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It’s always good to move about a building and try to capture it from many angles. This gives you a better chance of capturing a more unique image.

Look up as well as down, and position yourself in the exact centre of a building to create symmetry. Bright walls and clean backgrounds also make for great photos.

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You capture wonderful light in your street photography, using interesting shadows and mysterious silhouettes in your compositions. What tips do you have for creating these kinds of pictures? 

I love the way light casts interesting shadows. Finding the perfect pocket or shard of light on a perfect day excites me and makes me happy. You’ll often find me running off mid-conversation if I see a light spot.

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I love getting out early to capture the morning light as it casts softness and gives a beautiful glow.

The middle of the day is when the light is hard and the contrast between light and shadows often appears stronger.

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Afternoon and evening light is a perfect time. At this time you’ll find the direction of the light is perfect for casting really long shadows and harsh lines. I love these times of the day the most.

Taking lots of photos is a must too. You can always delete the ones that don’t work out. The worst feeling is getting home and thinking “if I only stepped to the right or got down low.”

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To me, movement in a photo is important as it helps create the atmosphere and a story. Look for spots where the light creates a pocket or harsh line, or where it bounces off of a building.

I often look at a spot thinking I’ll come back here in the morning, as I know the light will fall perfectly.

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I also love capturing strangers going about their daily life. These photos are the ones that look most natural and no so posed. The key is to try and be discreet, so you get people acting at their most natural.

To maximize the chances of getting a perfect stride, and to get the perfect shadow or frame, I always shoot in burst mode.

As well as city shots, you also take great landscape photos. What are your top composition tips for taking eye-catching photos of landscapes? 

Thank you so much! I love how peaceful and beautiful a landscape is. It’s also an adventure to go to places in all kinds of unpredictable weather.

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I always try to look for something interesting to act as a focal point. It might be a lonely house, a little tree, some mist, or even interesting clouds.

Find strong leading lines, and apply the basic concepts of composition like the rules of thirds. The weather is also a big factor. I like to look for the way the light falls on a mountain or building.

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Another thing that I love in a landscape photo is to add a person. Their size in relation to the surroundings shows how vast the landscape is.

If you’d like to learn more about composition, check out this great new video tutorial from iPhone Photography School:
6 Little-Known Composition Tricks For Taking Outstanding Photos With Your iPhone

You just mentioned including a person in your compositions. 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?

I used to always wait to get a shot completely empty, but now I love it when a stranger walks into frame. In fact, I’ll now wait for that perfect person.

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Adding that human element adds perspective. It helps make a photo that bit more interesting and can help to create a story.

A little person or silhouette adds a sense of scale, and a pop of color is pleasing to the eye. People’s emotions can also help make an average shot a powerful one.

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

I pretty much only use the native camera app. The only times I don’t it is in low light conditions.

In these conditions I’ll use Cortex Cam. It takes multiple exposures and combines them together, so to avoid blurry shots you need a steady hand or a tripod when using it.

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Another great app is Average Cam Pro. This also takes a collection of shots and compresses them into one single shot. It’s great for creating a slow shutter effect. I don’t use this app as much as I’d like to though.

What are your favorite apps for post-processing?

I love the post-processing part of photography. I find it relaxing and I love seeing the transition from the original to the edited shot.

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My top three post processing apps are:

Photoshop Express: I find the denoise feature extremely useful for getting rid of any unwanted grain. Although you do have to be really careful not to denoise too much as it will take away the texture in your image.

I also quite like the Bueno and Dappled filters, but I try not to use them all the time as I like to keep my shots as near to the original as possible.

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VSCO: I’ve downloaded quite a few of the various filter packages, but I do have my favorite filters that I always go to first and that keep within my style of editing.

SKRWT: This is an awesome and must-have app. It’s great for rescuing photos that need to be straightened or that have problems with perspective.

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Other apps that I sometimes use are Snapseed for making small adjustments, especially the selective adjustment tool. And I really like TouchRetouch as sometimes it’s handy to be able to remove an object, person or blemish.

Do you use any iPhone photography accessories?

The only accessory I use is a tripod. It comes in handy for keeping the phone steady when using the Average Cam Pro app.

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

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I love this photo. It brings back a recent holiday memory of chasing light in the back alleyways of Dubrovnik.

I was pretty excited when I turned a corner and found the perfect light spot, which got better by there being a cute cat posing for me.

I didn’t need to do a lot of editing here – just a little sharpening and contrast adjustment in Photoshop Express, and then I used a VSCO filter.

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Whenever possible, and especially when I’m visiting new places, I always make a point of getting up for sunrise.

This particular morning in Sorrento, there wasn’t much of a sunrise, but the sea was so still and peaceful. I was so happy to find the tiny fisherman here.

I edited it in Photoshop Express to denoise it slightly and to sharpen, then I applied a VSCO filter.

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This photo was also from a holiday whilst waiting for sunset. I watched these friends chat and laugh as the sun set, and I loved how their silhouettes stood out in the evening light. I edited this one using one of my favorite VSCO filters.

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

I used to use a DSLR, but I found it too bulky to carry around with me all day. So I stopped using it and pretty much only used my iPhone.

However, I recently bought a Sony a7 II that I absolutely love. I still use my iPhone as I love the challenge of what the phone can do. It offers an amazing camera, plus it’s always with me.

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

Oh, Instagram and the community is very much a huge part of my life. Without this community, I don’t think the app would survive as it does.

I’ve met and I’m constantly meeting so many amazing people. In fact, a large number of my friends nowadays are people who I’ve met through Instagram.

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I constantly remind myself that without this app I would never have met so many like-minded people who’ve become real friends.

It’s made me more confident in myself, and I’m happy that I’ve found a group of friends who enjoy photography in the same way as I do.

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Apart from loving photography, the people and friends are the main reason why I’m still on Instagram. I also think it’s why I went from “average photos of nights out and cakes” to “photos that people actually like.”

For me, the Instagram community is a constant source of inspiration and motivation.

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

My advice would be to go out and meet people, and to definitely interact with the community. You’ll learn to be a better photographer, you’ll have great fun, and you’ll make some great friends in the process who all share the same passion.

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Take lots of photos too. Find something that makes you happy, whether it’s landscapes, street photography, food photography, etc. It doesn’t matter, but whatever it is, just enjoy it!

Be curious and learn from other photographers. Follow people who inspire you, and also try new editing tools.

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Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?

That’s a tough one as there are so many, and most of them are using big cameras now. Wow, this is a hard one to answer as there are so many photographers I admire.

I absolutely love the gallery of Zahava @golden2dew. We’ve never met, and I really hope that one day we will. Despite this, I feel as though we already know each other.

Her feed is always so effortless, her way of crafting images and building a story always leaves me wanting to see more, and I always long for what’s coming next.

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Not all of these are iPhone only and it’s hard to pick just a few, but some others include @monaris, @danamarieku, @chaiwalla, @cocu_liu, @quake18 and @ecolephoto.

One of my all time favorite London accounts is @mrwhisper. In addition to being a super nice guy, he has an impressive way of capturing street scenes, and killer editing that he’s got down to an impeccable style.

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Where can we see your iPhone photography?

You can find me on Instagram @juicylucyham where I post photos from my iPhone and occasionally from my Sony.

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