I tried an online iPhone photography class and stepped up my photo game

Close up image of pink artwork iMore iPhone Photography Week
(Image credit: Future)
iPhone Photography Week 2024

iPhone Photography week iMore

(Image credit: Future)

Take better photos with the camera in your pocket. iMore's iPhone Photography Week 2024 is filled with great content that will take your iPhone camera-snapping ability to the next level. 

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I love taking photos. Before the iPhone, I always had a point-and-shoot camera handy, and even dabbled in DSLR photography. I’m no newbie to iPhoneography, but I confess I’ve gotten lazy over the years. While I once spent a lot of time learning all of the iPhone’s camera features, I’d either forgotten a lot or I just didn’t learn as much as I’d thought.

I enrolled in iPhone Photography School, an online course for budding iPhone photographers,  to reacquaint myself with the iPhone camera and improve my photography skills. I have learned a lot, and have been inspired to learn more.

How does iPhone Photography School work?

Download the free app CamGuru. There are many courses available in the app; each one is priced separately. The one I took is called iPhone Photo Academy, which is $49 (US or Canadian) or £49, and it’s a one-time fee with no subscriptions. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not happy with it. The cost also includes updates, tips, and comments/responses from the team. Instructor Emil Pakarklis starts with the very basics and gets into great detail in a lot of different areas. 

Learn iPhoneography online

Learn iPhoneography online

Within the free app CamGuru, you can find numerous iPhone photography courses to take online. The one I took, iPhone Photo Academy, is a great place to start. 

<a href="https://go.redirectingat.com/?id=23432X820453&xcust=hawk-custom-tracking&xs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Fapps.apple.com%2Fus%2Fapp%2Fcamguru-photography-courses%2Fid1528976296&sref" data-link-merchant="SkimLinks - apple.com"">Free on the App Store

The courses are pre-recorded videos, not in real time, so you can take the courses at your own pace. If you have questions or comments along the way, you can leave a comment under the video and someone on the staff will respond.

I took part of just one course, but there are loads of other courses within the app taught by different instructors. Plus there are lots of quick tip videos. You can pick and choose what to watch, based on your own needs and interests.

Screenshots from CamGuru iPhone Photo Academy

(Image credit: Future / iPhone Photography School)

How much does iPhone Photo Academy cover?

There are five modules, each of which takes about 1.5 hours to watch. Each module is divided into eight or nine shorter videos so it’s not overwhelming; you can do a little bit at a time. The five modules are: The Essentials of the iPhone Camera, Additional iPhone Camera Features, The Principles of Great Photography, Creative iPhone Photography Techniques, and Common iPhone Photography Scenarios. There are also four bonus modules: Authentic iPhone Portraits, How to Preserve the Quality of your Photos, Secrets for Managing a Huge Photo Library, and Photo Analysis. I completed the first three modules and selected parts of the fourth and fifth.

How is the quality?

Emil is a wonderful instructor. He starts with the very basics and goes up from there, but never talks down to us. I found him easy to follow. Frequently, a question pops up in my mind and he addresses it. You can tell he’s not only passionate about photography, but specifically iPhone photography. He encourages experimentation and keeps things very light and fun. I watched part of another class taught by a different instructor and also found that one quite useful and interesting. I feel like the course does a good balancing act between total beginners and more advanced learners.  

Symmetry shown in colorful brick wall

When shooting something symmetrical, stand exactly in the middle to take your photo. (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / Future)

Not everyone has the same iPhone model, and he is using an iPhone 11 Pro for most of the modules. Since iPhone features do change over the years, some of his discussion about features is a bit dated. And of course, some people have older models that don’t have the features of an iPhone 11 Pro. In the videos where that’s an issue, you’ll see staff comments pinned beneath the video addressing the features of different iPhone models. For example, for certain types of images, Emil suggests turning off the Smart HDR. On the iPhone 11 Pro, turning off Smart HDR was an option, but it’s not in newer models. In a pinned comment, a team member explains that if you want that dramatic shadow, you can dial up or down the exposure instead of turning off the HDR.

There is a Facebook group and a social media hashtag, so you can do “assignments” and people taking the course can comment on one another’s work.

My contact at iPhone Photography School tells me that they plan to update the course with a newer iPhone model this year, and the tuition includes all updates. It’s really only an issue for the first two modules which go into depth about the iPhone features. The rest of the modules are either about iPhone photography or just photography in general.

Some improvements I made

I am certainly no professional photographer, but I did take some photos on a recent trip to Florida and took some of Emil’s tips to heart. Here are some more examples. I have taken a million photos of my loved ones like this:

Portrait of two people

Taken with the 1x lens, their faces are dark and they don't really stand out against the busy background. (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / Future)

But I took what I learned, and used Portrait Mode, and added Studio Lighting to compensate for the non-ideal lighting situation (strong midday sun and harsh shadows) and came up with this photo, taken from the exact same spot:

Portrait of two people

The combination of Portrait Mode and Studio Lighting really make my subjects pop. (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / Future)

At a recent museum visit, I took a perfectly serviceable photo as I normally would, using the 1x camera lens:

Four art panels on a wall

Straight on image using 1x camera lens is fine. (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / Future)

With Emil’s encouragement to experiment, I also took a panoramic image (which I never would have thought to do) from the same spot and got a result I think is a bit more interesting:

Four art panels on a wall

Maybe it's better, maybe it's not, but it's fun to experiment. (Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / Future)

Is it worthwhile?

It’s not cheap, but I think it’s worthwhile. If you don’t like it, you can always get your money back, no questions asked. When I worked at the Apple Store, I often referred customers to the Today at Apple classes. Customers frequently asked if they could just take the course online. This is the kind of online class that I think many people are looking for.  

That said, if you don't wish to spend money taking a course like this, I'd recommend at least checking out some iPhone photography tips on YouTube and our iPhone Photography Week articles. Learn more about the camera settings and principles of photography and you'll be surprised what you can get from the tiny camera in your pocket.

This feature is part of iPhone Photography Week 2024. Expect new posts to appear daily, focused on making your photos shot with iPhone better than ever before.

Share your photos with iMore on X (Twitter) using #iMorePhotographyWeek

Karen S Freeman
Contributor

Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, CNET, AppAdvice, and WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.