Q&A: Photographer Kelli Klymenko Weighs in on the Future of iPhone Photography

It's no secret the iPhone has revolutionized the ways in which we take and share photographs. With the iPhone we all have the potential to take stunning, professional-caliber photos. Nonetheless, just because the potential is there, doesn't mean the potential is fulfilled. Practicing a lot helps, and the fact that we have our iPhones with us most of the time makes practicing easy. Another great way to get better at capturing images with your iPhone is to study the elements that make up a great photograph, and if you're lucky enough to have someone offering iPhoneography classes in your area that can also be a great way to do so.

Kelli Klymenko was already working as a professional photographer when I first came across his work nearly a decade ago. Lately, Kelli’s been getting a lot of attention for his iPhone photography. Over the past few years Kelli has been offering a popular iPhoneography class in his hometown of Sedona, Arizona. Between capturing breathtaking images of Northern Arizona from hot air balloons and taking picturesque shots of yoga being practiced in the beautiful outdoors, Kelli found some time to chat with us at iPhone Life.

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 Professional iPhone Photographer and Instructor, Kelli Klymenko
Siva Om: I was first introduced to your photography back in 2006 and I was immediately impressed with the powerful imagery you were capturing. Of course, you weren't shooting with the yet-to-be-introduced iPhone back then. At what point did you take up the iPhone as a serious photographic tool?

Kelli Klymenko: I started taking iPhoneography seriously in September of 2012 with the launch of the iPhone 5. I've always been an early-adopter in regards to photographic technology, but it took a little convincing before I realized what I could accomplish with the iPhone. Obviously, I'm seriously impressed!

I see that you are using an iPhone 6 these days. Even though it's got a respectable 8 mp rear camera, I'm guessing that as a professional photographer, the iPhone hasn't entirely taken the place of a good DSLR. What other camera are you primarily using these days and how do you feel your iPhone compares to it?

I primarily shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II at the moment, it's a full-frame amazing camera. I'm also adding a Mark III to the mix shortly. I have many incredible lenses and have quite a bit of gear to go along with it. The iPhone is amazing when it comes to getting instant satisfaction. I share a lot socially, so the iPhone really takes the cake in that department. I have to say that in a few cases I've been able to capture almost identical images—as far as quality goes—with my iPhone 6 and my Canon. However, it's hard to beat the Canon with any other camera when it comes to using a 100-400 lens or capturing wide-angle landscapes—but honestly, the iPhone comes pretty close in many ways.

As you know, there's a slew of iPhoneography apps in the iOS App Store. What are some of your favorite photo-taking or image-editing apps, and what is it about those apps that sets them apart for you?

Since I teach an iPhoneography course, I'm always trying out new apps. My favorite apps these days are Enlight, Hyperlapse, Slow Shutter! and ProCamera. Enlight is a spectacular all-in-one photo editor. I used to have to skip around between apps to have the control I have over levels and artistic filters that I have in Enlight. I love the image stabilization and speed control of Hyperlapse. SlowShutter has fantastic low-light controls and helps me get that much closer to shooting the stars at night. ProCamera has all the manual control I could ask for. Being a professional, it's important to have more than presets when it comes to "getting the shot" I really want. ProCamera lets me control exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and more. Pretty great if you ask me!

 Professional iPhone Photographer and Instructor, Kelli Klymenko
Time lapse and Slo-Mo seem to be two of the least understood image capture modes on the iPhone. Recording video in either of these modes takes a certain awareness of what you want the end product to look like and how you intend on getting there. Would you share some tips and insight as to how to best approach working within these modes?

Time lapse is all about creativity. There are hundreds of wonderful things you can do with time lapse! If you're using the built-in time lapse mode, it's best for capturing things that progress over a longer period of time, such as clouds forming over the beautiful red rocks of Sedona! But for something like that, remember to use a sturdy tripod. To capture a nice drive or have more control, I suggest using Hyperlapse — so you can control the output speed from 1 to 12x speed; hint: 6x is pretty great for a scenic drive! The key with time lapse is to be creative. I've gone as far as using it to capture sculpture installations, storms during the monsoon ,and my morning commute. As for SloMo, this mode most certainly requires imagination. Pretty much anything looks great in SloMo, from jumping on a trampoline to popping a balloon filled with water. But the key to any great film/video is composition, lighting, and end result. Using a tripod usually works best if you can, but be creative! Think about each video as a cinematic masterpiece, then you'll start setting up those SloMo Mentos and Coke experiments like a modern-day Geoffrey Unsworth.

Do you ever use any special accessories to help you capture your images?

I'm not a big fan of accessories in general. The point of having the iPhone is all about accessibility and actually leaving the gear at home. That being said, I don't go anywhere without my olloclip 4-in-1. And thanks to their custom iPhone case, I can pop the lens on in seconds and get the wide-angle, fisheye, or macro shot I want. Just today I got up close and personal with some bees using the 10x macro lens. The pictures were incredible and it only took me 30 seconds to get the shot. I also like to have a tripod with me at times when I am shooting time lapse or when I set up my iPhone as a dash-cam for those exceptional drives through red rock country. 

 Professional iPhone Photographer and Instructor, Kelli Klymenko

When the iPhone was first introduced back in 2007, I don't think many people would have imagined the revolution in hi-res mobile photography that it would help bring about. That was only seven years ago. Could you envision a time (maybe in another seven years?) when the inevitable technological advances of our iPhone cameras make old-school DSLRs about as relevant as say, a store-bought music CD?

That's a complicated question and I'm sure there would be a few people that would disagree with me, but the simple answer is "yes." We see mirrorless cameras advancing every day and with everything becoming more compact, as well as the lenses in the iPhone itself—not to mention the amazing software—I can easily see having more and more control to capture everything from perfect RAW images to 3D. I'm sure that one day everyone will have the ability to do amazing things with the cameras in their pockets. 

Kelli, thank you for taking the time to chat with iPhone Life, it's always a pleasure to catch up with you, I have a feeling a lot of our readers are going to be particularly appreciative of this information and the photographic work that you do with the iPhone.

 Professional iPhone Photographer and Instructor, Kelli Klymenko

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As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech