How To Succeed In Smartphone Photography Competitions


There are a wide variety of photography contests that can easily be found both online and in your local community. Increasingly, some competitions are aimed solely at smartphone photographers such as the iPhone Photography Awards and the Mobile Photography Awards. Less formal and more frequent are social media competitions like those run by @mobiography.

While entering a competition may offer a chance to scoop prizes and gain recognition, the process can also provide the inspiration to improve your photography skills. Pushing yourself to compete against fellow photographers will help you find clarity in your subject choice and objectivity towards your portfolio. The success of winning a photographic competition may fade in time, however the lessons that you learn in competition will continue to benefit your photography long into the future.

I’ve organised, managed, judged and competed in numerous photo contests over many years, I’d like to share this experience with you and offer some photo competition tips that will hopefully help you increase your chances of winning.

Read the Guidelines Thoroughly

OK, I know this can be the boring part, but it’s really important to read the competitions’ guidelines, terms, and conditions thoroughly. Understand exactly what is required from your submission, it can make the difference between winning and losing.

The rules of the competition will govern how many shots to submit, entry deadline, the required format and size. Are there any rules regarding the camera that can be used? - no point entering an iPhone contest with Canon shots! Some competitions also have strict rules regarding how an image can be edited and modified.

If the competition has a specific theme or categories, ensure that your shot(s) fit the brief. Whilst there will generally be an acceptance of creativity and interpretation of a theme, there will be a limit to the extent that a judge will accept an image to stray from the given subject.

Understand how your images will be used. Each competition will use images differently, consider the implications of how and where your images will be reproduced. I personally favour competitions that limit the reuse to the contest ie. winners gallery, future promotion etc. Some photographers have been unhappy in recent years as their images have been ‘farmed-out’ for wider use. You should ensure that your copyright of the images remain intact and that you are always credited by name wherever they appear.

Do Your Research

Some simple research can be invaluable, be willing to learn from others. If the competition has been run before, check out previous winning entries to see what the judges are looking for. Look up similar themed contests and learn from those successful entrants. There is no harm in familiarising yourself with the judge’s work. Look at their website and try to learn what type of image they may appreciate and what competitions they have judged in the past.

After you have completed your research, you will still need to trust your instinct, do not sacrifice your creativity to what you think a judge may like.

Choose Your Submission Carefully

Choosing your image(s) can the hardest part of entering a photo contest. You will want to submit your best photo but it must comply with the competitions’ nominated theme. Avoid the predictable, judges will be viewing lots of images in a condensed time-span, if your image is similar to the majority of entrants then it is unlikely to have an impression. Be prepared to take shots specifically for the contest if you have doubts about the suitability of your existing images.

Attempt to stand out from the crowd, choose compelling subjects with distinctive, strong composition. The judges will be looking for visual impact not mediocrity!

Aim for Technical Excellence

Whilst a dynamic and strong composition can counteract technical flaws, the success of your submission may ultimately depend on image quality. This should go without saying, but If your image isn’t focused and exposed correctly, then it has less chance of being chosen by the judge. Displaying detail in highlights (bright) and shadow (dark) areas of an image is crucial and though modern day devices do a great job at capturing and balancing detail, you can still be caught out in extreme lighting conditions.

Choose Devise Features Wisely

With every smartphone release, manufacturers raise the bar for mobile photography excellence. The feature sets on the top of the range phones are nothing short of amazing, making capturing stunning photos easier for all. With all this technology at your fingertips it becomes tempting to concentrate only on the new features. Concentrate on the basics of composition and exposure first, then make decisions on depth-of-field, long exposure etc. Don’t get drawn into using features jut because you can.

Prepare For Disappointment

Ultimately, you enter a competition to win, when you don’t win, you can feel dejected. The harsh fact is that there are more losers than winners in any competition. Failure doesn’t mean you aren’t a good photographer or that your images are poor. Do not let your passion or enjoyment of photography be curtailed by the choice of a judge. I’ve had images panned by judging panels in one competition only to be awarded first prize in another. Learn from the experience, grow a thicker skin and continue to have confidence in your shots.

Gain Experience and Confidence in A Club

Joining a local camera club is a great way to gain competition experience. Choose a club who have a supportive and learning environment, who encourage participation, and have a regular competition schedule. Almost all photographic clubs and societies will run frequent competitions and have photo battles with other clubs.

Don’t Give Up

Never give up on your work. You will have success and failures on your photographic journey. If you don’t succeed in one contest, try another, never lose confidence in your shots. Don’t let competitions diminish your enjoyment. Take a picture to please yourself first and then decide what happens next.

If you’re thinking of entering a competition then I wish you every success and I hope you found these tips helpful.




You can create fantastic shots of moving water with an iPhone. From capturing dramatic torrents to blurring and softening a waterfall into a dreamy cascade. Id like to share my 10 best tips for creating amazing waterfall shots with an iPhone.

I'm fortunate to live just a short drive from the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. The area contains some of the most magnificent and dramatic scenery in the UK. Amid mountains, hills, streams and lakes there are numerous opportunities to photograph waterfalls, from gentle trickles to awesome cascades.

There are no right and wrong ways to shoot a waterfall as long as you follow the basics. Some of us prefer the soft, milky shots whilst others prefer to capture the raw power of the water in the landscape. Try capturing different images and then compare later for the best results.

I'd like to share some tips and techniques on photographing waterfalls with an iPhone camera.

Avoid shooting in harsh sunlight.

Avoid shooting in harsh sunlight.

1. The most difficult part of photographing water is to avoid 'burning out highlights', in other words, creating bright white areas of the water that contain no detail. Try to avoid photographing water in harsh sunlight. Early morning, late afternoon, cloudy or even rainy days will produce a softer, less intrusive, light.

Overcast conditions help keep details in water but pay attention to maintaining cloud detail when including skies.

Overcast conditions help keep details in water but pay attention to maintaining cloud detail when including skies.


In the image above, I have photographed the waterfall with my native iPhone camera app on an overcast day, which has enabled me to capture all the details in the water. When including skies in your composition, keep in mind that you will want to also capture interesting cloud detail in addition to the water. Experiment with your phone’s HDR setting to capture more detail in the highlight (and shadow) areas.

2. Long exposure, or slow-shutter photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to sharply capture the static elements of a scene whilst blurring motion. To capture these kind of images on a DSLR camera can actually be trickier than shooting with an iPhone. A DSLR captures continuous light whereas the iPhone 'stacks' multiple images. Therefore the the skill of the DSLR photographer is required to calculate the amount of light captured over a given period. The use of various graduated or polarising filters will more than likely be required to control the light.

If you want to create soft, milky, long exposure images of water on your iPhone, Live Photos is a good starting point. The Live Photos feature of iOS 11 and beyond, records 1.5 seconds before and after you take a picture. Your iPhone captures the still image you shot along with 3 seconds of video. Once you have captured a Live Photo, you have options to create effects, including long exposure. The effect is achieved by layering individual frames captured during the 3 seconds of video. You take a Live Photo just like you do a traditional photo and it does a reasonable job at creating a Long Exposure effect without the need of a tripod. See my tutorial on How To Master Live Photos here.

A huge step-up from Live Photos long exposure is the newly released Spectre Camera by Chroma Noir; a third-party camera app for iPhone. Spectre’s intelligent computational shutter takes hundreds of shots over the span of a few seconds and merges them together. Shots can be of 3, 5 or 9 seconds duration. With just a little practice, sharp, image-stabilised images can be produced hand-held.

A 3 second hand-held long exposure, captured with Spectre Camera app.

A 3 second hand-held long exposure, captured with Spectre Camera app.

3. Traditionally, long exposures require the use of a tripod or a steady method of supporting your device to eliminate camera-shake. I’ve found that even though Live Photos and Spectre produce remarkable hand-held shots, using a tripod is a more dependable method to produce sharp images.

I use a Manfrotto Compact Light Aluminium Tripod - compact and light, you can take it anywhere. You will also need to purchase a mount to connect your iPhone to the tripod. I use a ShoulderPod S1 which doubles as a hand held grip.

Steady your shots with a tripod.

Steady your shots with a tripod.


4. The soft, dream-like effect of long exposure is the result of an increased amount of time that the picture has been taken. For capturing long exposure images with greater control, consider purchasing Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software. This app allows setting a timed exposure of your image up to 60 seconds. The longer you expose your photo, the more blur you will create.

This image was taken with an iPhone 6 Plus, on a tripod, with an 8 second exposure in the Slow Shutter Cam app.

This image was taken with an iPhone 6 Plus, on a tripod, with an 8 second exposure in the Slow Shutter Cam app.


5. When taking long exposure shots it is essential to ensure camera stability. Camera shake is when movement of the camera results in an image that is blurry or out of focus. The iPhone Camera native app and Slow Shutter Cam have timer options that can be set with up to 10 seconds delay before the shutter automatically fires; eliminating any movement when touching the screen. Likewise, wireless remote shutter releases that connect to your device via Bluetooth are perfect for remote shutter management.

6. For all their beauty, it has to be said that a lot of waterfall photography can look very similar. It's easy to channel your attention solely on the water and forget to find a more interesting overall composition. A great way to overcome this is to include other elements that add interest to the scene, photograph from different angles and search for a more unusual and creative viewpoint to convey more about the surrounding area and character of the waterfall's setting.

Photograph from different angles for a more unusual and creative viewpoint.

Photograph from different angles for a more unusual and creative viewpoint.


7. In contrast to the previous point, you may prefer to concentrate on a smaller area of a waterfall rather than trying to fit the entire scene into your frame. This can create an abstract photo that becomes a study of motion and colour and leaves room for the viewer's imagination. Take multiple shots and decide later on which you think is the best.

Create an abstract scene of natural beauty.

Create an abstract scene of natural beauty.


8. Consider including references for scale. The largest waterfall may look less impressive in a photograph if the viewer can’t easily appreciate its scale. Don't be afraid to include buildings, sign posts, fences and people.

Considering including references for scale comparison.

Considering including references for scale comparison.


9. Although the use of lens filters is not mandatory in the capture of moving water when shooting on an iPhone, there may be times, such as in very bright conditions, when the use of a filter may help exposure. There are many options for attaching lens filters to smartphones with more coming onto the market all the time. A polarizing filter improves the dynamic range in your iPhone photos, resulting in skies with deeper blues and whiter clouds. Neutral density filters block out light to varying degrees, bringing the highlights down to a manageable level. Recovering detail in highlighted areas gives your photos more depth and visual impact.

10. Be aware that you’ll most likely be working in wet conditions, spray from the falls will make the surrounding area slippery. Be careful when stepping or climbing over rocks. Protect your equipment and keep your hands free when moving around. Wipe the lens of your device regularly if working up close to a waterfall to ensure it is clean and free of any moisture.

I hope this short tutorial inspires and helps you to get out into the landscape and create stunning waterfall shots. Enjoy your photography, most of all remember - it's your camera, your picture, your rules!

All images and content ©Adrian McGarry 2018-2019


The Art of Texture


I’ve always enjoyed creating textured photo art; blending textures to add depth, atmosphere and a surreal quality to my images. This powerful, creative enhancement is not something new, back in the days of the traditional darkroom, long before desktop or mobile editing, photographers would blend multiple images together, adding scratches and stains to the final print.

In today’s world of computerised editing, similar techniques are quicker, easier and more accessible. These digital techniques have been around a long time through desktop software such as Photoshop and Lightroom but there are serious alternatives on the mobile platform to create unique art from your photos. Professional-level editing that takes advantage of the speed and graphical rendering on iPhone and iPad offer solid management when it comes to creative editing. There are unlimited possibilities for adding texture to your iPhone photography using some amazing apps and in this article I have listed the top three iOS apps (in my view) to get you started.

Texture is added to an image by adding a layers on top of your photo. Those layers can be merged into the original scene using opacity and blending modes. There are plenty of dedicated apps that have adjustable pre-set layers and filters to transform your images combined with plenty of adjustment tools to fine-tune your art. Alternatively, you can create your own texture, photos of rust and scratched metal work just great, and ‘manually’ merge these elements within an app that supports added layers and blending modes. For more advanced work you can combine both methods to create something that is a truly unique piece of photo art.


Photographer, artist and texture designer Cheryl Tarrant is the co-creator of texture editing app Distressed FX. There are currently two versions available on the App Store. The original Distressed FX is sold at just 49 pence with in app purchases of texture packs. New to purchase however is the Distressed FX Plus version which is billed as a special edition of the highly acclaimed original. For £9.99 you get access to ALL current and future filters, plus extra features including the ability to rotate filter effects.

Says Cheryl, "There is freedom and creativity in the app. You can be sitting in a boring doctor's office and, within seconds, make art: creating painterly images from ordinary photos. I like the idea of leaving our creative footprints in the world, and with the app, it's possible for those of us who don't consider ourselves to be creative, to feel and be creative."

Who better to talk us through this Distressed FX tutorial (above) than creator Cheryl Tarrant.


Merek Davis is a commercial photographer living in Arizona. He created Mextures, one of the leading apps for making texture based edits to photos. The app launched in 2013 and was an instant hit, it has gone from strength-to-strength since.

“I wanted to create an iPhone editing app using textures that I had created for my personal/commercial photography. Working with a small team, we built and launched Mextures for the iPhone in May of 2013. The iPad version launched a year later. We ended up winning an app of the year from Apple.” Says Merek on his website.

Mextures allows the effortless creation of unique looks for your images with textures, film filters, and professional-grade adjustments on an unlimited number of layers. Simple editing tools allow the addition of beautiful hand-crafted presets with a single tap.

You can save your edits for future use and evolve a style that’s completely yours.

Mextures app overview movie (above) from creator Merek Davis.


Superimpose X is an ideal app for blending multiple images together. If you want to create and blend your own custom textures into your photographic source, then the ability to apply multiple layers and blends is crucial to your workflow. Superimpose X users can easily superimpose photos on top of another, and adjustments can be made on the fly without advanced knowledge of masks or image blending. Smooth edges with smooth tools, add masks or mask out different portions of an image, and adjust the colour, exposure, contrast or saturation. Tools includes move, scale, resize, rotate and flip tools in addition to blending tools. A classic version Superimpose of the app is still available.



Gianluca Ricoveri - iPhone Painterly Landscapes

Gianluca Ricoveri was born in 1950 he has always been devoted to the art of painting and photography experiencing the interaction of one genre with another one. In 2012 he discovered the Iphoneography which allows him to blend the different means of expression.

Jamie Heiden Creates An Unique Style Of Art Photography And Its Phenomenal

A story starts like this for Jamie Heiden, hailing from the most beautiful West Wisconsin, Jamie creates such elegant and simplistic compositions with her art for photography approach. In this fine interview with, Jamie shares some unique things about art and her vision towards photography.

How to Hide Photos on iPhone and iPad


If you’re anything like me, you probably enjoy showing off the stunning photos that you’ve taken with your iPhone using the native Photos app. There may be times however that you wish to keep certain images secret and not readily in view of others. Hiding pictures on your iPhone or iPad within the Photos app is really simple but does not keep them truly private. I’ll cover how to hide photos with the built-in 'Hidden' photo album but also provide links to third-party apps that lock photos away behind a passcode.

Hiding photos on your iPhone and iPad is quick and easy. For devices running iOS 10 or earlier, hiding a photo on your iPhone means the photo is hidden from ‘Years’, ‘Collections’, and ‘Moments’. but will still be visible in ‘All Photos’. Fortunately, from iOS 11 onwards, hidden photos are removed from ‘All Photos’ too. Hidden photos are placed in an album named ‘Hidden’. You can view hidden photos by opening the ‘Hidden’ album, there is no additional security which means anyone with access to your Photos app can scroll to the ‘Hidden’ album and open it.

iOS Hide Photos Step 1.jpg
  1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone and select the photo(s) you wish to hide.

  2. Tap the share icon in the lower left corner of the app.

Hide iOS Photos Step 2

3. Select Hide.

Hide iOS Photos Step 3

4. Confirm Hide Photo.

Hide iOS Photos Step 4

5. Your photo is can now be found in the ‘Hidden” album.

To view your hidden photos, scroll to the album named ‘Hidden’ listed under Other Albums and tap on it.


The method described above is the easiest way to hide photos on your device, but it isn’t the most secure. There are a number of apps that can also hide your photos and videos with additional security measures, making them harder to access. Check out these three apps below.

‎Private Photo Vault - Pic Safe

‎The Best and Most Private Photo and Video App for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch. Millions of people trust Private Photo Vault® to keep their photos hidden.

‎Secret Photo Vault - Keepsafe

‎Download Keepsafe to join the millions of people who have entrusted over a billion pictures to Keepsafe: the most popular photo locker and album vault app. Keepsafe secures personal photos and videos by locking them down with PIN protection, fingerprint touch ID, and military-grade encryption.

‎Best Secret Folder

Secretly Hide Your Most Private Videos and Photos From Other People! Protect safely and securely your most private videos/photos with Best Secret Folder.