How To: Use A DSLR & An iPad To Take Great Instagram Photos

At the risk of angering the iPhoneography police, I recently started using my DSLR to improve the quality of my Instagram photos. Don’t get me wrong. I love the camera that comes with my iPhone 4s with its wide aperture and low light response, and I use it a lot, even when I have my DSLR with me.

I owned an iPhone 3GS before this, so the difference in quality between the two was dramatic to me. In fact, the camera was the main reason I upgraded to the 4s to begin with. It’s just a matter of time before the phone camera gives the point-and-shoot a run for its money.

With all the amazing apps available for iPhoneography, you can do some truly amazing work. With ProCamera and Camera+ for example, you can control exposure and focus separately, and shoot several frames in rapid succession. But there’s only so much a tiny camera in a phone can do. There are times when I need manual control over the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, or a low-noise sensor that shoots at high ISOs, or a fast lens with a good deal of reach. Someday perhaps, the camera in my pocket will do everything I need, but we’re not there yet.

The workflow for this is actually quite simple, but it requires a little thought and a few pieces of gear.

Image Of Dancers In HawaiiWhat You Need:

  • A DSLR with a versatile lens that has a decent zoom range, preferably something like an 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 or equivalent.
  • An Apple iPad with enough storage to hold all the photographs you’ll be taking.
  • An Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.
  • A card reader to use with the iPad Camera USB connector if your camera doesn’t use SD cards.
  • Alternatively, you can use an Eye-Fi with the iPad app, but it may be less reliable or convenient, depending on the availability or quality of your wifi connection.
  • Some iPad apps to tweak your photos if necessary, such as PhotogeneSnapseed or Adobe Photoshop Express.
  • Instagram installed on your iPad.
  • Internet connectivity, either built into the iPad, or something like a Verizon Mifi.

What You Do:

  • Shoot with your DSLR.
  • Import your photos into your iPad using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.
  • Retouch your photos as necessary on your iPad.
  • Start Instagram, choose the photos you want to share from your photo library, add effects as your heart desires.
  • Share. That’s it!

Some Tips:

  • Shoot right the first time. Be mindful of your exposure and composition. If you have to edit or retouch, it will slow you down.
  • Remember that if you want to fill an Instagram frame, you will most likely have to crop the photo within the app, so plan your composition with that in mind.
  • Do not erase the card after importing! Accidents can happen. You don’t want to lose any of those precious photos. Wait until you’re in a quiet place where you can organize all your images and be sure you haven’t left anything behind on the card.
Image Of Dancers In Hawaii

For a more detailed technical workflow oriented towards live-tweeting events, check out my photo blog.


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  • comment-avatar

    Instagram: @azhrawr

    With Regards to DSLR Photos:

    I have had a love hate relationship with Insta for a while and only recently embraced the system.

    I only upload mobile snaps despite having some great dslr photos awaiting processing including awesome African wildlife photos.

    Likewise, I enjoy profiles where all the artist used was a phone since it levels the playing fields, gives everyone a stripped down medium and puts the focus on your composition, your eye, your creativity and your dedication as opposed to your technical knowledge and your gear.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.I know I will probably embrace it at some stage, starting with an eye-fi card for my V1. In the end, as long is it is still instagram and not latergram, your medium should not really matter.

    You can find me on insta @azhrawr .

    I know the quality of some photos is not ZOMG, but that’s not the point of this medium is it? That’s just a bonus.