How to photograph wildlife with a smartphone

3 ways to photograph wildlife with an iPhone by Nettie Edwards. 

All images by Nettie Edwards/
All images by Nettie Edwards/

Not long ago using a cameraphone to photograph wildlife was a ridiculous idea, with images little more than grainy semblances of the real thing. But fast-forward 10 years and the scene couldn’t be more different. Indeed there is now a growing band of photographers who create images exclusively with smartphones.


Light and compact, the iPhone is the perfect device for making visual field notes, and is always on our person. But its potential goes far beyond portability. The iPhone’s camera is a sophisticated, internet-connected tool, with capabilities that can be extended by a vast, constantly evolving range of professional-quality applications and add-on equipment. With the right preparation you can take great pictures of any species, even invertebrates.

If you’d like to hone your personal photographic style, there are many excellent apps that apply colour filters and effects. Others provide the sort of manipulation and compositing tools previously restricted to costly software. The possibilities are limitless, butbe warned: iPhone photography can be very addictive!

1. Scenic deer (main image, above)

This deer was a chance sighting at Painswick Rococo Garden, Gloucestershire. To bring it closer into view, I attached an Olloclip telephoto lens to my iPhone. In less hurried circumstances this lens, combined with a GorillaPod tripod and a pair of Apple EarPods (which can be used as a remote release), provides the set-up of a mini hide. The black-and-white and blur effects were created in-shot, using two Hipstamatic app filters.


2. Close-up bee

To capture this bee in action without a tripod, I selected a lens from the o–lloclip 3-in-1 macro system. Shooting the photograph with ProCamera 8 instead of the Camera app provided greater control over exposure, white balance and focus. The app has other useful features for macro photography, such as rapid-fire burst, anti-shake and enhanced zoom capabilities. I then used the Snapseed app’s editing tools and preset filters to crop the image and adjust the colour.


3. Abstract petals 

I created this double exposure of an agapanthus by shooting with Hipstamatic’s filters Otto and Salvador 84 (both in-app purchases). Salvador 84 applies a randomised double exposure, so I shot several and chose a favourite. To enhance the photo I then imported it into the app Image Blender and overlaid it with a horizontally flipped version of itself. Finally I used the app Snapseed to crop the photo and modify colour saturation, contrast and levels.


iWalk Extreme 5200Duo Rechargeable Battery This powers two devices at once. A long cable enables you to shoot and charge.

Apple Earpods You can use the volume control on a pair of EarPods to trigger the shutter on the iPhone’s camera.

ProCamera 8 This app provides options such as night vision and high-dynamic-range imaging, and can export TIFFs and JPEGs.

Olloclip lens systems Telephoto/polarising lens (2x); 3-in-1 macro (7x, 14x, 21x zoom); 4-in-1 (wide angle/fisheye/10x and 15x macro).

Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand This mini tripod has beaded, gripping leg joints that bend and rotate 360 degrees. You can position your phone almost anywhere, including on branches.

Lakeland Protect-a-Pouch Weatherproof Smartphone Pouch This inexpensive pouch protects your phone from rain without interfering with the touchscreen’s response.


Nettie Edwards has a background in fine art and is renowned for her iPhone-created images, which can be seen at and Follow Nettie on Twitter @lumilyon or @hortus_lucis