I shot the phone and, I won

Think you need a fancy camera to take fancy pictures? Think again! You really just need a fancy cell phone! #phonecamerachallenge yo!

iphone x via VSCO; 1/30 f1.8 iso 40

Phone cameras are quite capable, but you have to understand the main limiting factor, controllability. Typically, focus, ISO, shutter-speed, and/or aperture cannot be controlled in a native photo app. This means that the shooter will always be at the mercy of the camera when it comes to the exposure triangle and focus.

It is difficult to get shallow depth of field when the camera is set to full auto. You will need to assume everything in the frame will be in focus and adjust your shot accordingly. Be mindful of the background and compose the shot to capture it appropriately. Make sure to exclude any distracting elements.

iphone x via LR mobile; 1/125 f1.8 iso 20

The controllability limitation can be circumvented though, through a 3rd party app. I typically recommend shooting with either Lightroom CC mobile (LR) or VSCO. Both are capable options. Here is a quick b-b-b-breakdown:

VSCO:

  • free
  • cannot make local adjustments
  • can shoot RAW
  • can control ISO and shutter-speed (and thus indirectly aperture)
  • has filters that you can apply to photos
  • can control focus

LR mobile:

  • also free
  • can make local adjustments
  • can shoot RAW
  • can control ISO and shutter-speed (and thus indirectly aperture)
  • has filters that you can apply to photos
  • can control focus
  • has focus peaking!
iphone x edited in LR mobile; 1/15 f1.8 iso1600

Yep, pretty much the same, but LR has a couple of key features that are very useful. The ability to make local adjustments is huge and will allow you to apply changes to a portion of the image, rather than globally all across it. LR also has focus peaking, which will show a colored aura around objects to let you know what’s in focus.

I’d say that generally VSCO is more geared toward ‘I will take a photo, I will hit the filter button, I will post to social media’, whereas LR is more geared toward ‘I will take a photo, I will boost the shadows over here, I will add clarity over there, little bit of split-toning to accentuate the highlights, ….. etc.’. Try them both (they’re freeeeeee!) and see which one you like better.

iphone x via LR mobile; 1/250 f2.4 iso 16

So there you have it. Two perfectly viable options to take your mobile game to the next level… assuming you’ve already dropped $$$$ on a smartphone.

Thanks for reading!

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