Week 15: Phone vs DSLR in the field

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Challenge: to get publishable images on an iPhone.

Location: Bourton House, Cotswolds

Date: June 2017

Result: 7/10 - image quality and composition is fine, but many flowers needed deadheading and I wasn't that brave

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Advantages of using a phone camera in the field

1. It weighs next to nothing. You'll have it with you anyway. Your companions will thank you because it takes no time to switch on.

2. The fixed focal length forces you to compose well - you can't hide behind a dramatic telephoto shot, or a super wide angle lens.

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Disadvantages of using a phone over an interchangeable lens camera

1. That fixed lens that forces you to compose with no margin for error. It's very wide, and you miss out on all the compressed perspective shots you get with a longer lens:

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Fuji X-T1, 66mm, ISO200, f6.4, 1/200

Fuji X-T1, 66mm, ISO200, f6.4, 1/200

2. Image quality. Take another look at the 2 photos above. The colour reproduction from the X-T1 is far better. And the smaller file size and JPEG limitations mean you have less data to play with when you come to edit a phone photo.

Tips for using a phone to photograph a garden visit

1. Get close.

Much closer than you think. With many phones you can tap the screen to force the focus closer.

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S


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2. Don't shoot flowers in full sun. 

Not just for phone photography, but I can't say this often enough. Stand in front of the flower and cast a shadow if you need to. (And watch out for dead heads in the background.) Look at the harsh shadows and washed out colour on the first image, compared to the second:

3. Play to the phone's strengths

Shoot wide angles, and use strong composition.

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

4. Keep moving

Try many different viewpoints, and remember your foreground-subject-background balance (if you've done A Year With My Camera you'll know all about this).

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Also - wait for some cloud interest if you can. Blue sky and white clouds always look better than either plain blue sky or all overcast.

What will you do with the photos?

This is what it comes down to. If you want to print them bigger than A4, or edit them heavily, phone photos might not be good enough quality. If you're just sharing online then there's no reason not to use your phone. 


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If you liked this post, you'll definitely like this one as well: How to photograph a garden visit.

And you'll almost certainly enjoy this one too: A day at West Dean Gardens