Sara Hilton Photography | Palatine IL Family Photographer » Creative photographer specializing in family and children portraits serving Palatine Illinois and the surrounding Chicago suburbs.

iPhone and DSLR shootout | Lifestyle photography

I’ve often heard it said, “the best camera is the one you have.”  This is very true!  These days, almost everyone has a smartphone camera on them at all times, and we are glad for it when something photo-worthy happens.  With the way iPhone and android phones have been upping the game on camera technology, some people are probably wondering if they even need to hire a photographer anymore!

Well, I’ve seen some amazing iPhone images, but my opinion is that it can not replace a professional photographer for most situations.

I have taken a lot of cute images on my iphone, and I admit that I do NOT have the latest technology, but I have rarely been interested in printing my phone pictures, or even sharing them online.  (I have a reputation to uphold, right?)  While it’s great that we are all able to capture moments with ease using our phones, I always get my camera if it’s close by.  With phone cameras, you need to have excellent lighting.  You also need a very still subject, which children never are!  Phone cameras do not give you easy capability to control the shutter speed, which needs to be pretty fast to freeze motion.  I have been so frustrated after seeing that 28 out of 30 photos I’ve taken with my iPhone were blurry.  See example – super cute secret selfies found on my phone the next day, but all blur!
Lifestyle photography
I have downloaded third party apps that allow you to control the phone camera settings with more precision, but they are clunky and I haven’t found one I love yet.  I also feel that I never compose an image as well using my phone.  I think it’s something about the tunnel of the camera’s viewfinder shutting out the rest of the world, so I can focus on the scene I’m capturing.  As I went through and did my annual backup of images from my computer and phone, I thought it would be fun to share some image comparisons of my iPhone SE (on the left) versus my Canon 6D (with 40mm lens and flash – on the right).  Here’s what I came up with!
Lifestyle photographer
This iphone image at the beach would’ve been much better if I’d gotten on the ground to take the photo like I did with the 6D image, and picked a better moment, of course.  Composition and intent is so important!  But even the background, coloring, and sharpness is a vast improvement with my camera.
Lifestyle photography
These photos were quick phone snaps when I thought my 2 year old Zach would tire of coloring quickly, you gotta be fast with this one!  Then he ended up coloring for a long time, so I took the time to get my camera and I’m so glad I did!  The most noticeable differences to me are the bokeh (the out of focus background you get when shooting at a shallow depth of field) and the color. White balance on cell phone cameras is really hit or miss, and these particular iphone images looked even worse than this before I edited them in Photoshop.
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This iphone photo was snapped quickly because Zach had a bike helmet on, and it was so cute!  I admit I was not in the best position, because he was backlit and it made him very dark.  He was also blurry because he was walking.  By the time I ran in the house to get the camera, he already had that helmet off.  See, you gotta be quick!  I ended up changing my position, which definitely helped get more light on him, and made for a much better photo.  There is also no motion blur because I was able to use a high enough shutter speed as he walked towards me.  I understand this one is not a fair comparison, but I’ll take any excuse to show this kid off!
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My 5 year old Ashford was looking very sweet cuddling with his Tails plush.   I realized quickly that the bad lighting was too much for the iphone to handle (all the haze on the left, darkness on the right), and the angles of the entertainment stand behind him were very skewed in the phone images.  I also knew that I would get the best results possible with my speedlight (flash), so I used that along with my 6D in the images on the right.  When I’m indoors for lifestyle family sessions, I always bring my flash.  I bounce it off the ceiling, and this gives me beautifully lit faces without looking ‘flashy.’  The dslr also does a better job of correcting lens distortion issues like the crooked entertainment stand!
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Backlighting is almost impossible with the iPhone!  No matter where you touch to focus, it’s not pretty.  Lots of haze and overall much too dark.  Bounced flash saved this photo!
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Here is a great example of using window light without flash.  It was a little brighter in the room, and the iphone picture isn’t bad, but it’s just not very sharp and the color is pretty off/oversaturated.  The 6D image is crisp, colors are more realistic, and the background is pleasantly out of focus so your eye goes right to him.
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Now, the big test – night time inside your house.  It’s by far the worst environment to try to use your phone!  I did it anyway, and put it up against my camera with bounced flash.  Look at those glowing eyes from the iPhone flash!  This really is my worst nightmare, because I just can’t fix it.  Bounced flash on the right lights them perfectly so you can focus on their cute hug, rather than the creepy eyes.
Lifestyle photography
And here, we see that even with phone flash, you simply cannot get a decent photo of wrestling kids. I am able to freeze motion with my camera and speedlight.  Love that final photo on the right!
Lifestyle photography
Here are a couple shots of the bedtime routine.  Some of my very favorite photos of the boys were taken in my 5 year old’s bed, just like this!  The beauty of bouncing the flash off the ceiling here, is that they are never blasted with light in their face like they are with a phone camera.  The flash lights up the white ceiling, so all you see is nice even light without blinking or squinting.  This one shows iPhone flash on the left:
Lifestyle photography
In this one, I didn’t use the iPhone flash on the left.  Look at how different the color is without good lighting!
Lifestyle photography
Phone cameras are wonderful inventions, and they absolutely can capture memories that will make you happy, but for me, they are just not the same as dedicated photo equipment.  That said, I definitely still use mine, and there is no way I’d toss the sweet photos I’ve got on my phone!  These are all marked as favorites on my iPhone, and I have plans to make a photo book with all my iPhone favorites this year:
Lifestyle photographer
I hope this was fun to read, and I also hope you will reach out if you’d like to schedule an in-home family session!  I love photographing families at home, doing their own thing, and I hope more people opt for sessions like this.  In-home lifestyle photography is awesome for capturing cherished toys and favorite hang out spots, and the feeling when viewing the final gallery is very real and special.  I personally have printed more in-home photos of my own kids than the ‘pretty’ outdoor ones!  Thanks for reading!

* Sara Hilton is a Palatine family photographer, and also offers newborn, maternity, graduating senior, engagement, and lifestyle photography.  Sara is known for beautiful outdoor photography, but also loves lifestyle sessions inside client’s homes.  Sara currently lives in Palatine Illinois with her family: a husband who is very good at cooking and cleaning (life is good!) a five year old son who loves booty dancing, and a 2 year old son who is going through a Paw Patrol phase.  Sara is currently booking family, maternity, couple and children sessions in Palatine, IL and all of the surrounding Chicago suburbs. *

Ready to book your own in-home family session?  Have questions?  Contact Sara here

  • Erica Mack - Loved this Sara! So interesting and so true. I find more often than not I am so disappointed with my iPhone pictures and even more so when I go to print them out! Need to make sure I try to keep my good camera handy!ReplyCancel

    • Sara Hilton - Yes, thank you so much for the comment! I’ve often wondered if I’m doing something wrong, but I just cannot get great photos of my kids with a phone. I look at the people who post beautiful iPhone images, and many of the subjects are either adults posing, or landscapes. I know you can do burst mode for capturing littles, but I don’t have the patience to go through all those photos. I’m going to upgrade my phone this summer, so we’ll see if I get better with the latest model! hahaReplyCancel

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