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When a smartphone camera is as good or better than a DSLR camera

smartphone vs DSLR , Linda Holt Creative smartphone photography coaching, editing and courses. Create gorgeous interior design project images with your iphone and android. Own your copyright.

As much as professional photographers don’t want to admit it, today’s smartphone cameras can produce a photo as good, or better, than their expensive DSLR. I know this because I was a professional photographer for twenty five years. Once I learned how to properly use my smartphone my images from my phone rivaled or even surpassed my DSLR images.The trick is in knowing what situations to use a smartphone camera and when a DSLR camera is the better choice. Below are five situations where a smartphone camera is as good or better than a DSLR.

1. Landscapes

Smartphone cameras take amazingly beautiful landscape photos. The smartphone color sensor and light meter are as accurate as a DSLR camera. The advantage is if you are hiking or spending the day at the beach the phone can be in your pocket. A heavy DSLR camera is a pain to lug on a hike and who wants to worry about an expensive camera while at the beach?

Pro Tip #1

When shooting a landscape photo think about having something in the foreground, as well as the background. Something in the foreground gives the image depth and makes for a more interesting photo overall. In the photo below the firepit brings interest to the foreground while the mountains and clouds give interest to the background.

Pro Tip #2

Try using the rule of thirds when shooting a landscape. If you think about your photo divided into thirds, there should be something of interest in the lower third, the middle third and the top third.

Pro Tip #3

There are apps for the smartphone that give you the availability to have the same control over aperture and shutter speed that you have with a DSLR camera. In the photo below I used the Camera+ app on my iphone to shoot with a slow shutter speed.

2. Close ups or macro photography

Smartphones do really well with close ups. This is a tiny flower on a raspberry bush and look how sharp it is at this close range. If you look closely you can even see a deer tick on the petal in the upper left. With a DSLR camera you would need to use a tripod and a macro lens to get a shot this close and sharp. Again, more cumbersome equipment to lug around and set up. I think the smartphone wins in this situation.

Here is another beautiful macro photo taken with my iphone of a tiny orchid.

The smartphone performs great even with extreme closeups. The yellow flower below might not be sharp as a tack but it’s pretty good. The pollen is even sharp on the stamens.

Pro Tip:

If you want to get a crystal clear image when shooting this close, I recommend using a tripod, especially if you have plans to enlarge it. If a tripod isn’t feasible then be sure to lock the focus before you shoot. With extreme close ups, even the slightest movement from the wind can cause your image to be out of focus.

3. Portraits

Smartphones take beautiful portraits. The newer camera models have “portrait mode” which blurs the background just like a shallow depth of field on a DSLR. In the image below I used the blur tool in the Snapseed App on the background since this photo was taken with an older phone that did not have portrait mode.

Pro Tip:

Be careful of getting too close to your subject’s face. The smartphones have a very wide angle lens which can cause the face to look distorted. Better to shoot a little farther back and then crop in later.

4. Abstract photography

Similar to close up photos, the smartphone performs great taking abstract images. You never know when you will find something that grabs your attention. Since your phone is always with you, then again, I think this is a situation where the smartphone wins out.

While walking in the woods I spotted this knot on a tree truck that looks just like an eye.

Looking down from a bridge I liked the abstract image these rocks and bush created.

Pro Tip:

Sometimes is hard to “see” interesting images if your eye isn’t well trained. One way to develop your photographic eye is to give yourself an “assignment”. For example, If I told you to look for red cars while you were driving on a trip you would spot red cars everywhere. Had you not been focused on looking for red cars though you might not have noticed any red cars. The same thing goes for photos. Challenge yourself to look for texture or parallel lines or circles or interesting color combinations. Once you are focused on looking for a specific thing, you will see images everywhere!

5. Travel Photography

Travel photography is an ideal opportunity to use your smartphone. You can wander around freely without lugging heavy equipment and you can photograph people more discreetly. Pointing a big DSLR camera at someone is not comfortable for subject or photographer. No one is the wiser though that you aren’t just checking your email when you hold up your phone to take a photo of a person.

While vacationing in Berlin I saw a bride rushing by me, cigarette in hand, on her way to the church. I had only seconds to grab the shot and it never would have happened if I had to pull out a big camera. My iphone was in my hand at the time and in one second I got my shot before she rushed on by.

Since the smartphone is so light it’s easy to shoot at different angles and not worry about dropping the camera.

So when is a DSLR camera a better choice? I can think of only a couple situations.

1. Telephoto shots where you are too far away to get a good shot. For example, sports and action shots such as when you are far up in the bleachers are best taken with a telephoto lens on a big camera. The smartphones do not have much of an ability to zoom in without distortion.

2. When you want to enlarge a photo really big to frame and use as art. A DSLR camera is the better choice when wanting to enlarge big. That being said, the smartphones are quickly catching up with increased megapixels on each new phone released.

 Many pro’s will argue there is no comparison between the smartphone and their pricey DSLR. I felt the same way for years but have completely changed my mind. I am now on team Smartphone. How about you?  


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