Recently I have had conversations with people who love photography, love Instagram, have great photos on Instagram, but are nervous about getting a real camera. Maybe that’s you, maybe you are an iPhone photographer, but are unsure if you could make it with a real camera… In other words, you love photography but are afraid of translating iPhone photo language to real camera photo language.  

Before we go on let’s define some terms. 

Photographer” /‘fəˈtägrəfər/     “One who practices photography, especially those who make a business from photography” Do you have to make money, no but at least carry an appreciation for the art…      Urban dictionary has a great definition, but I’ll leave that education up to you… 

iPhone” /‘EYE-fohn/     I am classifying all phones that have a camera in them, yes, even if you have an Android or any other non fruit branded cellular devise. I am pro Apple products, have a Canon camera, and use Adobe products. I don’t have experience with anything else.

Real Camera” /ˈrē(ə)l/ /ˈkam(ə)rə/     I am talking about any camera that doesn’t have a telephone included, specifically for the case of this blog post a DSLR, because that’s what I use. — Also, not a point and shoot, wait that needs a definition as well. 

Point and Shoot Camera” /‘point/ /‘and/ /‘SHo͞ot/ /ˈkam(ə)rə/     Though they are cameras, they are more compact and designed for simple and easy operation. They are really designed for those "who do not consider themselves photographers.” But that’s not you!

Why use iPhones? 

The better question is why not use an iPhone? On the iPhone 5s there is a built in camera that has an eight megapixel, f2.2 aperture, 1080 HD video recording, etc. That is absolutely phenomenal considering all the other capable functions of an iPhone. 

The iPhone is the size of what would have been considered a spy camera in 1970… not that iPhones are immediately associated with international espionage, or some creepy dude for that matter, but is reveals the amazing size of the iPhone. Being as compact as it is, the iPhone can be taken with you almost anywhere - a luxury a real camera does not always provide. I have been on hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California where I intentionally chose iPhone photography that day simply because I didn’t want to pack my DSLR. 

The portability and functionality of an iPhone are incredible considering the camera that is packed inside of the devise. The other major advantage is the ease of actually taking a photo. With updated iOS systems on the iPhone I can pull my phone out of my pocket, swipe up, press the “shutter button”, and literally within three or four seconds take a photo that has been automatically focused and exposed for me. 

That does not include the ease of editing with an iPhone. Almost as quickly as you can take the photo you can edit it in a few steps, or one step with a photo filter. Editing apps such as Vsco and Afterlight make editing brilliant and super easy. The apps make your iPhone photo posted on Instagram look great, which then makes you look great. That’s why you love photography so much with the iPhone, right? 

You can have the camera always on you, its easy to take a photo, and easier to make it look great with editing. That’s why you choose iPhone photography. That’s why I chose it over attempting to touch a real camera. I had a iPhone for two and a half years and used the heck out of it before purchasing a real camera. People so graciously would compliment my photos, but I knew there was more to photography than what I could make happen with an iPhone so easily.

Why try a real camera?

The first reason to cross into real camera land is a real camera removes the limits on how a picture is made by controlling the elements that expose an image. Those elements are aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, and ISO. They can be manually operated which dictates the success of an image. Those elements are controlled in a manual setting. An iPhone chooses the settings for you in the majority of cases. 

          // Can’t someone put a camera on an automatic setting and its the same situation as an iPhone?//

Yes, wether an iPhone or an automatic setting on a camera, it is still the equipment choosing for you how to expose the subject.

The ability to manually control the exposure is important for one main reason, the subject. The equipment doesn’t know who or what your subject is, only you do, and when it chooses what to expose the subject may not be captured correctly. The result is either a blown out image, over exposed (too much light), or underexposed (not enough light, too dark). 

A manual setting allows you to find the balance of light on a subject. 

For instance, Ashley and I were on a hike in Big Sur, and arrived to a spot on the trail where green pine trees, mountains, and ocean all collided. In attempting to capture the scene I used manual settings to best expose the landscape in order to reveal all three (trees, mountains, and ocean) properly. The automatic setting did not know what the subject was and chose the darker area of trees, which then caused the mountains and water to not be revealed. If I would have stuck with the auto setting and thought, "I can edit this later", I would have been wrong. Only the manual setting could capture all three and make editing possible for all three in one image. 

     Side note: editing is not meant to manipulate an image beyond what reality was at the           moment the image was captured. Editing is meant to reveal what was reality in the moment, beyond what the camera was able to capture. Don't over do it. 

Without the freedom of manual settings what you want cannot be properly exposed. 

The second reason to move to a real camera is the challenge. If you enjoy the hobby of photography or want to begin making money in photography you must be continually learning and pressing yourself into different elements of photography. Anyone can work a phone, not everyone knows a camera. The general perception of photographers is it’s just clicking a button on top of the camera, right?          

// What if I fear the photos not looking as good as my iPhone photos? // 

The truth is some who are great with their phones will not be good with a real camera.                                          How can you know if you will be good? If you have noticed improvement in your photography you are on the right course. Period. Look through your photo albums or Instagram account, have your photos improved? If yes, then there is hope! If not, don’t be discouraged, find a photographer you admire and begin to examine their work. As you study their work and not just scroll through their photos quickly you will gain vision for your own photos. If anything, just recreate what they have done and how they make their photos, from there you will begin to create on your own with your own ideas. 

Wether you have seen improvement or not you will not be good at the beginning, but that’s the adventure in learning a camera and photography as an art. Every professional, even the best in the world, were “not good" at the beginning of their photography life. 

Also, there is no pressure to be a pro at editing, especially Photoshop at the beginning. You can take your real camera photos and use an editing app, or Instagram filter. But as you progress do expand your editing skills by learning editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop. 

Just because you have a baseball bat and glove you are not a Major League Baseball player. In similar fashion, just because you have a iPhone or “real” camera does not make you a photographer.          

// Wait, Josh, I need encouragement! // 

It’s about the person handling the camera just like the player using the bat. Until the player stopped using the tee in tee ball he didn’t know how to be a professional. Until you pick up a “real” camera you may not know your potential. Get your hands on a real camera and see what happens! You were created to create, their is creative potential in you, I promise you that…

Do you have any other thoughts about iPhone photography vs. camera photography? 

If you have used an camera phone and just got a real camera, what have your experiences been? 

Any other questions or thoughts, comment below! 

- Josh and Ashley Morgan 

Contributor - Ashley Morgan / Editor Hannah E. - check out her blog