You do not need to buy the iPhone X to capture better mobile photos — DIY portrait mode

Let’s quickly talk iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X model camera specifications

If like me, you buy a smartphone camera that just happens to have a phone built into it — then you too, were looking forward to watching the announcement of the latest iPhone X (pronounced ten) and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Did it get you excited to buy the iPhone X?

There are many great traditional tech sites PC Mag, Wired and CNET that have detailed all the specifications and the technical advancements of each iPhone.

As a quick summary; apart from longer battery, wireless charging, stainless reinforced glass back and Face ID on the iPhone X — here are the main camera specific improvements above the iPhone 7

iPhone 8

  • Improved slow motion video at 1080p resolution

iPhone 8 Plus

  • Portrait mode lighting intelligently adds lighting effects to sections of your face.

iPhone X

  • Portrait mode additionally available on the front camera
  • Improved front camera with portrait mode lighting
  • Optical image stabilisation (OIS) on both of the dual lens (iPhone 8 has OIS on the wide angle lens only)

Can you achieve these benefits without the iPhone upgrade?

YES — You can already create a blurred background on any smartphone!

Blur the background of a smartphone photo using picsart app
Photo of leaves - iphoneography and editing on the iPad
Download our recommended top six mobile photo editing apps for Android and iOS

In my recent article, I detailed smartphone specific techniques and my top three mobile photo editing app recommendations to easily blur the background. The benefit of using mobile editing apps is that you can selectively and creatively control the strength of the background blur and darken the background where ever you like.

iPhone X showcasing the Portrait lighting mode
Image by — Apple demonstrating Portrait Lighting
You do not need to buy the iPhone X to create portrait lighting
DIY Portrait mode using Retouch and Snapseed apps

After opening an image in the Retouch app for the first time — you will be guided through a built in tutorial that does a fabulous job explaining how easy it is to select the area of the image to keep in focus and where to blur.

Snapseed app is one of many options to darken the background. In this YouTube video, you will learn three different options to selectively brighten or darken sections of an image — including the background.

You can achieve sharper images in low light without the additional optical image stabilisation

iPhone photography free mobile photography course

If you choose to buy the iPhone X — you will have optical image stabilisation on both lens on the rear facing camera. There is no doubt, this is amazing technology that really improves the sharpness of images.

You can easily improve the stabilisation on your existing smartphone by following some of the tips, covered in day one of my free mobile photography course.

Tuck your elbows in against your body, rest your elbows or your actual hand holding the iPhone up against something stable. If practical, a tripod will provide the best stability. Did you know, you can also trigger the camera by pressing the volume button on the attached earphones.

The other cause of a blurry image at night is the actual person (subject) moving. That requires more advanced smartphone photography — manually control of the camera to speed up the shutter speed and increase the ISO. Yes, you can use your iPhone manually like an SLR! This can be achieved using an iOS camera replacement app, such as Camera+ by Tap Tap Tap or ProCamera by Cocologics. You do not need to buy the iPhone X to use these. An iPhone using iOS 8 or above can make use of these incredible apps.

If I buy the iPhone X — Will I be a better mobile photographer?

NO — Well maybe a little! The secret is to understand the ingredients a great image.

Being better at any trade or hobby is has very little to do with the tools — photography is no different. As a late adopter to mobile photography and now a self-confessed mobile purist — I love the fact that I have some limitations with my equipment. It has forced me to concentrate on what makes a great photo — how to capture the scene and communicate the story. Read more about my story here.

When travelling, you want to capture the moment. You do not need to the most technically correct image to sell or exhibit. You want to preserve the experience in a way that best visually describes where you are, what emotion you were feeling at the time and allow you to relive the moment long after your memory has faded. You do not need to buy the iPhone X to do that.

Becoming a better photographer and transitioning from snapshot to WOW images, requires learning the basic photography theories to become more visually literate. Once you start concentrating on story telling, applying composition and enhancing your images using photo editing apps — your images will really become extraordinary.

Free iPhone photography course - Better Mobile Photos providing smartphone photography training

Originally published at Smartphone Photography Training.

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About The Author: Mike James is the founder of Smartphone Photography Training. You can get in contact on Facebook, Linkedin or Instagram.