• October 7, 2013

Capturing the Aura of the Scottish Highlands With the iPhone 5s

Leaving his trusty Nikon behind, Jim Richardson returns to a favorite spot to photograph, the Scottish Highlands, with a brave new tool—the iPhone 5S.


Our hike across Scotland continues. Edinburgh then up to Oban on the west coast, around the wee Isle of Kerrera, over by ferry to Mull, Iona, and Staffa, the island of black basalt columns, and then to Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.

It started out a little rough—maybe I wouldn’t get out of the corner I’d painted myself into.

That first day in Edinburgh had me worried. True enough, the new iPhone I had decided to use was delightfully light to carry as we scrambled up Arthur’s Seat to look down on the capital city of Scotland. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling to make pictures. Walking down the Royal Mile surrounded by all things Scottish, nothing seemed worth a picture. Out of desperation I took a few glib shots. Awful! Surrounded by great subjects I could see nothing. Made me feel worse.

New cameras are supposed to unlock photographic possibilities. New vistas are supposed to open up before us, the images flowing like water, creation itself swirling all around us. Then reality sets in.

We slogged our way up the volcanic crag called Arthur’s Seat, where the happy crowd did endless selfies with their friends. I got a couple of pictures, not much really. Hiking back down, I was a bit befuddled. And then we detoured to admire the swans in St. Margaret’s Loch, which posed and postured gracefully, gliding up close, easy subjects devoid of angst, however hackneyed they may be. They made pretty pictures. The iPhone liked them.

Cameras all have personalities. Or perhaps they have visual signatures. To some extent they always lead us around by the nose. Little by little we come around to taking the pictures the camera can do well.

With intense use (I’ve made about 4,000 pictures in the last four days) I’ve discovered that the iPhone 5S is a very capable camera. The color and exposures are amazingly good, the HDR exposure feature does a stunningly good job in touch situations, the panorama feature is nothing short of amazing—seeing a panorama sweeping across the screen in real time is just intoxicating. Best of all it shoots square pictures natively, a real plus for me since I wanted to shoot for Instagram posting.

Once I figured out what the camera could do well I began to forget all the things it couldn’t do at all. Hiking up to Ben A’an, a popular Sunday hike for hearty Scottish families, I found that it was really quite capable of doing nice macro shots of mushrooms in the woods. And up on top, overlooking Loch Katrine, the scenes of the children perched on the bobby peak were ready-made for simple, unfussy images.

By the time we got to the Isles of Staffa and Iona I was fully entrenched in quick, facile seeing. I played with the patterns of volcanic basalt columns in Fingal’s Cave, played with portraits of medieval knights carved in their grave slabs at Iona Abbey—even in low light in the museum the camera did pretty well. We didn’t have much time but that was OK because being quick and nimble was really quite fun.

What surprised me most was that the pictures did not look like compromises. They didn’t look like I was having to settle for second best because it was a mobile phone. They just looked good. Nothing visually profound is being produced here, I would have to say. But it feels good, and I even noticed some of the folks on our tour putting big digital cameras aside once in a while and pulling out their cell phones when they just wanted to make a nice picture.

We still have days to go here in Scotland. We are out on the Isle of Skye tonight and tomorrow it is going to rain—this is Scotland, after all. Almost all cameras can take good pictures in good situations. We’ll see how I do when the going gets tough.

Follow Jim’s visual voyage on Instagram at #proofscotland. A full collection of Jim’s photo tips can be found here.

Jim Richardson is a Kansas farm kid whose father loaned him a used camera and whose mother allowed him to use her kitchen as a printing darkroom. He has been photographing his rapidly expanding world ever since, often seeking out remote places and always searching for the extraordinary in the commonplace. One of his favorite locations is Scotland.

There are 158 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Emina
    October 8, 2015

    Good Job As always, Always like to watch National Geographic Channel and reading blog. Thanks staff for sharing awesome.

  2. Courtney Laurie
    September 11, 2014

    I went to all the beautiful places in Scotland also. I “lugged” around a “huge” camera. I got gorgeous pix, but an iPhone 5 would have been easier……and now the iPhone6+! Thanks for sharing Scotland with us

  3. Becky
    January 3, 2014

    I’ve read many comments here referencing the photographers abilities and not the camera and I’d have to agree that is an important factor. However, I disagree that the end result is based entirely on the photographers ability to recognize or compose a great shot. That’s really just one step in this process. It’s a necessary step initially but just part of the process. The ability to translate what is seen into a great shot has as much to do with the technical aspects as the photographers ability to compae a great shot. That part of the ‘delivery’ of the shot is the execution. The execution of that image into an actual print or digital image has to do with a photographers ability to handle all of the technical aspects of whats necessary to produce the image.

  4. Ron
    January 3, 2014

    I enjoy your writing style truly enjoying this site. “Measure not the work until the day’s out and the labor done.” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


  5. dave
    December 2, 2013

    Can you tell us what apps you used / are using?

  6. Sabrina
    November 18, 2013

    What an amazing photos, really impressive.

  7. Kat
    October 24, 2013

    Wonderful photos! I am not that great with a regular camera, your talent must be something else indeed. I had the chance to climb Arthur’s seat before…which I neglected for, what else, an extra hour of sleep before the tour bus left. Here’s hoping I get back there again to explore properly.

  8. jWoodson
    October 21, 2013

    Was it the typewriter that won the Pulitzer Prize, or was it the author? Seriously, folks….who knew an excellent article could ruffle so many feathers, yeah?

  9. Taylor Roades
    October 21, 2013

    I’m traveling the west coast of Scotland now – the small isles, and it is stunning. your article comes at perfect timing. I couldn’t leave the DSLR at home though

  10. Photographer Malaysia
    October 19, 2013

    Nice photo. It’s awesome.

  11. Aaron Fellhoelter
    October 19, 2013

    I could not agree more!

  12. lascavel
    October 18, 2013

    fools! is not the camera but the person behind it.

  13. Redrick McCoy
    October 16, 2013

    Very wonderful pictures. Wish i was able to see the lands of my ancestors like you have. Very nice blog.

  14. Dayle Prowse
    October 16, 2013

    Hi Jim. Lots of opinions on the use of smart phones. The purists aren’t happy but I suppose that was to be expected. Regardless, you looked like you were having fun taking the iPhone as far as it could go and this in places you’ve photographed from every angle years before. A fresh perspective – that’s really the point, isn’t it? Thanks for all the pointers, it was a brilliant trip.

  15. RoseMary
    October 14, 2013

    Very edifying photo shoot and discussion; thanks!

  16. Jerome
    October 14, 2013

    Nice picture but where is the art here any body can do picture like those, where is image behind the image the message the feeling ….

  17. Felix
    October 14, 2013

    Just love what you doing with iPhone 5s and the breathtaking shots, making myself a proud owner of the iPhone5s…

  18. Leonie Hamilton
    October 14, 2013

    Oh my, how I miss Scotland!

  19. Tanyi Zheng
    October 14, 2013

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  20. antonio carlos queiroz britto
    October 12, 2013

    Congratulations !
    Simply fantastic !

  21. Jim Richardson
    October 11, 2013

    Thanks to one and all for entering into a great discussion. Hope to hear from all of you again. Jim

  22. Jim Richardson
    October 11, 2013

    One other bit about shooting with the iPhone vs. a real DSLR. Remember that what you are seeing when you see the stuff I (or any other NG photographer) shoots on a DSLR while on assignment is the result of weeks of prep, maybe months of shooting, arduous selection and meticulous presentation. You are seeing the best of the best. A week of shooting during a tour is run and gun, shoot when you can, take whatever light you get (and be happy that you got any light at all) and get the pictures online that evening. You can’t really compare what I show you from a NG Magazine shoot and what I show you from a week of iPhone exploration. The camera is some of it, but the arduous work and the opportunity to concentrate for months at a time is most of it.

  23. Jim Richardson
    October 11, 2013

    Harry, I just like the square format once in a while. And I find that I’ve kind of gotten back into with the InstaGram postings. Now I wish somebody would make a camera with a square sensor. I know you can crop but it’s not the same as being forced to shoot it just one way.

  24. Jim Richardson
    October 11, 2013

    David B., Thanks for the kind comments and for sharing the story about your father.

  25. Jim Richardson
    October 11, 2013

    Mike, I know the Lumia is supposed to be a pretty exceptional camera. But truth be told I pretty much live in the Mac world. Thanks for the advice, though.

  26. MobiTog.com
    October 11, 2013

    Superb article – sort of confirms everything we have been saying about photography with an iPhone for years! Thanks for sharing the knowledge… 🙂

    MobiTog Dot Com – THE Global Mobile Photography Community

  27. MF
    October 11, 2013

    Very noisy images even with good lighting. Jim – did you just lower your standards for a little bit of cash?

  28. Barry Jewell
    October 11, 2013

    The iPhone always has had an amazingly good camera for a phone ever since the iPhone 4, but the shots I’m getting on my 5s are in another league some are so sharp they fall just short of being taken with a DSLR
    Top job apple 🙂
    Phones are over taking point and shoot I take if where only a few years away from them taking on DSLR’s 🙂

  29. Fu Jinchao
    October 10, 2013

    So beautiful it is

  30. Mike
    October 10, 2013

    Nice photos. Just curious if you wanted to do a shoot based on cellphone camera why you wouldn’t choose the Lumia 1020. It would have definitely taken these great shots well up to the next level. And no, I’m not a paid Nokia hack, just making an honest comment.

    • Harry Solter
      October 11, 2013

      I don’t understand the people requesting Jim ought to try it with a Lumia 1020 instead. These posters apparently never used a one themselves otherwise they would know it runs on Windows so there is no Instragram app.

  31. Ashton Nekolah
    October 10, 2013

    Great images indeed, I too have found my iPhone very useful in capturing life i own a 4s as well as the 5s and I must say that these cameras are very good to capture and I really dont care about the hype. Any real image maker knows its all about the images, today camera phones are more than capable of capturing clean shots that’s good enough for printing for memories. Keep up the great work.

  32. Kotie
    October 10, 2013

    WOW so stunning what a beautuful country

  33. Viki SJ
    October 10, 2013

    Very beautiful places. A very good photographic eye. A camera not so good and, like all of its kind, uncomfortable to hold for taking pictures. But it’s fantastic to have one in your bag or pocket, just in case 🙂

  34. Dan Gallagher
    October 10, 2013

    Gear is good but vision is everything!

    Why take photos with an iPhone? Why not? It’s good to break the mold. Experiment and try new things.

    There is a growing trend of iPhonography and I think that this is merely showing the growing capabilities of mobile phone cameras. I also think that a lot of photographers feel threatened by this. It’s as if everyone can be a photographer. Well if photography is accessible to everyone, why is that such a bad thing? We love this art form don’t we? Shouldn’t we be embracing it instead of ego’s being threatened by the lack of exclusivity?

    A good picture is a good picture regardless of what device it is captured with. It still needs the vision, the composition and skills of framing etc. Does it matter that exposure, depth of field and aperture might not need to be considered? Is there a pleasing image that has been created at the end of it? If so, great, don’t worry about it.

    Just let it happen and enjoy the results.

    I think we are in a time where there are different levels of photography. A good image captured with ease, in the spur of the moment, on an iphone and an image captured with consideration, contemplation and a number of technical adjustments to ensure the camera captures a pleasing result. Personally, I think both are valid methods and both are obvious from the final results.

    There’s enough room for everyone.

  35. Alex
    October 10, 2013

    “No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.” – Steichen

  36. Cyrille
    October 10, 2013

    Really really nice photos ! I’ve been to Scotland this summer for a photographic trip, and this remind me a lot of wonderful landscapes. But I don’t understand in this article where is the pleasure of photography. Make good photos is a real art and comes from the fact that we are regulating the aperture, the speed, the objectives, the exposition, the contrast and so more… Where can we find the pleasure to take 4000 photos in 4 days with a smartphone ?
    But I don’t underestimate the fact that those photos are really amazing ! 🙂

  37. Alan Hughes
    October 10, 2013

    Cameras do matter, but it is still possible to take good pictures with a poor camera, and a good photo taken with a good camera will obviously look better than the same good photo taken with a poor camera.

  38. David B
    October 10, 2013

    Sorry, I hit the post button…these were early mono machines that ran at 7.5″ per second to reduce wow and flutter. When I told my dad about something new coming out called cassettes and that they would run at 1 7/8″ inches per second, his comment was that they would not be able to reproduce music. In much the same way, conventional wisdom says these phones with their non existent focal length should not be able to take pictures.

    I remember seeing my Dads face when he listened to my first prerecorded cassette (The Carpenters). He was amazed at how stable the sound was. Was it up to the standard of top-of-the-line Crown 10″ reel-to-reels? No…the early cassettes were also mono. But my Dads reaction was surprise and then appreciation for what had been accomplished.

    So much easier to record for the folks he had sold those huge boxes to 10+ years earlier.

    Looking back I think my dad taught me an early lesson about appreciation. He could have got all defensive about being proved “wrong”. But he simply was impressed and enjoyed the music.

    Jim, we appreciate what you are doing…most of all that you continue to enjoy your craft and are sharing it with us. Thank you.

  39. rene vem
    October 10, 2013

    The best camera is the one you took with you. Nikon S01!

  40. Paul
    October 10, 2013

    Good comment James.

    Ok it is what it is – a bit of fun. All i’m saying is I can see the limitations a great photographer has shooting with an iPhone but if it’s just for fun then ok. I just would rather be looking at photos by Jim taken with a better camera.

  41. Harry Solter
    October 10, 2013

    One question Jim, since you’re kind in responding to so many people here, why square photos? Should I presume this is a (mandatory?) Instagram thing? If not, would you otherwise upload in it’s original AR? Or do you like the square format more? Perhaps coming from 4 by 5, or 8 by 10 photography? Just curious.


  42. David B.
    October 10, 2013

    Jim, Thank you. You mentioned film types, grain, etc. Years ago a friend of mine had a Cannon AR1 and I had an Olympus OM1…which was a “better” camera? For a month or so we took pictures (slides) of the same “stuff”. I hated to admit it but Fred was right time after time, the Cannon took better shots. The pictures from the Cannon just looked “better”. One evening someone with more understanding joined us an immediately asked who was shooting the Extachrome & who was shooting the Kodachrome…? I was shooting Ectachrome 64 & MR Cannon was shooting Kodachrome 25…I still look back with good memories because we were having fun taking pictures and on the side a good joke was played on me. Another equipment example comes from my dad. In the the late 50’s he sold 7″ reel-to-reel tape recorders in northern Ontario Canada. These were early mono machines

  43. Peter Zagar
    October 10, 2013

    I shoot with a Canon 7D & 5D Mark II and I on occasion I will use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7. Each camera has it’s own personality and character. I personally feel that the Panasonic takes fantastic HDR shots while the 2 Canons HDR’s are marginal. Regardless of what camera you use, I think Jim’s words pretty much sums it all up “New cameras are supposed to unlock photographic possibilities. New vistas are supposed to open up before us, the images flowing like water, creation itself swirling all around us. Then reality sets in.” I interpret this to mean, regardless of what camera you use, it is always the eye of the photographer which will make or break a photograph. While the photos which Jim is showing us are nice, there is nothing great about these photos. The photos certainly do not represent the photo quality which, I think, we are all accustomed to seeing when viewing Jim Richardson photos. (Put aside the fact that they are of Scotland) In my opinion, the composition of each of the photos is what makes the individual photo. I think a side by side comparison of each photo shot also with his Nikon would confirm my point.

  44. Tomas
    October 10, 2013

    It is easy to produce nice photos in nice Scottland 🙂

  45. Vlad Tia
    October 10, 2013

    One of the best photos I have seen or taken was done by me on a very early low end Agfa camera. To this day the model I was shooting calls it the Agfa shot

  46. Judy Jean Manges
    October 10, 2013

    Loved your pic the one of the ice above and looked like a cave….wow that was awesome.

  47. Francesco
    October 10, 2013

    Oh yes! I have three Ferrari in my garage but when i need a car, i enjoy to go walking… does it make not sense? Using an iPhone for a professional shooting is the same.

  48. jana
    October 9, 2013

    Because Scontland is simply beautiful. You can’t make bad photos there!

  49. Patti
    October 9, 2013

    When I first got into photography, my middle school photography teacher told me that a true photographer can get the shot with any camera…it’s all in the eye for the shot. To this day I find this philosophy to hold quite true. With this new digital age, everyone who purchases a camera claims to be a photographer…..Reality, you either have an eye for it or you don’t…that is the difference between an artist and everyone else. Equipment can make the job easier or harder, but in the end, the artist knows how to get the shot AND doesn’t need to spend hours with photos software to perfect the image! Jim is an artist.

  50. Becky
    October 9, 2013

    I see some noise in the outer areas of the images. In the clouds. Also, I believe the iPhones only offer 18bits of color. I’m not sure how that translates into the actual image production, but if the original image couldn’t record more than 18bits it would seem insufficient in its color range. I’m not an equipment snob, however, in my opinion, this is not a true comparison. It’s like apples to oranges. The phone is merely a point and shoot type of camera in terms of its abilities. And if you’re in a pinch without your DSLR, this comes through for recording the image. Plus panorama is nice.

    October 9, 2013


  52. manoj m kamble
    October 9, 2013

    amesome! place and nice phtography

  53. aleda
    October 9, 2013

    Mr. Richardson,
    Thank you for continuing to teach us all by doing what you love, and for pushing boundaries. I am certain I will continue to learn from and be inspired by you for quite some time to come.
    Thank you again.

  54. nathan yabrough
    October 9, 2013

    i am a nature photographer as well, and only use my iphone, no one knows the diff, the doctored up looking 1,500.00 + camera pics people post in groups, look fake, or like paintings with air brushed water, not natural look at all… its the person, more that the tool, people don’t leave a high end restaurant, and say” your grill is the best !” ( its the cook )

  55. TRRosen
    October 9, 2013

    Amazing the number of paid MS/Nokia posters here. The 1020 has been reviewed and found wanting. More pixels does not equal higher quality and photographers know that. And for the noise whiners…YOUR LOOKING AT FRICKIN JPGs. Of course there is noise in the sky and shadows.

  56. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    As for noise. I come from era when noise was grain, like the grain in Tri-X when you pushed it to ASA 1200 (remember ASA, anybody) in Acufine or 2400 in Diafine (that was a laugh). Grain was our badge of honesty. Real, honest pictures had grain. So I just can’t get that worked up about some noise showing up in an image. Noise is only rarely fatal to a picture. Bad content kills most pictures. Along with bad seeing. Noise ranks way down the ladder of photographic problems in my book.

  57. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    As far as quality goes, yeah, the skies can get a little grainy if you have to push the processing very much. And I can see that the iPhone itself is not always the best monitor to be doing color correction on. (Anybody surprised to hear that?) But I did like iPhoto on the iPhone because I could do rough and ready sorting to come up with a selection of images to choose from. Then iPhoto would let me export the image to SnapSeed for corrections. And then Snapseed would let me export to InstaGram. Not such a back workflow for doing it all on the iPhone. If I had 15 or 20 minutes before breakfast I could get five or six images online. I also imported all the images into an Aperture file, but of course, you can’t upload to Instagram from a Mac. And I couldn’t wait until I had WiFi to do all the uploading. Not enough time. Ah, compromises. But I got a lot of images up and seen.

  58. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    Right you are, Edinburgh isn’t in the Highlands and it was a stretch for me to include it, although it was part of our trip. You got me.

  59. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    When I was talking about the iPhone’s limitations I just meant pretty obvious stuff, like no super telephoto or extreme wide angle, no true low light capability (to match a full frame DSLR) and not long time exposures. That’s all. Of course if the iPhone had all that stuff it would weigh a ton, too, and then I wouldn’t like it, probably.

  60. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    Glad you liked the photos and got a bit of a tour of Scotland. Thanks, everybody, for contributing to the discussion. Jim

  61. Jim Richardson
    October 9, 2013

    Steve, you missed my point, or I didn’t put it very well. Arthur’s Seat is a great place to see pictures, and there are plenty there, it was me that was failing. I couldn’t make any pictures in a perfectly good location. My fault.

  62. Sheppo
    October 9, 2013

    It’s a shame you didn’t take the Nokia Lumia 1020 out instead. The subject matter’s great, but you could have much better pictures as a result.

  63. Shaun
    October 9, 2013

    The photos document his trip and try to convey some of the wonder that is Scotland.

    Photography is not supposed to be an exercise in comparing technical specs.

  64. Adron Gardner
    October 9, 2013

    I don’t know about reinvention Jim. The iPhone is a decent camera. But we are grading it on a curve. A Minox was pretty good 50 years ago and it didn’t come with a data plan.

  65. Woody ONeal
    October 9, 2013

    When, not if, smartphones can shoot RAW, the conventional wisdom of DSLR’s will be seriously compromised.

  66. His Shadow
    October 9, 2013

    “Jim Richardson didn’t purport to replacing a professional kit with a camera phone. He wrote an article pointing out that it was a fun and serviceable option.”

    It’s aggravating that despite Jim’s clear intention regarding this article that it’s still necessary for you to restate the above fact for those who saw the title and let fly with their partisan bromides.

  67. CharlieB
    October 9, 2013

    So, National *Geographic* – explain to me how Edinburgh is part of the Scottish Highlands?

  68. Steinar Knai
    October 9, 2013

    Frankly, he did not hide that he was shooting with an I-phone. On the contrary. I find the results are about what you could expect from a great photog who can see. Never mind that the images might have been different or “better” with a pro dslr. He made them and they are great. Thanks Jim for showing that equipment is not everything.

  69. Eko A.
    October 9, 2013

    I wish I have 1/10 of your talent, so I can photograph all the things that I love and I enjoy. I always admire those who can and most of the time, good pictures give me warmth in my heart, so these ones. Thank you for sharing.

  70. Lesley Stannard
    October 9, 2013

    Fantastic composition – Jim Richardson has made stunning images – surely that’s all that matters. I wish I could do so well with my DSLR!!

  71. Aaron
    October 9, 2013

    Forget the type of camera, or motivational aspects, if we are to comment on the pictures themselves, I cannot get past the noise in all of the photos. Was this in the originals or a result of reproduction and compression on websites? They are of couse nice photos, but the noise is far too distracting for me. Blue sky noise is especially apparent.

  72. Olul
    October 9, 2013

    On a second foto this is place where Albus Dumbledore was buried?

  73. Kevin
    October 9, 2013

    Then there’s the ethics question about whether it’s OK to use HDR. Isn’t HDR the same as a composite photo? Does National Geographic allow HDR to be used with DSLRs?

  74. Kevin
    October 9, 2013

    Commenters have denounced equipment snobs, but to me the real snobs are the people using cellphone cameras. Several of my friends don’t own a smartphone, because we can’t afford the contract. In our view, smartphone owners are the snobs.

  75. A.D.Wheeler
    October 8, 2013

    Yaaargh, noise, noise, NOISE!! Very poor results. No, I am not a snob, just telling you what I see. Not my fault if you can’t see it.

  76. marissa j tan
    October 8, 2013

    amazing shot

  77. Joe
    October 8, 2013

    The Nokia Lumia 1020 would have given you far superior pictures.

  78. Freerange
    October 8, 2013

    @Paul – Jim Richardson was too kind to you in his response to your comments. I will not be so. What an arrogant thing to say – it is something that shows your complete lack of knowledge of the art of photography, let alone the technical aspects. In the days of film cameras we had beautiful art based on materials such as tri-x 400 that when pushed to 1200 or 3200 could make beautiful B&W shots with high grain when created by a talented photographer. Photography has NEVER been about getting only the highest resolution or color saturation. Only the ignorant would take such a position. Just ask Van Gough!

  79. john
    October 8, 2013

    I don’t care for these photos at all… they are so candy-colored they seem to be from Disney rather than National Geographic.

    The iPhone 5S surely doesn’t do this to the images? Not with it’s refined lenses, sensors and processor? I so hope (and know) that it’s enhanced, and to a ridiculous degree. This is to photography what Elvis on velvet is to painting…

  80. Steve
    October 8, 2013

    This guy sounds quite pretentious. “I couldn’t find a good picture” while on Arthur’s Seat… Whit a load ay rubbish! It’s SCOTLAND!!! Everywhere you look is a great picture waiting to be taken. It’s the “eye” of the photographer, NOT the camera! A homemade camera obscura could take amazing pictures in Scotland. For those who have never been to Scotland, the pictures, as amazing as they are, DON’T do it justice!

  81. ThomasM
    October 8, 2013

    Annie Liebovitz from two years back: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8903814/Annie-Leibovitz-praises-iPhone-camera.html

    Jim Richardson didn’t purport to replacing a professional kit with a camera phone. He wrote an article pointing out that it was a fun and serviceable option.

  82. ThomasM
    October 8, 2013

    SteveJ, that was a smarmy and insulting post. No excuses.

  83. Rob Knight
    October 8, 2013

    Seems really easy to get lost in the discussion of gear. The real questions is, do these capture the beauty, emotion, and wonder of the place/moment?


    I appreciate the photographer for trying something different while still showing an eye for the essence of a new place.

  84. ukpetey
    October 8, 2013

    Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures Jim. I have a DSLR and there are times when only that will do. However these shots show that the iPhone 5s has a more than capable camera, and I’m delighted. So often I don’t have my DSLR with me, just my phone. From later this month – when Apple deliver it – I’ll have my new iPhone 5s.

    I can’t wait!!!

  85. Simon
    October 8, 2013

    Did you use any of instagram’s filters on these?

  86. Ellyn McNamara
    October 8, 2013

    Wow photo snobs make me want to punch something. These pictures took me on a 10 minute vacation at my desk. I’m not looking at a 4k Screen, nor am I looking for a particular quality of photo. They are good. But what does it capture? Does it create a feeling for the viewer? I say yes! Yes it did. And in the end the snobbery doesn’t matter. There are thousands of shots taken with the equipment that most of us have around at all times. I say it’s inspiring, beyond just the pictures. It will inspire more of us to get out there and take some real beautiful creative pictures with our iPhones and share another vision with the world. That is if people can get off their high horses and just shoot with what they have!

  87. Steve J.
    October 8, 2013

    Really? What sort of kick back you getting from our friends at the big “A”

  88. Itay
    October 8, 2013

    Great photos!

  89. Alex
    October 8, 2013

    After reading this.. Im now even more inspired and motivated to continue shooting with my iphone 4S.. I have a Nikon D3S.. But hell yeah just wanted to challenge myself and prove that this baby (referring to my Iphone 4S) can really shoot! I have an album in my facebook account named “i shoot IPHONE”.. Hope i can share it with you guys..

  90. Gregg
    October 8, 2013

    Jim, thanks for your photos, the article, and for your follow-up comments to Paul.
    Moderator, please post this one without the typos. I shouldn’t have typed the comments on my phone.

    Paul, I’m sure your photos taken with your Leica, Nikon, Canon, Fuji, or whatever SLR you currently have in your hands are breathtakingly stunning. What issue of National Geographic are they appearing in?

    Your comments here are like telling Michael Phelps that he shouldn’t lower himself to swimming in a public pool … or like telling Tina Fey that telling a joke without it being filmed is an insult to comedians everywhere. Silliness abounds. What a first-world conversation.

    Art, beauty, photos, perspective, and eye speak for themselves and Jim’s pictures are a bright spot in my morning. Thanks for sharing. Paul, I wonder if your first grade report card had a comment that said, “Doesn’t play with others”? Please grow up.

  91. Gregg
    October 8, 2013

    Jim, thanks for your photos, the article, and for your follow-up comments to Paul.

    Paul, I’m sure your photos taken with your Leica, Nikon, Canon, Fuji, or whatever SLR you currently have in your hands are breathtakingly stunning. What issue of National Geographic are they appearing in?

    Your comments here are like telling Michael Phelps that shouldn’t lower himself to swimming in a public pool … or like telling Tina Fey that telling a joke without it being filmed is an insult to comedians everywhere. Silliness abounds. What a first-world conversation.

    Art, beauty, photos, perspective, and eye speak for themselves and Jim’s pictures are a bright spot in my morning. Thanks for sharing. Paul, I wonder if you’re first grade report card had a comment that said, “Doesn’t play with others”? Please grow up.

  92. Joe
    October 8, 2013

    JRob – What is it that turns you off to “the photos themselves”?

  93. Marc W.
    October 8, 2013

    “Like Ken Rockwell always says CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER. Nice pics”

    If the camera doesn’t matter, I’d like to see the same photos taken with a iPhone 3G. 🙂

    I do believe gear matters to a point. The photographer is the one who takes the fantastic photos, it’s the gear they choose to get the results they want.

    Would have the photographer been happy with a much older phone model?

    “… I’ve discovered that the iPhone 5S is a very capable camera. The color and exposures are amazingly good, the HDR exposure feature does a stunningly good job in touch situations, …”

    I bet the color, exposure, DR would have been not to his liking.

  94. Aaron
    October 8, 2013

    I love photography and have been an amateur for like 15 years. I still don’t carry my DSLR everywhere, and I certainly don’t leave it in my car due to temperatures. So it’s an absolute blessing that the iPhone cameras have advanced to the point that they are nearly indistinguishable from a much better cam, and most people ALWAYS have their camera on their person. Even Ansel was quick to point out in his book (c) 1980 that as technology has improved, even normal cameras surpass the quality of very expensive cameras of yesteryear.

    Great images Jim!

  95. Kevin
    October 8, 2013

    I went on a two week road-trip this past August and found about a day into it that I had left my SD card still plugged into my computer. Instead of taking the time to find and buy a new card for my Canon, I decided to rely entirely on my iPhone 5. While there were some shots, (like a distant herd of bison), that I couldn’t capture as well as my DSLR, I was overall very pleased with the quality of images the iPhone produced.

  96. ThomasM
    October 8, 2013

    I use a sketchbook for comping and capturing ideas. I do finished professional work on board, canvas, or computer. The latter does not diminish the former. Similarly, when I travel and spend time setting for and capturing certain shots, I use my DSLR kit. Sometimes, I just want to go lightly, and the phone does the job — a photographic sketchbook. In fact, a couple of shots I got (in Edinburgh, of all places), I could not get physically with my DSLR. Very glad to have had the camera phone option for those stretched-by-my-fingers-from-castle-wall pics. Clearly, some posters here define photography only by “bigger is better”, despite plenty of history demonstrating that simple and accessible gear at hand can take powerful, memorable photos (Eisenstaedt’s Leica Illa with a 50mm F/2 lens anyone?)

  97. art
    October 8, 2013

    Some of you people need to get over yourself. The bottom line here is that these are some very good photographs taken with an iPhone.

  98. jmmx
    October 8, 2013

    I remember many many years ago, one of the amateur photo magazines gave an assignment to shoot with the (at that time new) drug store disposable cameras. These were cameras with real limitations.

    Still, the pros got beautiful shots.

    One works with the tool one has, leveraging the limitations or at least working around them.


  99. Brian
    October 8, 2013

    Can’t believe all the denial here. iPhone takes great photos. Exposure and color balance are right on. This is not the case with the copies of iPhone.

  100. Brian
    October 8, 2013

    I have a degree in photojournalism from a top school, however I no longer work in photojournalism. I have had many cameras over the years. My current digital Nikon is not the top of the line, however, in MANY CASES my iPhone 4 takes better pictures. In low light, the Nikon is undeniably better. Obviously for telephoto shots, too. But for a backlit photo? Something with the sky at dusk (great time for a photo, BTW). You simply can’t beat the Apple iPhone. Hands down, put the Nikon away, and use HDR mode.

    Getting a 5s for my birthday, can’t wait. Slo mo video will be so cool…

  101. Tyler Forest-Hauser
    October 8, 2013

    I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents and mention that these particular shots are taken from Instagram which matters because they are far from full-resolution. To those that are complaining about specific quality issues, the source is bound to affect quality. I would love to see the full-resolution shots, personally, because these really are terrific, Jim. This is coming from an “iPhoneographer” who could best be described as an amateur photographer when it comes to using something like a DSLR, mind you. But I do love these shots.

  102. david
    October 8, 2013

    very poor quality try with lumia 1020

  103. fustian
    October 8, 2013

    There is no question that a good DSLR can take better pictures. They generally have a much better sensor and more pixels.


    I never make prints anymore. This means that once I have more dots than fit on whatever screen I’m using, to some extent, they are now wasted.

    I am always surprised at just how good my iPhone pictures are. If I hadn’t been told, I would not have suspected that the pictures here were from an iPhone.

    I suspect those whining about quality and motivation are either Apple haters or those with really large DSLR investments that really, really want to believe that they made the right choice.

  104. BJMRamage
    October 8, 2013

    nicely put. It seems when a photographer shoots with a cellphone and says the shots are good, some people quickly flip-out and say they can easily see where these photos are not 100% perfect, that their high-end DSLR/SLR can shoot so much better, etc.
    But, most of the time when a photographer is saying that a cellphone (iPhone) camera is a decent camera and can shoot good photos, that is precisely it…not that this IS a replacement for the better cameras.

    I love photography as a hobby. I love seeing the great photos from my Nikon…but there are many times when, to capture a memory, I used my iPhone as it is on hand, or quick to grab.

  105. Kevin
    October 8, 2013

    Subject and composition communicate. Decent dynamic range for a tiny sensor helps. Capture and communicate. Explore and share. Thanks for the photos and for sharing the beauty of Scotland and the experience of being there. The eye is more important than the tool but the tool is pretty impressive for living in a telephone.

  106. Jason
    October 8, 2013

    “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” – Chase Jarvis

    In this case, the iPhone was the best camera for Jim. I am inspired by this to “lighten up” a little. Sometimes I get so concerned all the time about creating the perfect photo and by the time I’m ready, I missed the moment. The iPhone is great for quickly capturing the moment when your SLR is packed away. Thankfully now, when you take that photo – you can rest assured that the quality of that photo will be pretty darn good!

  107. Mike
    October 8, 2013

    Oh no!! Not DIGITAL NOISE!!! How dare we have digital noise in the shadows or other areas??!! And saying that the iPhone “limits” your ability to make artistic shots is the same as saying you can’t make good shots with just a 24mm prime as you need a zoom. Get off your high horses people! Gear snobs!

  108. Johhnyr
    October 8, 2013

    The more I look at the pictures the more I wish they were taken with a proper camera.. If I was the photographer… well, increase that by hundred times.

  109. David Scott
    October 8, 2013

    You really need to listen to Hamish MacCunn’s Land of the Mountain and the Flood when you view these pictures. 🙂 https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/land-mountain-flood/id660161495?i=660161505&ign-mpt=uo%3D4#

  110. Kate
    October 8, 2013

    Couldn’t agree more that each camera guides its owner to frame the photos it takes well. On a recent trip among three family members we carried an older Nikon DSLR, a Sony and an iPhone5. Upon our return we found that we had each gravitated to taking photos most suited to our camera. The Sony toon outstanding low light photos an amazing reflections (her owner helped), the Nikon has the crispest portraits and scenes with depth especially in mottled light but the iPhone 5 won hands down with HDR for scenery combining a shadowed foreground and brilliant blue skies in the background especially when those scenes didn’t hold still. Not to mention when we wanted to send or post a photo it was always from the iPhone.

  111. Frederick
    October 8, 2013

    I snapped an early-morning city scape while sitting in traffic a few years back with an iPhone 4, spruced it up using a couple apps, entered it in a contest and it won 3rd prize. It was enlarged and now hangs in an office hall. I’m a huge fan of iPhone photography and happy to see a great professional taking great shots using it.

  112. Jon Anderson
    October 8, 2013

    iPhone photography is great and will keep getting better. I’ve stopped lugging around my DSLR. My iPhone is always ready when the perfect moment presents itself. There will always be a place for artistic, highest quality photography, but the iPhone allows mere mortals to capture more awesome and memorable moments in our lives than any other device in history.

  113. Lutz Haha
    October 8, 2013

    I’ve left my SLR at home in this years summer vacation and completely trusted my iPhone 5 as my main camera. What can I say? I wasn’t disappointed, the 400 photos I’ve made are good enough the let the memories live on. That’s what non-professional photographers want.

    BTW – this is my favorite shot this summer with the iPhone. My wife in the Greece sundown: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/38783567/IMG_0652.JPG

    What else can I ask for?

    Cheers, Lutz from Germany

  114. Cat Norman
    October 8, 2013

    I’d be curious to see a side by side comparison of shots captured of the same subjects with a DSLR, rather than a solo portrayal of the iPhone snaps.

  115. Kerry
    October 8, 2013

    Sorry, but the blue sky in the upper left pic with the castle is all grainy. How is that superior or even acceptable?
    In full daylight not even my iPhone 4S makes such a bad noise. So has this been modified so badly??

  116. MacBlogger
    October 8, 2013

    Great, great photos.

    October 8, 2013

    Absolutely bewitching photographs of landscapes, waterscapes, blatant display of colourful imagery, vibrancy. Keep carrying forward the momentum, the intense urge to keep us mesmerizing….

  118. SteveM
    October 8, 2013

    Always fascinating to see what happens when someone as experienced and talented as Jim uses different equipment.
    In this case, was any post-processing allowed? The colour balance looks way off into the blue-purple to me. Or have the images been subjected to the cruelties of Instagram?

  119. Reiner
    October 8, 2013

    Brilliant pictures. I took both my iPhone and my SLR to Madeira last year. After our first hike I left the SLR in the hotel. It was just to much to carry. The pictures from my iPhone 4S were very good and made the balance between quality desired and amount of energy carrying equipment.

  120. Hamranhansenhansen
    October 8, 2013

    Great pics. These could also be San Francisco.

  121. Jei
    October 8, 2013

    Super pictures taken on a very capable little pocket camera.

    I think the iPhones have always captured colours and tones very well and the 5s continues this trend.

    A good photographer can take artistic pictures on any device, you just have to work closely with the camera you are using.

  122. farhan
    October 8, 2013

    Nice photographic…i like this

  123. farhan
    October 8, 2013

    Nice photo i like it

  124. Derbenutzername
    October 8, 2013

    Awesome pictures! Great photos shot with a great camera.

  125. Adrian
    October 8, 2013

    I would love to see you experiment with the Lumia 1020 also and then to compare. I am sure there are many people, not just me, that wants the best camera phone on the market regardless of OS/manufacturer so this idea excites me!

  126. Jason
    October 8, 2013

    Great shots! I have a DLSR and love to shoot for fun. I’ve also taken some great shots with my iPhone. Technically is the digital quality better? No. However the emotion of the shots can be just as good. These are great pictures because you understand what it takes to fill the lens in order to tell a story. Bravo.

  127. Enzos
    October 8, 2013

    Lovely work! Particularly the cave.

    Don’t we just love the equipment snob? (A: no). As to telling a Nat Geo photographer how to shoot… words escape me!

    Yes, you do shoot differently with a compact or a phone than with an SLR. A compact (with its depth of field, small size and cheapness) is great for getting the lens close to the subject and getting odd angles. (Holding over choppy water etc. is something you might balk at with both an SLR and a $1000 iPhone!)

    I tested the 5S while ago for couple of hours at the local rainforest swimming spot, and the panorama feature does an astonishing job at getting the exposure right even if shots across the pan include full (tropical!) sun and canopied shade. I couldn’t do that on ANY other ‘camera’. Cheers!

  128. Guido
    October 8, 2013

    When Leica used the movies’ smaller 35mm film, it got critized, and yet it was key on Capa’s or Cartier-Bresson’s masterpieces. First color photography, Polaroids, digital… All criticized. But incredible works of art have been created with all of those mediums. Fantastic photos!

  129. Jeff Jones
    October 8, 2013

    I read a litte between the lines (perhaps too much) and was interested in the way that Jim glossed over what the camera could not do well. I teach high school photography and the kids all want to use their phones because it is “good enough.” What were some of the things it did not handle well, so I can give them more definitive guidelines on when to put their phones away. (Being a rural high school teacher I can’t afford the gadgets my students can – so I can’t tell from my own tests).

  130. Aubrey
    October 8, 2013

    If only the photos of my last big European trip looked that good. Nothing compares to the lightweight convenience of a camera built into your phone, but the quality upgrade has been long-awaited.

  131. Vern Seward
    October 8, 2013

    Two years ago I visited Tucson and southern CA and left my dslr at home. Back then I had a iPhone 4. There were photos I could not take with my iPhone and some that I did take that could have been much better if I had taken them with my Canon, but that’s not the point.

    The point is that that I did take some great shots with my iPhone. Shots that I would not have taken at all had I not had my phone, or shots that would have been disappointing had I used another type of phone.

    Equipment matters, but the person pushing the button matters more.

  132. Tim
    October 8, 2013

    Very nice images … well done.

    I shoot with a D800, and now an OMD EM-5 as a back-country kit. I use my iPhone for panos all the time, and have taken many high quality, normal aspect ratio shots when I didn’t have a traditional camera with me. I shot an amazing image of the Golden Temple in Kyoto … when viewed on an iPad, no one ever asks, “What camera did you use?”

    Thanks for sharing your work!

  133. Randall Robinson
    October 7, 2013

    iPhone still doesn’t have perspective correction. Try shooting architecture.

  134. Eric Welch
    October 7, 2013

    One of the pioneers of candid photography, Andre Kertesz, wasn’t being hired by magazine editors because he shot with a 35mm Leica. So he told them he was shooting large format, printed at home, and took the prints in. They were none the wiser. Peter Staple fooled Ansel Adams with his 35mm essay on the Golden Gate Bridge construction.

    I suspect the critics here would not be so harsh if they had been told the photos were shot with Jim’s Nikon D800. I also shoot professionally with a D800, and I’m very impressed with my iPhone 5s’s camera. What’s important is the photographer’s eye. Sure high resolution photos are amazing and what we need most of the time. But lighten up.

  135. JRob
    October 7, 2013

    Looks like some beautiful subject matter, the photos themselves—not so much. Mobile phones provide a great convenience for documenting and snapping those one-off ‘in-the-moment’ pictures, for artistic shots they are rather limited. The iPhone added nothing special to these photos except for providing an easy way to capture.

  136. Steven
    October 7, 2013

    At some point in their careers most true photographers get over being equipment snobs. I think most people understand that, all other things being equal, a modern DSLR is going to record better images than a cellphone camera. But many photographers also relish the challenge of utilizing new tools in surprising ways. I believe that’s what we have here.

  137. demesne
    October 7, 2013

    Camera does matter.
    But I won’t argue if your motivation is just to point to a scenery and snap.

  138. Jack
    October 7, 2013

    Nice photos – cell phones are catching up fast with point and shoot cameras such as the S95/100 series.

  139. Gerardo
    October 7, 2013

    Amazing pictures with an Iphone!! I must say that any they are beautiful. a good photographer knows how to take pics with any camera – SLR or iPhone!

  140. Felix Widjaja
    October 7, 2013

    Well, the man behind the camera really matters. No matter what camera you’re holding. It’s you that is pro 🙂

  141. Steve W.
    October 7, 2013

    Maybe he’s not being paid by Apple, Paul. Maybe he’s challenging himself like the people who use deliberately shoot with cheap cameras or shoot features on Super-8. The iPhone is actually an excellent camera being the one you have with you all the time.

    The stills from my older iPhone 5 look much better than they should. Not as good as my 24 Mpixel Nikon D7100, but the 26 Mpixel iPhone panoramas are sometimes astonishing.

  142. Grimmster
    October 7, 2013

    Yes, these are good pictures, but not great. You can still see a lot of ‘noise’ in them, especially in the cloud shots. A dslr would have been an improvement, but they are good for instgram

  143. james
    October 7, 2013

    Really, Paul? Really?

  144. Jim Richardson
    October 7, 2013

    Paul, when I work for Apple (and I have) or for Epson (and I have) you know it. I’m very transparent.
    Why did I shoot it on a cell phone? Because I enjoyed it. I always enjoy exploring new technology and seeing where it will take me. I was one of the first NG photographers to shoot a digital story. I was one of the early NG photographers posting on Instagram, both because I enjoyed it and it was a way of figuring out the social media and what it might be used for when the subject got serious and we needed to use the tool for serious storytelling. You might have noticed that this was a bit of travel photography. Sometimes it pays to lighten up a bit, to explore, to play, to re-imagine, to see where the images will take you. I said that up front in the first blog post. Reinvention. (And yeah, it’s a little risky, particularly when you don’t know who is out there watching and what they are going to say when you try.)
    Compromises? Well, a couple of years ago cell phone photographs looked unmistakably like… cell phone photographs. Now it’s not so easy to tell. I stand by what I said. The image quality is good.

  145. Lycos
    October 7, 2013

    Jim Draper in this month’s Nat Geo:

    “McCurry shot his immortal portrait well before the proliferation of the Internet and the invention of the smartphone. In a world seemingly benumbed by a daily avalanche of images…”

    Today on Nat Geo: “We shot 4,000 images on an iPhone with HDR for Instagram!”

    Let the benumbing of image avalanche continue…

  146. Carol Halliman
    October 7, 2013

    Absolutely loved Scotland and these photos are great!

  147. Jayme Voloch
    October 7, 2013

    Nice photos.

  148. Alex Berger of VirtualWayfarer.com
    October 7, 2013

    Not a fan of the either or approach that has been floating around, but definitely love the flexibility of using my phone as a camera. Scotland is incredibly difficult to photograph, so kudos for some wonderful shots. I actually find that with some vistas and views I have a much easier time capturing it accurately with my phone than my Canon. Interestingly, there were a number of shots I took on a recent Scottish roadtrip that were much better on the iphone (landscapes and Panoramas really are great on there if the light is right) than on my dSLR. Kudos!

  149. Myriam Vega Garay
    October 7, 2013


  150. Francy Elkins
    October 7, 2013

    Beautiful – one day soon I would like to go to Scotland.

  151. teabird
    October 7, 2013

    LOVE IT! Scotland is amazing and the photos are too. I used both my camera, also my Iphone4 when the camera batteries died, during my visit in August. All photos turned out amazing. I guess cameras doesn’t matter (sure they matter but not as much as one may think) as long as you know the basics in photographing 🙂

  152. Nelly Sanchez Loor
    October 7, 2013

    Simply beautiful

  153. Rita Maria Cruz
    October 7, 2013

    Sencillamente bellas fotografías!

  154. hajes.org
    October 7, 2013

    Like Ken Rockwell always says CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER. Nice pics

  155. Christina Bartlett
    October 7, 2013

    Where else but Scotland!

  156. mylen
    October 7, 2013


  157. Paul
    October 7, 2013

    Well I’m sure he enjoyed himself all I ask is why? Maybe he’s being paid by Apple. I know this photographers work and to put it simply, unsurprisingly he takes much better pictures with his SLR. Contrary to what he says they do look like compromises! How could they be anything else? …in my opinion.

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