How Apple built an iPhone camera that makes everyone a professional photographer

“Like the camera in every iPhone that preceded them, Apple is touting the cameras in the iPhone 8 Plus and the forthcoming iPhone X as its best ever,” John Paczkowski writes for Buzzfeed. “This year the company is particularly proud of these, which boast a marquee “Portrait Lighting” feature that brings a range of professional-looking effects to the already great photos the dual camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus is capable of taking.”

“This year’s leap, however, feels particularly meaningful,” Paczkowski writes. “And there’s a decent argument to be made that the enhancements to the camera systems in the 8 Plus and the X are some of the biggest upgrades in the new line. The camera’s effects don’t rely on filters. They’re the result of Apple’s new dual camera system working in concert with machine learning to sense a scene, map it for depth, and then change lighting contours over the subject. It’s all done in real time, and you can even preview the results thanks to the company’s enormously powerful new A11 Bionic chip. The result, when applied to Apple scale, has the power to be transformative for modern photography, with millions of amateur shots suddenly professionalized.”

“And to get it right, Apple relied on what it does best: enthusiastic study and deconstruction of the art form it wishes to mimic and advance,” Paczkowski writes. “In the case of the iPhones 8 Plus and X, this meant pouring over the way others have used lighting throughout history — Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Vermeer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: iPhone “makes everyone a professional photographer,” you know, except for composition, meaning, and artistry.

Put iPhone X in Joe Schmo’s hands and in Avedon’s hands and have them shoot in the same area and you’re immediately going to see amateur vs. professional in very stark contrast.

DxOMark: Apple iPhone 8 Plus offers the best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested – September 22, 2017


  1. Incredible news!

    I’m waiting for the Nikon and Canon CEOS to issue a statement something along the lines of a computer company is just not going to walk in and make a better camera.

    Let the down voting begin! …

  2. Indeed MDN take is correct digital cameras generally have generally decreased the technical aspects of great photography while freeing the creative aspects inherent in the photographer as an artist. Liberating but also frustrating for those who relied on the former to excuse their creative failures.

  3. Does Apple switch on the grid lines on the camera screen by default? It’s been so long I forgot.

    If Apple would do that, and maybe have a short intro tutorial on photography basics (composition, 2/3 rule, framing) maybe folks will start learning and we’ll see a general improvement?

      1. On the phone: There is essentially no help or tutorial. Siri directs the user to Apple’s website or Apple Support. Once the user finds the relevant page on the website, it is very good and get the user going.

        I’ve been unimpressed with Apple’s on-device Help for decades. I am no fan of Apple’s perpetually obtuse website search engine. Searching around in Google does a far better job getting you where you want to go. (Apple: That’s sad).

        1. I agree that Apple’s on-device Help is generally poor. It is better than Microsoft – I seldom get a relevant response when using Office Help, but Apple has plenty of room for improvement.

          Perhaps Apple will eventually apply its AI experience to its help functions.

          1. There is the promise of applying ‘machine learning’ to Apple Help/Support. I cynically point out that such stuff is typically tossed into the realm of ‘marketing’. But there are such people as marketing mavens who could take such a project and run with it. We can wish and dream…

            Hey Apple! Hire David Pogue!

    1. Apple does offer video tutorials that go through photography basics, including the aspects you mentioned. Here’s the start of Apple’s 23 part Playlist @YouTube “How to Shoot on iPhone 7”. It’s very good. I’ve seen ‘professionals’ mess up a few of the things Apple gets right.

  4. I’m sorry, but an iphone does not make your a professional photographer or any close and even in the same galaxy.

    First you have just the general basics of photography, most people don’t even know what composition is, Rule of thirds, etc. etc…

    Then they don’t understand light and how light affects your images.

    Then the iphone is SEVERELY limited camera. It doesn’t possess even the basics of a DSLR and a kit lens.

    For equipment any pro will tell you it’s all about the glass. The glass that an iphone just doesn’t possess. AND sensor size, a sensor size that an iphone just doesn’t possess.

    I recently shot the eclipse, something NO iphone could reproduce. I just did a long exposure on my wife brand new iphone 8 plus and the noise was truly unacceptable.

    Articles like this are just click bait for people who think they will be great photographers. Sadly, they won’t and they’ll still produce really crummy pictures and get likes on FB no matter who bad their images are.

    I could go through my catalog and show you THOUSANDS of images an iphone can not produce.

    1. I agree with you equipment alone does not make you a professional photographer.

      This works both ways. I have worked with professionals that use the finest equipment money can buy and produce mediocre photos.

      On the flip side I have seen professional photos taken by folks with point and shoots and iPhones in the right lighting situations.

      Older iPhone cameras have recorded video that appeared in major motion pictures.

      Older iPhone cameras have captured photos for the cover of Time magazine and all USA TODAY reporters were assigned iPhones years ago to take professional photos for publication.

      Smaller newspapers also assign iPhones to reporters for publication photos.

      With the new iPhones, it is becoming increasingly certain the gap between pro equipment and iPhones is shrinking.

      That said, yes the high end equipment still leads the pack …

  5. Yes, the headline is full of hyperbole. What do you expect, MDN?

    Somehow, “How Apple built an iPhone camera that gives everyone the potential to become a professional photographer if they have the talent and put in the time” doesn’t sound quite as good.

    1. MDN’s headline is spot on. You’re being being nit picky. Anyone with a brain already knows to become a pro in any profession is a combination of talent, experience and equipment. No need to spell it out in tedious detail to morons …

  6. The fact that Apple has divorced a lot of the advanced functionality from the camera module is key. That is one more thing that Apple controls on its own – less dependency on suppliers and more differentiation from competing products that use the same camera modules.

  7. “iPhone “makes everyone a professional photographer,” you know, except for composition, meaning, and artistry.”

    Thank you for stating the obvious, MDN. The suggestion that any technology can turn anyone a professional photographer is absurd.

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