Those who have been following my social media posts over the months will know that I am not a fan of using selfies anywhere in your business. I love my smart phone and I use it for photography all the time. There is no doubt that you can create amazing images with your phone, and of course the huge advantage is that normally you will have your phone with you. It is a very true saying that the best camera is always the one you have with you!
So why do I dislike selfies? Firstly I need to confess that both of the above images are ‘selfies’, in as far as they are both self portraits. The image showing me in the red T shirt was taken with my iPhone Pro 11 and the other was taken with a my professional Digital camera using professional strobe equipment. I hope you will agree that the second image is hugely better.
The first image is a particularly bad example but it serves to show some of the real shortcomings of an iPhone selfie, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU USE THE FRONT FACING CAMERA. There are problems with bad light, chimneys growing out of my head, a cluttered background, two days of stubble (this was taken to represent a really bad selfie) BUT even when you take those things away, the iPhone camera has some really significant drawbacks.
Here is a (slightly) better selfie. Still has a cluttered background but the light is even and at least I had a shave! Take a look at the distortion though. The front facing camera of my iPhone is extremely wide angle (23mm equivalent). A wide angle lens, when used close to the face will cause the closest objects (my nose) to appear larger. That is why a photographer will use a longer lens (80mm plus usually) to take a headshot. The result is more pleasing. Of course you can use this distortion to create ‘artistic’ shots but my nose is big enough thank you, I don’t want it dominating my headshot.
There is of course a x2 lens on the back of the camera and that will take more pleasing selfies. The problem is that to do it yourself, you will normally have to use a mirror (everything will appear reversed - we see this all the time on FB) or get a friend to take the image (definitely the better option)
2. Size Matters
Let’s take a look at our lens on the iPhone. Can you see it? At the very top of the front screen just to the right of centre is a pinhead sized lens. It is truly remarkable the quality of images that can be produced through that lens but take a quick look above at a DSLR camera lens. There you have a collection of lens elements specifically designed to transmit light beams accurately into the (rather large) sensor in the camera. The light collection ability and quality of the resulting image is vastly superior.
3. Fixed Focus
Your front facing camera has a fixed focus point. This means that if you take a self portrait at arms length the focus will be good. If you move the camera further away, the focus will not be quite as sharp (e.g. using a selfie stick). Of course the lens on my DSLR has adjustable focus which can focus on the eye, creating tack sharp images.
Complaining about fixed focus is being really picky because actually a wide angle lens has a greater ‘depth of field’. And that is problem number three.
4. Depth of Field
Depth of field is just a technical term for how much of a picture (near to far) will be in ‘acceptable focus’. By acceptable focus we mean that it looks in focus to the naked human eye, without magnification. Ultra wide lenses have a greater depth of field. You may consider this to be a bonus but it isn’t always. If you are creating a fun photo of you and your friends who are behind you, this is a definite plus.
If you are trying to create a headshot for a profile picture, it helps to create an out of focus background, concentrating the viewer’s attention on your face (the subject of the photo). going back to the red shirt image above, if the house behind was completely out of focus, it would be a better image. Of course the modern iPhones have a ‘portrait mode’ which allows you to blur the background, this creates an acceptable background.
So in conclusion. I truly believe that iPhone selfies TAKEN WITH THE FRONT CAMERA will never be acceptable for business use.
Can we take a decent headshot with our iPhone? Yes I believe we can, using the back facing lenses. I’m going to spend some time over the next few weeks exploring how we can improve the results we get from our iPhone, particularly for headshots.
Watch this space.