Portrait Photography with your iPhone!

Article by Shimizu Photography

One of the things we are asked often is ”how can I take great photos with my cellphone?” This is super understandable. Everybody has a cellphone, and not everybody is willing or able to spend $500+ for camera and decent lens, especially when they aren’t sure how interested they are in photography long term. And even if you have a camera, you probably don’t carry it everywhere with you, but most people always have their phones. What if you see something great and you want to take a picture with your in-phone camera?

Part of the fun with mirrorless and DSLR cameras is that you can change lenses to fit the kind of photography you want to do. I am a portrait photographer, so I naturally gravitate towards 50mm and up so that I won’t have as much distortion on my subject. However, if you like landscapes, you might want 35mm or lower to capture more scenery. I know with new iPhones there is an option to use telephoto with artificial bokeh (that nice blurry look) in the background, but it looks slightly fake at least to me.

If you are in the market for a new camera but cannot commit to spending $500 or don’t want to carry one more thing in your everyday bag, I have good news for you.

I recently had the pleasure to work with Sandmarc. They make interchangeable lenses for cell phone cameras with all different focal lengths. I honestly didn’t know what to expect out of this lens - I had heard to lenses for phones but was skeptical that they could deliver. I’m happy to say I was blown away by the results of this lens. The one they kindly let me try was their telephoto lens. They claim that this lens will turn the iPhone camera - which is 26mm or so - into a 60mm focal length (more like what I would use for professional shoots).
sandmarc iphone lenses
I tested this lens in 3 different shoots with 3 different lighting setups (all of them using just 1 continuous light). I took the photos with both the Nikon D3s (I got this in used for about $1300 but this one was around $5000 when it came out) + 50mm 1.8 lens ($179) and the iPhone XR with the Sandmarc telephoto lens.

Can you tell which shot below was taken with the D3s, and which was taken with the iPhone + Sandmarc?
Ok, so the second photo was taken with the D3s, but everything else was taken with the iPhone + Sandmarc. You may or may not able to tell, but I wouldn’t think twice about it if I was told they were all taken with the same camera and lens setup.

The obvious downside is that you have to have a continuous light source (a light or the sun, for example) to make the photos above happen, as opposed to using flash, which means your shooting time might be limited to during the day or when you have a bright light source. However, when you are starting out, you would most likely work with natural light during the day anyway, and most professionals wouldn’t bring the iPhone as their main camera to the client shoot (if you are bold enough to do this, hats off to you), so it is unlikely to be a problem.


You can take great portrait photos on your iPhone with this lens, good posing, and a continuous light (which could even be the sun).

I think this lens is the perfect way to get into the interchangeable lens experience and really up your flexibility with your iPhone camera. If you have money and are willing to give cameras a shot, I would still recommend going with a DSLR or mirrorless just because of the control you have on the camera side. (iPhone doesn’t always give me the control I want.) But, if you already own an iPhone and want to take your photography to the next level by understand how focal length difference changes the perspective of your photos without spending a lot of money, I think you cannot go wrong with the Sandmarc lens lineup. Plus, this is small enough to put in your pocket.

To view the original article by Kenji Shimizu visit Shimizu Photography