Asking a photographer what kind of camera they use, in hopes that tool can make you equally as proficient is like asking Shakespeare what kind of pen he used. It’s not the tool, per se, that makes greatness, it’s how you use it.

“The best camera is the one you have on you,” is a refrain echoed by photographers around the world. More often than not, that camera is a smartphone, and the kind of photos you can learn to take with it will have you ditching the DSLR for a number of reasons.


We took a family trip across Europe in the summer of 2019, and as I was packing as minimally as possible for the two-week trip, I cut down on the shoes in my bag to make sure I could fit the four lenses and Canon body into my the suitcase. 

For 14 days I dragged that bag across Ireland, Rome, and Paris. I put on a day pack and carried the lenses around and when it came to take a photo – I reached into my pocket and pulled out my iPhone 8 more times than I swung the pack around and cranked the focus ring on my DSLR.

The best example of how this worked came to light when Westjet Magazine approached me to publish a photo I had posted on Instagram from our trip. It’s the iconic view through the clock window at Musee D’Orsay with my family in silhouette.

I had taken a few snaps with my Canon, but I also fired some off the phone. The photo that was published across the entire Westjet fleet in February 2020 was #ShotOniPhone.

The same thing happened on our next family vacation to Mexico this winter. I packed the camera and barely used it. Snapping sunrise pics with my iPhone worked just fine/

Are you ready to ditch the DSLR, or maybe just harness the incredible power of these new smartphone cameras to take incredible pictures worthy of publishing?

Armed with a new iPhone 11 Pro Max, I headed off to Lake Louise to take in the Pond Hockey Classic surrounded by other incredible creators. We learned, experimented, and took some great pictures.

Here’s how you can take great photos with the best camera – the one you have on you, in my case, iPhone 11 Pro Max.


The same rules for general photography apply to iPhone photography. Simple things like working with light, embracing the flat light of an overcast day, and changing your perspective.

Know where your light is – Make sure your subject is facing the sun/s rays, this will remove most shadows and brighten the face. 

Embrace the clouds –  Overcast weather is the best time to grab your phone, head outdoors and take some incredible photos.
Change your perspective – Most people take iPhone photos from chest height, but if you get down low you’ll discover an entirely different angle to capture a shot.  For the ultimate low angle shot, try kneeling or even lying on the ground (that’s how I got these ice level shots)!
Image via @hotohockey
The portability of iPhone 11 really allowed some inspiration during the creators’ weekend. We were taping iPhone to sticks, skates, and hats to get different perspectives on the action – even a trio of sticks made for a great tripod!
It’s not always perfect – it’s okay to go back in and edit a photo. Cropping, light adjustment, and brightening the colours can be done to make almost every first take better. iPhone comes with great adjustment tools built-in, but you can also download apps like Snapseed or Lightroom to get the same kind of granular editing tools pros use on their DSLR shots.


Clean your lens! – Your iPhone spends a lot of time in your hands, your pockets, and in the elements, so the camera’s lenses can get mucked up! A dirty lens will leave smudges, blurs, or dust spots on your photos, so clean your lens often with a soft cloth or even your t-shirt. 
Set focus and exposure – You want to get your focus right to avoid your subject looking blurred. You can do this while in the camera app, tap on the screen where you want the focus to be and a yellow box will appear to show where the camera is focusing.
You can also adjust the exposure (image brightness) by swiping up or down on the screen. Swipe up to make the image brighter. Or swipe down to make it darker.
The team on the trip described the very fine detail that Portrait Mode can display as “sweater mode.” It can pick up every fine fibre and detail perfectly. Have a look at my scarf and the rope netting on the hockey net in the pictures below to see what I mean.

Use Burst mode for action shots – The best way to capture action shots is with Burst Mode because it allows you to capture multiple shots as your subject moves. Just keep your finger pressed down on the shutter button while the subject moves through the scene. Once you’ve taken a set of burst photos, you can then select the best shots from the action sequence.
Image via @jayeffex
 Keep your phone warm –  In really harsh conditions, preserve your battery longer by keeping your phone warm. Use an insulated case, or even have gel hand warmers in your pocket with your phone. 
Use grids to take straight pictures – Turning on gridlines in your camera settings is a great way to make sure your horizon and any lines (buildings, trees, etc) are straight.


Cinematic action shots – With iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, you get the highest quality video in a smartphone. So if you want to capture really amazing action footage, change your camera settings to 4k, 60fps. Check out what it can do with some slow-mo thrown in (also helps if you have skills like Pavel Barber.)
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What a trip to Lake Louise! #shotoniphone #shotoniphone11pro

A post shared by Pavel Barber (@heybarber) on


Go wide or normal or telephoto – The three camera lenses on the back of your phone offer unique ways to get a better shot of the action. I am finding the wide lens a very creative way to bring more into frame and get a wider view of a big space.
Night mode – this automatically comes on in low-light environments and lets you adjust the aperture. To take great photos you’ll need a still hand, or ideally a tripod. 
Image via @heybarber

The best camera you can own is the one you have on you and when it fits in your pocket, it’s even better. Follow #ShotOniPhone and #ShotOniPhone11Pro on Twitter and Instagram to get more inspiration to take better pictures this year!

Disclosure: My accommodations at Lake Louise were complimentary to allow coverage of the event.

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