Luke Shadbolt's guide to taking the perfect picture on your iPhone

Luke Shadbolt is in love with his new camera.

The Sydney photographer has been shooting on large DSLR cameras for years now, accruing an enviable list of clients along the way - but only recently discovered the joys the shooting on one of the most ubiquitous smartphone cameras in the world; the iPhone.

"On a day-to-day level, its incredible to have such a high-powered camera on you at all times," said Shadbolt.

"It's something that I used to do – have a camera on me at all times, a DSLR, to capture whatever may happen – but it can be really cumbersome, taking those sort of cameras around. The fact that now I don't even know it's [his iPhone] there is amazing."

At hand's reach

Shadbolt has just finished lunch, in Sydney, where he has been for the last two days following a week shooting on the latest edition to the iPhone family, the iPhone XS Max.

"I'm now confident that iPhone can take the sort of photos I used to with all that gear. Plus, the unassuming fact that everyone has a phone means you can take photos you'd never be able to with a huge camera in front of your face – it's opening up more opportunities than ever before."

Born in the water

After graduating from design school, Shadbolt went to work in Sydney with renowned surf photographer, and soon mentor, Phil Gallagher, on a surfing magazine. Shooting the surf and surfers, proved only natural.

"I'd been surfing from a young age; from ten or so," said Shadbolt.

"That's how I got into photography from the beginning. Then when I was art directing for a surfing magazine, I saved up to buy a DSLR and underwater housing, and started from there."


It wasn't long before the surfing world took note of Shadbolt's unique eye. At a time when surf photography was equal parts sport, and clothing and alcohol branding, Shadbolt's surf photography captured the power and majesty of the ocean, exploring the isolation and vulnerability that comes with traversing the vastness of the open water on a surfboard.

Praise from Caesar

Shortly after this rise to fame, Shadbolt came to the attention of one of the most namechecked personalities in the world of technology: Apple CEO, Tim Cook.

"I'd been shooting on iPhone; I couldn't even tell you for how long," said Shadbolt.

"I was sharing things on Instagram when a photo I shot on iPhone last year [2017] was retweeted by Tim Cook."

Cue: the world's attention. If Shadbolt wasn't on the international stage at that point in time, he certainly was now. Cook's 11-million Twitter followers cooed at the photo as Shadbolt's phone started blowing up. Fast forward a year and he is one of the first in the world to test drive Apple's newest device.

Smartphone evolved

The hero of the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max is the camera. Actually, it's a number of components that combine to create the final image produced by the dual-camera system, really. We're talking about the new A12 Bionic chip, which features an AI-powered image processor, enabling the iPhone to now offer persistent HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography.

By taking multiple exposures of the same picture, the new iPhone XS is able to extract colour and details from highlights and shadows to then combine with a correctly exposed image to produce a final photo; rich in depth, colour and sharpness.

"I was pleasantly surprised with the results that I got," said Shadbolt. "It's rare for me to be happy with anything I do, especially in a situation I'm not comfortable with, like street photography."

"Thinking back to the camera I had when I first started, compared to the photos I take now, the iPhone is better. Whilst there's no substitute for good light and an interesting subject, the new iPhone definitely has bridged the gap between phone cameras and camera cameras."

Smile for the birdy

Another improved feature is Portrait Mode, which was introduced with iPhone 7 Plus. Using the dual-camera system, the iPhone creates a DSLR-style portrait by combining a photo of your subject with a blurred photo of the background. Now, iPhone XS yields even greater creative control.

"The major update is the ability to control the f-stop," said Shadbolt. "The camera shoots natively at f4.5, but in the edit function you have the ability to go down to f1.4 and up to f16; this allows you to control the depth of field, or amount of blur behind the subject [bokeh]."

While developing one of the world's most advanced smartphones, Apple has inadvertently heralded the end of days toting a bag full of camera kit around.

"The convenience of the iPhone however is that it is with you all the time, allowing amateur and professional photographers the ability to create really quite impressive images on the go, with little preparation or forethought required."

The expert's guide to snaps

  • Make sure your lens is clean and try not to scratch it
  • Get up early to shoot photos - better, more interesting light and less crowds
  • Try and avoid overuse of the zoom
  • Look for environmental anomalies: mist, fog, filtered light through trees, reflections, colour synchronicity, patterns
  • These might just sound like buzz words, but the more photos you take, the better you become at recognising a good image
  • The end result of any photo shouldn't just be to sit on a storage device for eternity, if it's a great photo it should live on in print form