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Creative Uses for 3 Lenses in iPhone Portraiture

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Read Time: 5 min

One of the most important technical aspects of photography involves the choice of lenses. On our iPhones, we have several options to choose from, and the idea is that we understand what each lens is capable of and how to use it for our desired outcome.

Lenses in photography have two important properties:

  1. The amount of area you can see with it or how wide or narrow the view is. This is called Focal Length.
  2. How much is sharp or blurry as you focus on a single item. This is called Depth of Field.

In this tutorial, we will review three lenses in our iPhone and how to use them creatively.

iphone photoiphone photoiphone photo

Let’s start with back camera lenses. 

In the iPhone 13, we have three lenses that vary from Ultra Wide .5 to Wide x1 and Telephoto x3, which are equivalent in DSLR or mirrorless cameras to Ultra Wide 13mm lens, Wide 26mm, and Telephoto 77mm. You can also choose the distance or focal length by pressing on each of the lenses and moving the wheel to the focal length that works best for your shot. 

 choose the distance or focal length  choose the distance or focal length  choose the distance or focal length

1. Ultra Wide 0.5 - 13mm Lens

This lens gives you the largest area in your image so that you can capture wider areas, whether you are doing landscape photography and want to show the vast amount of nature or are in a small space and need to get more space covered. This lens is also great for getting creative with your portraiture and using the natural distortion of this lens to your advantage. 

photo with Ultra Wide 0.5 - 13mm Lensphoto with Ultra Wide 0.5 - 13mm Lensphoto with Ultra Wide 0.5 - 13mm Lens

2. Wide x1 - 26mm Lens

This lens allows you to capture an everyday scene, with enough area due to its wide characteristic but not producing distortion. This is a great lens for documentary photography and environmental portraiture as it is sharp and can showcase enough of a scene to get details and movement to tell a story.

photo with Wide x1 - 26mm Lensphoto with Wide x1 - 26mm Lensphoto with Wide x1 - 26mm Lens

3. Telephoto x3 - 77mm Lens

This lens is great for bringing a scene closer to you and focusing mostly on that subject or object you want to highlight. There are two important qualities of a telephoto lens: it allows you to see a faraway object/subject at a larger size, and it blurs more of the background as the lens inherently has a shallower depth of field. (This applies more as the object is further away from the background). You can see the difference in the size of the palm trees in this photo versus the previous one.

photo with Telephoto x3 - 77mm Lensphoto with Telephoto x3 - 77mm Lensphoto with Telephoto x3 - 77mm Lens

Portrait Photography Examples

Now let’s see how different it can look photographing a couple with the three lenses without moving ourselves, just changing the camera lenses. You will see how those three portraits feel very different as the amount you show around the couple changes.

Also, the idea of the portrait changes. When it is Ultra Wide, it is all about them within the space, with the Wide lens you start getting to feel more of the couple, and then with the Telephoto lens it is all about the couple. 

Portrait made with the Ultra Wide Lens.Portrait made with the Ultra Wide Lens.Portrait made with the Ultra Wide Lens.
Portrait made with the Ultra Wide Lens
Portrait made with the wide lens (same distance as the previous one)Portrait made with the wide lens (same distance as the previous one)Portrait made with the wide lens (same distance as the previous one)
Portrait made with the wide lens (same distance as the previous one)
Portrait made with the Telephoto lens (same distance as the two previous ones)Portrait made with the Telephoto lens (same distance as the two previous ones)Portrait made with the Telephoto lens (same distance as the two previous ones)
Portrait made with the Telephoto lens (same distance as the two previous ones)

Now let’s see how the photograph changes in distortion by using the three different lenses, keeping the same frame but changing your distance to achieve the same frame. You will see how the Ultra Wide distorts the bodies because you need to be so close in order to get the same frame. The telephoto lens achieves the opposite by keeping the proportions right.

lens comparisonlens comparisonlens comparison

Creative Uses for the Lenses

Ultra Wide

The closer you get, the more distortion. You can play around with this property of the lens to achieve greater distortion and put the emphasis on what you want to highlight.

distorted imagedistorted imagedistorted image

Wide

The wide lens can be used for any occasion. I recommend it for including a scene where many things are happening and your eye can dance around the image. You can also use it for a quiet scene, like the one below, where the focus is not in the technical space as it would be with the Ultra Wide but on what is happening, giving enough space for the eye to look around the frame.

creative photo with wide lenscreative photo with wide lenscreative photo with wide lens

Telephoto

The Telephoto lens allows you to bring something far away closer to you, and you can play around with elements in the foreground to create a fun and creative photograph. This can be a great exercise in perspective! You can also achieve a blurry background by getting closer to your subject when the subject is far from the background, as in the photo below.

portrait with telephoto lensportrait with telephoto lensportrait with telephoto lens

Now that you know the uses of the lenses, it's time to explore and experiment! 

Next Steps

Learning about lenses is just one step to getting better in your passion for photography. Here are a few more free tutorials and resources to help you study iPhone photography:

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