Professional-Looking Portrait Taken With an iPhone and a $10 Lamp

French photographer Philippe Echaroux is known, among other things, as a great portrait photographer. You might remember his work taking studio quality “celebrity” portraits of random strangers on the street.

For his most recent portraiture project, however, he eschewed even the limited studio gear he brought out on the street with him, and issued himself a challenge: take a high-quality, professional portrait, using nothing more than an iPhone and a €10 lighting budget.

Here’s the final product:

The Iphone Portrait

In the end, the photo was taken using his iPhone, an €8 (~$10.36) lamp he found at what looks to be IKEA, and some post-processing in Photoshop Touch. And even though there was work done to the photo in post, it’s still impressive considering everything (including the Photoshopping) was done in-phone.

To see more from Echaroux, you can visit his website by clicking here.

Image credit: Video and photograph by Philippe Echaroux and used with permission

  • Mansgame

    In what universe is that considered professional looking?

  • bob cooley

    He’s got some nice work on his site, but this is not an example of it. Sorry, but there is nothing impressive about the lighting of this image. You’d get better light by the window…

    Had Petapixel become “we’ll write about anything that even vaguely has to do with photography”?

  • Steve Stevenson

    And you can make a 3×5″ print!
    But since we only view images online, this will pass as good.

  • Brad Trent

    You obviously don’t look at too many magazines, cuz this type of portrait is was what 90% of photo editors go gaga over. Subject with a vague, blank stare…markedly non-technique lighting ‘style’…desaturated color…..Hell, I could open ten magazines on the newstand right now and find ten portraits that look exactly like this!

  • Vin Weathermon

    Bob, Mansgame: you are being harsh I think; this is better than MANY portraits from “pros” I see routinely. But I don’t think that any experienced portrait photographer would have a problem coming up with something that looks fine on a webpage using the phone and a single light source. Now, would it be commercial? Reproduce to a 100 foot billboard? Maybe not. Is it award winning? Nope. But he made a point I think… can make nice images with darn near anything if you are skilled.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    I like his photos. His website uses flash though. No one should be using flash anymore, sorry.

  • Igor Ken

    I think you sir, might be confusing professional looking with professional. “Looking” is the key!

  • K G

    He needs to lose the floppy stocking cap

  • MDB

    With his quick setup and cheap light he made me think about Dan Winters’ portraits, so +1 to him :D

  • Mansgame

    To me, this looks like every other instagram picture with a little better composition and lighting.

  • Mansgame

    There was no point aside from a gimmick. If this picture was taken with a used $200 rebel camera (much cheaper than an iphone) with the same settings, it would have gotten much better results, but none of the attention.

  • G

    “And even though there was work done to the photo in post..” Seeing a comment like this on a photo blog makes me cringe. So, he didn’t just push the button and let the phone do it’s in-camera magic (aka processing), but decided to have a bit more control with post-processing.. so what?!

  • G

    5MP gives you a lot more than that. If it’s an iphone 4S you have 8GB to play with and larger prints. I’m sure dynamic range’s not that impressive on a phone though.. still I think you missed the point of the exercise.

  • DamianM

    Brad is right, it is what magazines do.
    I do Eschew(contmept, hate, vomit on) the fact that it was done on an Iphone, but he is a professional portrait photographer and he knows what hes doing with light, it doesn’t matter if he can do it with an iPhone up to a 16×20 LF camera.
    Its the fact that he understand how light works and how he can use it to make great portraits.

    Hes pretty much saying that you don’t need 10 thousand dollars worth of gear if you know what you are doing.

  • DamianM

    Hes making a point.

  • sinisterbrain

    I figured I’d try this with two CFL’s. My results aren’t nearly as professional as his; I can’t figure out why. Perhaps it’s the lack of post-production. :-p

    (note: this is my odd form of humor) ;-)

  • sinisterbrain

    Seriously though, I do like the point of the article that you can take decent pictures with what you have. Also I have to agree that you could take better pictures with a $200 Rebel as pointed out by Mansgame. Would we see it here? Guess it depends on how it was promoted. :-)

  • G


  • E

    I saw a guy run the marathon the other day and was impressed, but then I realised he could have taken the bus.. you’re missing the point: it was done with a phone. It may not be great photography, it may be gimmicky (like most of the photo projects that make it onto this blog), but it was done with a phone.

  • bob cooley

    Sorry, but the point is there is no story here. The light looks drab, flat and uninteresting.

    The only thing that looks like contemporary magazine work is the over-use of grey in the image, but he completely misses the mark tonally. As I stated, Phillipe has some really lovely work on his site, but this doesn’t warrant a mention anywhere.

    “Man uses iPhone and cheap lamp to create poorly toned, average portrait and shoots video of it” isn’t much of a story.

    If this is better than many pros that you’ve seen, you are looking at the wrong people’s work.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk about it, but if the point is that “you can make nice images with very little if skilled”, then its a point we all learned in Photo 101 when our teachers made us work with a single light-source and whatever crappy camera we owned at that time. And frankly most of the results I’ve seen from 100 level students are more compelling than this.

    Again, I’m not hating on Phillipe, seeing his site, he clearly has a decent eye and a command of Photoshop; but that doesn’t mean this experiment is successful, or even exceeds student work, and for a talented pro, it should.

  • Norshan Nusi

    Iphone ain’t cheap.

    Buying a small compact camera is cheaper. And it still can take better photo. (In terms of image quality, how good is the photo still remains on the hand of the photographer)

  • Singler

    Haters gonna hate

  • Eziz

    Sorry dude, that analogy doesn’t make sense. One would take a bus from point A to point B, while one would run a marathon for completely different reasons.

  • E

    Shooting with a phone or shooting with a cheap DSLR are two different challenges as well. Pointing out that you could make better photos with a cheap DSLR is a bit like pointing out you get could get faster from A to B with a different form of transportation. In both these cases the end-result is interesting when compared to the method. It’s not just about getting from A to B, but how you did it as well.

    And seeing this again I realise Mansgame and I probably agree quite a lot as well: too much mediocre photography gets attention because of some gimmick these days.

  • Zigmars Zilgalvis

    Ok, so i come here and read because i like to do so. There is no point to this post. That portrait is not better or worse than any other out there. Proving a point that was proved long time ago… yes, equipment does not dictate outcome result. And nobody will use what you have to represent his work. Put your iphone on a table alongside film or phase one camera and see what will you choose to work with on something meaningful.

  • Bob

    Right that’s it I’m selling all my kit including my Canon 5D mk3 & getting one of these bad boys!

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  • Tom Bryan

    why are people so amazed that this is possible? The iphone has a camera, of course it takes pictures…good ones if paired with a skilled photographer. This is like showing that a skilled driver can get a decent lap time in a crappy car because he drives it well….sure it’s interesting (the first 10 times) but that doesn’t mean every driver should start freaking out and selling their sports cars.

  • luke

    I think the light is too harsh in your picture. No contrast and it looks shiny.

  • luke

    Everybody stop hating! This picture is great! Period. And the fact that it was taken with an iPhone and a cheap light is just to prove that all you need is creativity and knowledge about light and photography to take a good picture. I’m very impressed and it makes a great statement about photography. It’s not about the gear you use!

  • Christian DeBaun

    So many people shrieking “Burn the witch!”.

    Was the exercise to take a portrait photo with $40,000 Hasselblad and $12,000 worth of lighting equipment? No it wasn’t.

    He challenged himself to take the best photo he could with limited equipment, and if that was the goal of the experiment – he succeeded.

  • sinisterbrain

    Yeah, it was meant as a joke. (hense the expression and lack of any real work put into it.) :-)

  • harumph

    Speaking as someone with a crappy out-of-date phone with a rat’s a**hole for a lens, I’m impressed. Of course he could have saved himself ten bucks by moving the guy over next to the window, but it’s still a nice picture from a phone.

  • independentskeptic

    Not really. Natural light, which is free, could have produced and even better image. It was a stunt and it worked. We’re talking about it.

  • independentskeptic

    Hate = Not liking his photo?


  • fast eddie

    - rep for using a Green Day song

  • Jason Philbrook

    The big secret is that phone-cameras need lotsa light to work well, and have limited dynamic range. Fix that, and you can do surprising quality. Someone who knows how to light a face can get good results with a phone-camera given sufficient light for it’s tiny sensor and lens.

  • Michael Jahn

    LOL – that photo looks like it needs to be run through InstaGram at least ! “Wow, that is a GREAT IMAGE ” said no Professional Photographer ever…

  • Samuel

    I could pick up the nearest magazine to me and find a pretty similar picture on any number of pages. What with LOVE and all these other left field magazines the boundaries of “professional” photography is being pushed and creating some pretty cool and innovative work. I’d have tweaked the contrast slightly stronger myself but even someone as apparently cynical as you has to admit that for a lamp and more importantly normal bulb and an iphone this is a damn good result

  • Gerard McGovern

    In years to come, people will ask “You had all these amazing cameras and yet you still took that photo on a camera phone?”

    Cameras are contextual. I can understand why people take photos with camera phones; they are portable, accessible and pretty good quality. But why, other than an attempt to look clever, would you deliberately sacrifice quality?

  • dowctor

    Thumbs up!!!

  • themobilemind

    Sure, the phone is not going to replace bajillion dollar equipment, film, or large format cameras and teams of Photoshop/Lightroom software nerds who get paid to perfect images. But the point was achieved. And unless you are being paid by large corporations for commercial jobs, the iPhone is a great tool for most image making for most people. It’s a good lesson in learning to use what you have, learn more about what is available in the app world to HAVE FUN.

    And 75 percent of what is commercially shot ends up in a quarter page sized ads in magazines or is airbrushed and photoshopped to death. The hall monitors and judges of good quality photography these days are who??

  • Oskar???

    So, portrait means only the head and a little under. And a profesional portrait means the subject looks left, to nowhere, against a dull wall and is lighted by an upper right corner difuse light.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Uh, what? No one should use flash is some kind of new age rule? I think you should use whatever you darn well feel like to get whatever look you want.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Ok, so imagine this portrait of a young guy only bearded and the opposite side lit of course. This iphone image looks similar to a master renaissance Edgar Degas portrait to me. It does not need to be tack sharp, tonally “photographic” to be artistic in my opinion. Just saying…art, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all…he could have done it with a cheaper phone, cheaper camera, sure. Someone raised the challenge and this is what he came up with. Why don’t you do the same thing and post your results? I’ll bet they would look awesome.

  • Mihajlo

    Taken with samsung s3 front camera
    post production in phone using snapseed + pixlromatic

  • Matt Thomas

    Practiced skills over camera…true…but…the reverse can be true as well.
    About 40 years ago, I was working with a former LIFE photographer who was at that time working on an assignment for Fortune magazine.
    This entailed 6 inside photos, both b&w and color, along with a single color full cover shot of a huge crowd of people (I believe it was a convention of some kind).
    He was using a pair of Nikon F2s film cameras with motor drives @ 7 fps. For this single project he used up some 30 cans of film @ 36 frames each.
    He admitted to me that one of the secrets to great photography was in firing off “one hell of a lot of film.”
    There is no reason to believe that the digital revolution has changed this.

  • Jeff Majors

    wow, that’s an amazing potrait and I am tired of those “professional” trolls feeling threatened by the speculalar image taken with a smartphone and post processed so well. Kudos!

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Yeah, except Flash doesn’t work on mobile devices and has weekly security exploits.