Once in a while I see people lament that they don’t have a good camera to take photos. They wish they had a snazzy DSLR with which they could take nicer photos for bookstagram. The thing is, as beautiful as photos taken with DSLRs can be, it’s not just about the camera. Yes, clarity and sharpness do matter, so a good camera does make a difference. However, in many cases our smartphone cameras are good enough to produce quality photos.
DSLR vs. Smartphone Camera
In order to determine if a DSLR is really necessary for book photography, I photographed the same set-up once with my iPhone 6 and once with my Nikon D3200. Then I post-processed the photos, trying to achieve the same brightness and tones.
Based on the comparative photos I took, I’d say it’s pretty clear that you can take good photos with a smartphone camera as well. At first glance, you can’t tell that I didn’t use a DSLR for the iPhone photo. Both photos are bright with vibrant hues. The details are clear for both light and dark tones. However, the shadows do look cleaner in the photo that I took with the D3200.
Still, I think that this comparison proves that it is not necessary to use a DSLR if you want to join the bookstagram community. What matters more is good lighting and thoughtful framing of photos.
When is a DSLR Necessary?
Low Light Situations
A DSLR can make a big difference when taking photos in lower light conditions. Say, you’re only able to take photos late in the day after work or school. When the sun is nearly setting but you don’t want to use artificial lighting or don’t have good lamps, it’s still possible to make use of natural light with a DSLR. You’d need a tripod too but since it’s possible to control shutter speeds, a DSLR would produce far superior photos to a smartphone camera.
The other situation when a DSLR is necessary is to achieve bokeh. This photo that I took of Scarlet with the bokeh hearts would’ve been impossible with a smartphone camera. Slight bokeh can be achieved with a smartphone camera but only with much difficulty and not of shaped bokeh lights at all. A DSLR does allow for much more experimentation with light.
Technically, a smartphone camera suffices for book photography. In fact, posting photos on Instagram means that the differences become even smaller. Photo sizes are reduced when uploading photos on Instagram, so things like shadows definitely won’t break a photo. Now, if you post high-resolution photos on your blog or intend to print out posters, then maybe an upgrade would be worth it.
Did you ever think your current camera was not good enough for bookstagram?
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Nikita Raikwar says
I had a major photography problem right until I got myself a Samsung S8. I do know now that I have started using S8 that my Instagram looks far more aesthetically pleasing and prettier comparatively.
However, I still envy those that have blurrier backgrounds. S8 doesn’t give me the BOKEH effect too, yes I got some green stuck in my butt cause of that.
Might as well, just upgrade pretty much soon.
Thanks for the comparison though :)
I do have a camera but the problem is I am not sure whether mine has the capabilities of a dslr (mine is nikon p600 btw). And also where do you often take pictures of your books?
Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says
I love this post so much Jo! I can barely see the differences between those comparison shots that you posted which is actually pretty cool. I also didn’t know what a bokeh was before this post! My instagram shots are a mix of phone and point and shoot camera shots. With the awesome filters and lower res on instagram sometimes you can’t really tell the difference!
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I am always impressed how well pictures with a smartphone look. They definitely take great pictures. Unfortunately I don’t have a msartphone and only an old camera which is pretty bad at taking pictures, but if I make sure I hold it perfectly still and have ideal light conditions I can still make decent pictures. I agree that good lightning and position might be mroe important than the actual camera you have.
At first I was hesistant to post pictures on my blog, because of my bad camera, but after some encouragment of a blogging friend to start my recipe post feature I just decided to post pictures on my blog and while they might not look perfect, I can show off pictures and people recognize what they are. And that’s good enough for now. I don’t have an instagram account, maybe I’ll consider making one in the future.
This is the first time I’ve heard of the term bokey, that picture does look great and I guess there are things you can do with a better camera.
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Your photos are so pretty! I especially love all those bokeh hearts. Such a nice effect!
I actually do have a DSLR (a Nikon D3300), but I still haven’t worked out all the settings so none of my photos have been too spectacular yet. I think a DSLR can definitely mean better photographs and more options for effects, but I guess it requires a lot more skill and practise, so there are definitely pros and cons.
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Great post. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the DSLR and iPhone 6 camera. I think using a DSLR to take photos for Instagram defeats the purpose because Instagram is a mobile app and you’re meant to use your phone camera? I find that I can do a lot with my phone camera (I had a 5s which was great and now the 6s which is amazing) by just adjusting brightness etc.
Like you said, the most important thing is lighting. Taking photos during the day with sunshine makes the biggest difference.
I do love your photo with the bokeh though, I must try that with my camera sometime!
Alexa S. says
I actually use my iPhone 5S to take most of my photos for my blog and Instagram! I do, on occasion, borrow my sister’s camera, but for the most part, I actually think the quality of my photos is decent. I definitely think it just depends on the lighting and arrangement ;)
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Even though I have a DSLR, I’ll admit I am often lazy which leads me to shooting with my iPhone instead. It’s encouraging to see that similar results can be achieved at least in certain situations!
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Joséphine Simone says
Yep, it’s nice to know that when we’re feeling lazy, it’s totally fine to reach for our smartphones!
Cait @ Paper Fury says
I used to have one of those little point-and-shoot cameras and YES the quality was awful. >_< I borrowed my parents DSLR for ages and then bought my own because I don't actually have an iPhone, haha, but my sister is a 99% iphone taker and her photos are gorgeous. So I agree it’s also about creativity and using good lighting, and having a good subject. ;) I loved this post! YOUR PHOTOS, AS ALWAYS, = GORGEOUS.
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Joséphine Simone says
I still remember my first point-and-shoot camera. It was a hand-me-down from my dad. Back then digital cameras were just becoming popular, so while I don’t miss it, I’m grateful that that was my gateway into photography. And thank you! <3
The photograph with those heart Bokeh *melts* What a beautiful picture! I can’t wait to experiment with my camera once I have all the Christmas lights up. I have a lens that should be able to make good Bokeh effects.
The fact that phones can make similar quality photos as a DSLR was one of the reasons why I thought long and hard about purchasing one. I went with it, because I also want to use my camera for other purposes, but I think it’s good you have explained this and showed the quality in comparison :)
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Joséphine Simone says
You’re gonna have so much fun playing with lights!! :D
Yeah, I probably spent two years debating if a DSLR was gonna be worth it. And then I took another two years before purchasing prime lenses. Haven’t looked back since. I love my DSLR and have a huge preference for shooting in manual mode. I get so frustrated when I can’t do that. But I like how convenient my iPhone is, so they compliment each other well.
How did you take a photo of all those bokeh hearts, though? *drools* That is so pretty. And when I’m lazy, I just use my phone, but when it comes to light and control with light, I use the DSLR. Light isn’t captured as well on the smartphone, and I don’t have much control over it.
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Joséphine Simone says
I had a high vantage point that allowed me to make use of all the city lights :) And I agree, the control over light with a DSLR does make it nicer to shoot with. A lot of people don’t understand the functions though, yet upgrade because they believe they’ll have better photos and end up using it as a glorified point-and-shoot camera. Not ideal. So, for anyone simply looking to have fun on bookstagram, I just wanted to show that their smartphone cameras actually are good enough.