Ask Henry: How good are phone photos?

01:47, Dec 03 2012

Dear Henry

Unsurprisingly, I take a whole lot of photos of my son. When possible, I use my actual camera for this, but often he is doing something cute that won't last, and I just whip out my iPhone. These look fine onscreen, but I haven't tried printing them yet - I'm a little worried I won't have his best moments in a photo album. Should I get my real camera out more?


Hi Snapper

There are a few factors at play here - predominantly, which iPhone model do you have? A photo taken in decent light with the 4, 4S, or 5 will look fine at  6x4 inches - the standard photo size. There are many apps that you can use to print these photos, but simply emailing them to yourself (while on WiFi!) is nice and simple. To do this, simply tap the photo to bring the bottom menu up, tap the arrow coming out of the box on the bottom left, then tap "email this photo". Email it to yourself, then either print it out on your computer, chuck it on a flash drive to take it to a printer, or upload it to a online photo printing service, I like Harvey Norman.

The thing is, 6x4 prints aren't everything. Your iPhone pics will go up a few sizes fine, I've seen a 5x6 print from an iPhone 5 that looks okay - but we often we end up wanting much larger prints, or desktop backgrounds on our high resolution laptops. Who knows where photo technology will be in 20 odd years - the 8MP (megapixel, essentially the amount of tiny dots that make up a picture)  pics from the iPhone 5 might look terrible on the 1920000x10800000 pixel screens we all have in our living rooms.

Old film photos still look pretty great, because 35mm film is (kind of) equivalent about 39MP pictures. Megapixels aren't always the deciding factor here either - normal digital cameras have much larger sensors (kind of like digital film - the area which the light from the lens is projected onto) than cellphone cameras, and DSLRs even more so. In other words, the 6.1MP photos from my old Nikon D40 will look much sharper blown up than the 8MP photos from an iPhone 5, especially with a decent lens.

If your "actual camera" is a fairly good point and shoot or a DSLR, then definitely get it out as much as possible. The best camera is the one you have on you, just try to make sure the one you have on you is the best camera you own. Obviously this isn't always convenient, and I would never recommend not taking a photo because you only have your phone handy, but if you can, use a camera with a decent lens and sensor. Thanks to the pace of digital technology, the camera on your iPhone might actually be better than your old point and shoot, so do make sure your "actual camera" isn't taking grainy abominations like my parent's old Olympus did.

Another thing? Try shooting video every now and then. I don't have any video of myself as a baby or even a toddler, video technology being somewhat expensive at the time, and photos only tell so much. I made this video of my summer last year, and it's nice to have something other than stills to remembering people and places by. Lastly, remember not to clog up your Facebook too much!

If you have a question you'd like Henry to answer please email us at with Ask Henry in the subject line.


Essential Mums