The Apple iPhone has always been known for having a crackingly good camera. These flagship smartphones are capable of some incredible photography, so much so that many modern photographers often ditch their DSLR cameras in favour of the ultra-portable iPhone.
The results are often spectacular too. To honour the efforts and the iPhone Photography Awards were born in 2008 and have been choosing award-winning photos every year since.
“I started the awards as a hobby when I got my first iPhone. I’ve been doing photography and working in the user experience design field for long time. I was fascinated by changing user behaviour with the introduction of the iPhone. Almost every iPhone user I observed was using the camera for capturing moments. They were not necessarily thinking about photography but taking snapshots of the moments that meant something to them. My idea was to create a platform to celebrate the creativity of the iPhone users,” explains IPPA founder Kenan Aktulun.
Recently, Apple has also encouraged iPhone photographers to share their best works for the Shot on iPhone Challenge.
As you can imagine, the images submitted to both these competitions are fantastic. We’ve combed both to bring you a collection of our favourite photos taken from the last few years. Incredible images you won’t believe were shot on a smartphone.
If you feel like you’ve got what it takes, you too could submit your photos to the iPhone Photography Awards to see if you can win an award. The registration page of the IPPA 2020 is already open and the deadline ends 31 March 2020.
The 2019 Grand Prize Winner is Gabriella Cigliano from Italy with her picture ‘Big Sister’. Shot in Zanzibar, Tanzania on an iPhone X. Capturing that perfect moment can happen at any time, according to Cigliano, who snapped the winning shot while in Tanzania for a month teaching. “Before heading back to Italy we stopped in Zanzibar, where this photo was taken. I still wonder how could I capture that exact moment in all its beauty. I was just observing, a few meters from them, but they were probably more curious about me than I was about them, and that’s probably why the girl was looking at me. We couldn’t talk much, except for a few words in Swahili I had learned in the previous weeks, but those kids could definitely talk with their eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life, and I’ll keep it in my memories forever. The best part was showing them and their mums the photos, for some it was the first time they were seeing their faces, and their excitement was unexplainable, unfortunately my iPhone was in their hands and I couldn’t capture that!”
Sea Stripes was taken in Santa Rita Beach, Portugal where the striped beach tents are very typical and set the tone of the well organized and summery little villages. Playing along with this beachy mood, a bather in the distance embodies the spirit in a striped shirt. Amazingly shot on iPhone SE showing you don’t need Apple’s latest iPhone to do well, it was taken by Diogo Lage.
Sorry, no movie today
According to Yuliya Ibraeva who took “Sorry, no movie today” it was a hot summer day in Rome, Italy, even the asphalt was melting when he look this phone on his iPhone 7 Plus. “We decided to escape from the city centre to see the ancient trees of the Borghese Gardens and watch an Italian movie, but when we arrived the pouring rain began. We didn’t see the film, but I took wonderful pictures. It was great travel moment I’ll never want to forget.
Shot on an iPhone X at the Burning Man festival, Chinese iPhone owner Peng Hao, look the photo during a sand storm. “I took this photo in the desert in Nevada, USA, at the Burning Man festival. I stood on a bridge and saw two people lost in a sand storm, but after a while, something very special came along, a huge silver ball.”
This image by Alex Jiang was snapped on an Apple iPhone XS Max and selected as one of the winners of the shot on iPhone challenge. Snapped in Hong Kong, Alex Jiang tweaked the colours slightly using the iOS Photos App and Snapseed, but otherwise chose the perfect location for a brilliantly posed photograph.
One of the judges, Chen Man said: “This is a photo filled with lovely colour and sense of story in the composition. Zooming in, you can see the details of each family and their unique touch. The basketball hoop is placed right in the middle of the photo, adding more stories behind the image.”
This stunning snap of rolling golden fields was captured by Robert Glaser from Germany using his Apple iPhone 7. It was chosen as one of the winners of the shot on iPhone challenge and judge Kaiann Drance said: “Gorgeous dynamic range. There’s detail throughout the photo in the meadow, trees, and clouds. Beautiful deep sky and pleasing colour overall.”
San Juan National Forest
LieAdi Darmawan captured this photo using an iPhone Xs and submitted it to the shot iPhone challenge only to be chosen as one of the winners.
He explained how it came about:
“This picture was taken from my last backpacking trip in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest. On my second evening of backpacking in the Colorado wilderness, I decided to hike up to the ridge right next to the Ulysses S. Grant Peak for a sunset shot (right after a nap that is). The Ulysses S. Grant Peak itself stands at about 13,767 ft, so I was just a few feet below that! I wasn’t sure what to expect as the temperature started to drop and the sun light started to fade. I was the only one left up there, where a few others had long descended down and left. Boy, was I glad to stay there long enough to witness the clouds and jagged peaks started to light on fire during the golden hour—it was such a spiritual experience! Descending down in the dark, equipped only by a headlamp, was not an easy task. I fell down a couple of times trudging through steep sandy terrain. I even missed my campsite by a few hundred yards. But looking back, it was all worthwhile.”
The judges of the competition were certainly impressed too and there’s no denying it’s an incredible view.
A moody view of Utah
This image by Bernard Antolin was captured on Apple iPhone Xs Max and shows a wonderfully moody view of Utah. This photographer’s images are always black and white and often stunning, we’d recommend having a look at their Instagram feed.
The judges of the shot on iPhone challenge were certainly taken by the image. Kaiann Drance said: “Looks like a simple scene but a good choice of using black and white to elevate it with a different mood. Helps to bring out the dramatic contrast in the clouds and the surrounding landscape.”
Inspired by Green Book
Art director and iPhone photographer, Andrew Griswold took this photo on his iPhone XS saying he was inspired by 2018 film Green Book starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The image was selected as one of the winners of the shot on iPhone challenge and just Sebastien Marineau-Mes commented:
“Very unique composition and colour palette, playing to the strengths of iPhone XS. What I find most interesting is the background pattern, uniquely magnified and distorted in every one of the water droplets. I’m drawn to studying and trying to elucidate what that pattern is.”
A child in the wild
Another winner of the shot on iPhone challenge shows Elizabeth Scarrott’s daughter surrounded by the beauty of nature. Taken in Yosemite National Park and captured on iPhone 8 Plus, this image is brilliantly posed and we love the curious look etched on the child’s face.
Judge Brooks Kraft commented: “A portrait that captures the wonderment of childhood in a beautiful setting. Great composition that shows both the personality of the child and the experience in the surroundings.”
iPhone photographer, Dina Alfasi from Israel captured this weirdly wonderful shot using an iPhone X. A brilliant flip of perspective that makes our head hurt but looks magnificent.
Shot on iPhone challenge judge Brooks Kraft said: “A unique perspective and a new take on the popular subject of shooting reflections. I like that the subject is evident, but you are not really sure how the photo was taken. The puddle is the shape of a heart, with nice symmetry of the subject. The depth of field that iPhone has in regular mode made this image possible, a DSLR would have had a difficult time keeping everything in focus.”
A colourful view of our world
A glance at Nikita Yarosh’s Instagram profile and you’ll quickly get a sense for this photographer’s style. He snaps some brilliantly colourful and eye-catching images from astounding angles. The results are often impressive and striking too. This particular image was selected as a winner by the judges of the shot on iPhone challenge.
Judge, Luísa Dörr says “I like the simplicity of this image, the composition, light, details, everything looks good. Then you see one small line that looks wrong and makes me think what happened, where is this place, who was there. For me a good image is not only one that is strong or beautiful, but makes you think about it — and keep thinking.”
The architect fan
Darren Soh is an architectural photographer with an eye for stunning buildings and interesting man-made structures. This photo shows the reflection of a housing block from Singapore that particularly appealed. Posting this image to Instagram, he said:
“Completed in 1984, the HBD public housing estate of Potong Pasir (Singapore) has several blocks with a distinct #skislope roof that have become iconic and synonymous with the town. Here is a #reflection of one of the blocks on the Basketball court of the community club that had just been washed. The bird as always, is a bonus.”
This image was also chosen as one of the winners of the shot on iPhone challenge, with Phil Schiller saying: “A reflection that looks like a painting, two worlds have collided. You are compelled to think about where and how this photo was taken, the bird flying in the corner provides the single sign of life in an otherwise surreal composition.”
A cheeky chappy
Blake Marvin snapped this image using is iPhone XS Max and submitted it to the shot on iPhone challenge, only to be chosen as one of the winners by the judges.
Phil Schiller said: “The stolen glance between this racoon/thief and photographer is priceless, we can imagine that it is saying ‘if you back away slowly no one has to get hurt.’ A nice use of black and white, the focus on the racoon and the inside of the hollow log provides an organic movement frozen in time.”
She bends with the wind
This incredible photograph by Robin Robertis was snapped and submitted to the IPPAwards in 2016. The judges were so impressed they chose him as second place winner for the Photographer of the Year category.
“I was on an iPhone workshop and reunion with a friend and teacher in Cape Cod. We all went out to photograph the perfect sunset. I tend to bring a few things when I travel, one being this wonderful red umbrella. When others shoot the sunsets and beautiful scenery, I like to photograph some human aspects in these scenes.”
A wonderful piece of abstract photography that shows what looks, at first glance, to be a weirdly wonderful painting of an urban landscape. These are real buildings from Poland though and a genuine photo snapped on an iPhone.
“This photo is a facade of one of the most recognizable buildings in Pozna, the former Polonez Hotel (closed, and re-opened as
a student dormitory centre). Considered very modern and luxurious in the 80’s it has fallen in disrepair in the 2000’s.”
A piercing gaze
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, that beauty is just in their eyes. This magnificent shot shows that iPhone photographs have been incredible for years. This image by Kim Hanskamp was taken way back in 2013 and selected as the winner in the people category.
The wonky one
Sometimes great photos are just a matter of perspective. Other times, they’re just fantastic snaps of weird and wonderful locations.
This shot was captured by Cocu Liu in the wonderfully sloping streets of San Fransisco. The building isn’t actually wonky, it’s the camera that is.
A virtual view of another world
We’ll be honest, we’re not sure we know what’s going on with this photo, but we love it. A man in almost full astronaut gear sits near a biodome wearing what appears to be an Oculus VR headset. Perhaps he’s experiencing a virtual view of outer space and trying to make it as convincing as possible.
Brendan O Se snapped this close up pic of a dock worker’s dirty hands on an iPhone 6s in 2016. In 2017 the image was submitted to the IPPAwards and selected as the first place winner – seeing him crowned Photographer of the Year.
“I shot this photo on an early morning photo walk around the docks in Jakarta in April 2016. These were the hands of a dock worker who was taking a break. I was struck by the texture created by the accumulated dirt on his hands.”
A smattering of foxes
2016’s winning photograph from the animal category shows a smattering of foxes gathering around the photographer. The angle of the image almost makes it look like the snapper was stuck up a tree.
Shadows and sunlight
Tomas Stankiewicz captured this breath-taking image of an empty and peaceful street using just his iPhone. Wonderful shadows and beams of light can be seen stretching forth across the paved surface ahead.
What’s going on through here?
Bruno Militelli snapped this brilliant photo of his dog on his iPhone. We love a hilarious dog photo and this one is great too. We wonder what was so interesting.
Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
A wonderfully framed view of a Mosque which shows an amazing reflection of the view ahead. This image was shot on an iPhone 7 and won second place in the architecture category in 2018.
“This one of the oldest mosques in Iran and is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 C.E. to the end of the 20th century.”
The second place award-winner of the Photographer of the Year category came from Singapore with this image captured using an Apple iPhone 6 Plus. A street performer is seen taking a brief respite from performing:
“Chines traditional street opera is part of the Chinese culture. Unfortunately, the young generation in Singapore is no longer interested. Hence the street opera is fast disappearing. Instead of shooting their performance, I decided to go the back of the stage to capture the performers’ preparation activity. I spotted this experience performer who is taking a short rest and was waiting for his turn to perform. I was attracted by the lighting of the old plastic curtain, electric fan, and the overall calm atmosphere.”
A well-timed photo demonstrates that the newer iPhones are capable of some impressive action shots. A small boy catches some air at a skate park as his friend looks on. This photo was shot on an iPhone X at a skate park in Haifa, Israel. It was awarded second place in the children category in 2018.
“Part of a series taken at Skate park. I was captivated by these young children, who spend hours, training continuously to improve and achieve greater things.”
Lilly pad lake
A beautiful view of nature shot on an iPhone 6S. A lone tree stands in the centre of the frame surrounded by still waters and masses of Lilly pads.
“I took this photo in late June of 2016 while in Sigtuna, Sweden. I used my old iPhone 6s (native camera) then did some light post-processing with Snapseed, Photoshop Fix, and VSCO. This photo didn’t need too much editing at all unlike some of my others—nature did most of the work here. This was the best shot out of maybe a dozen or so captures.”
Eye to eye
Huapeng Zhao snapped this image in the YanTai ShanDong province, China using their iPhone 6. A small boy is seen holding a tiny fish to his eye. The black and white finish of this image adds a moody ambience that we love. The judges did too as this photo was selected as the second place winner for Photographer of the Year 2018.
“I met this boy while walking at the seaside. When I was trying to take a picture of him, he put the fish he caught in front of his eye.”
This iPhone X photograph shows a brilliant view of the landscapes of Iceland. From this angle, the photographer Naian Feng has managed to capture a shot of a frozen volcano. The dormant volcano known as Kerid is now just a crater that’s home to a volcanic lake. In the heart of winter, the surface of the lake freezes and plays host to tourists, though from up here it looks like the people below are enjoying a spot of ice skating.
On a wide open country road, you’ll often see animals crossing and trying to get to safety. You won’t often see a horse darting across your path though. This iPhone photographer has managed to snap just that, as what appears to be a wild stallion dashes across the road ahead. This image was chosen as the first place winner in the animal’s category in 2013.
One cool cat
This guy, what a dude. We’re impressed that this snapper managed to get their cat to sit still for long enough to take a photo. Nevermind doing so while wearing accessories.
Dreams in the basket
A small baby takes a casual and relaxing nap in the middle of a field in China. In the background, workers can be seen busying themselves with the daily grind. We only hope this child’s parents are nearby.
An incredible photo of life shot on an iPhone 5S. This image was chosen as the second place winner in the lifestyle category in 2018.
A cheeky fox
In 2014, Michael O’Neal took this brilliant photo of a rather cheeky looking fox out in the snowy ridden landscape of San Francisco. The image was chosen as the first place winner in the animal category. It’s easy to see why as it’s fantastic.
A family day out
From the coast of South Africa comes this fantastic family photo of a man and his two children wading through the waters. A brilliant image of family life shot on an iPhone.
A tasty meal
We all love a great snap of a tasty meal. Foodies aren’t the only ones who snap a good meal photo and post it on Instagram. Sofija Strindlund captured this photo and submitted it to IPPAAWARDS where it was selected for third place in the food category in 2014.
Birds in flight
A simple, yet wonderful shot of nature at its finest as birds are captured taking flight with the use of an iPhone. Some filters may have been applied, but there’s no denying the results are incredible.
A bad day
Someone’s having a bad day. This brilliantly posed image shows a man being led away by the police with a foreboding atmosphere as bystanders look on. This photo by Gerard Collett was selected as the first place winner in 2014 for the news and events category.
The young and the weary
A fantastic photo taken by Athena Tan that brilliant captures youth and the wisdom of age in one image. This brilliant snap was also captured on iPhone and made an incredible submission to the people category in 2014.
This sort of photo demonstrates just how brilliantly flexible smartphone cameras can be. They’re not just great at taking selfies and snaps of your lunch, they can also be used for landscape photographs, still life imagery and much more besides.
I want to play
Just a simple photo of boys doing what boys do best – getting muddy and having a great time. This image was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus in Yangon, Myanmar and was given third place for Photographer of the Year 2018.
“A young boy who lost his leg was watching his friends play soccer, and he said he wanted to play soccer if he could.”
Someone’s going to need a bath
The joys of parenthood and childhood summed up in one wonderfully messy photo. A small child caught on iPhone in the midst of tumbling into a mass of mud and madness.
The one with the long neck
This incredibly moody, atmospheric and perfectly timed photo was snapped by Shuo Li using an iPhone 7 Plus.
This image was selected for the third place in the animal’s category in 2017.
“It was taken in Maasai Mara National Reserve, on October 6, 2016. It was the last safari that day, my friend and I were leaving Maasai Mara. The sky was pure blue with beautiful clouds, I noticed a giraffe was eating Kigelia Africana leaves. We drove our SUV around the giraffe, and then I found the best angle to took this photo.”
A floral close up
This brilliant close up view of some poppies won Lone Bjørn the first place award in the flowers category in 2016.
Chained to the water
Xia Zhenkai captured this image in China using an iPhone. The photo then went on to win the first place prize in the people category in 2016.