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Be a pro smartphone photographer: A masterclass by the ace Sephi Bergerson

Having your wedding photographed on an everyday-use iPhone would not be an option for most brides and grooms, but it’s a trend that is catching on. How come? Most of all, it is cost efficient. All you need to do is follow the best smartphone photography tips.

At the forefront of this trend is Israeli artist, writer, and photographer Sephi Bergerson, whose ethos for wedding photography effortlessly binds art and style. His work for the book ‘Street Food Of India’ was nominated for Best in the World in the Gourmand Cook Book Awards in Paris 2010. But his most admired work is from 2016, when he photographed a traditional yet grand Indian wedding in Kerala, South India. Since then, his work is often referenced, and he himself revered as a global icon for smartphone photography.

Sephi Bergerson
Sephi Bergerson

Smartphone photography is going through a sea-change. The continual shift in smartphone technology, new phone models, and newer apps that promise the most beautiful effects have helped give users the right tools to take great images. But how does one make the most of these tech developments? We spoke with Sephi Bergerson to give us a masterclass on the best tips for smartphone photography.


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How to make the most of a smartphone in photography?

We are now living in a time of a revolution larger than of when digital photography came to life and gradually replaced film. With the birth of smartphone cameras, practically everyone has a camera in their hands at all time. As with all other professions and the advancement in technology, more and more people are taking up photography as a profession, or as a more serious hobby. Millions of pictures are taken daily, uploaded on social media, and forgotten. While a smartphone camera is an amazing device to have, the more complicated issue is cataloging these images in a way that they can be later found with the same ease. As taking pictures is now free with your phone cameras, people tend to shoot a lot more but they lack the knowledge of how to maintain an organised library. Culling these images to keep only the best ones, and maintaining a catalogue are the real challenges.

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What kind of camera features appeal to you?

The biggest thing about smartphone cameras is the fact that it does not look like a professional camera. This enables me to come closer to a subject and not take too much attention while shooting intimate moments. Other than that I enjoy the dual camera feature on my iPhone XSmax, and the ability to use the portrait mode with shallow depth of field effect. The most fun is the ability to use a third-party app for quick on-the-spot editing of the images. I mainly use Snapseed, Photoshop FIX, Mextures and Facetune apps that are available for both iPhone and Android.


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How much work goes into making a perfect professional image?

For this one, I will tell you a story. Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him. “It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.” So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?” “Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“But, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!” To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

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Are there any attachments/accessories that help bettering smartphone photography?

Where there is a market, there will be someone to develop it. There are many accessories that have come up to match the demand in the smartphone camera market. Most of them are quite fancy, and some are even of good quality. To me this defies the purpose of having a small and easy to use camera in my pocket. I use only what the phone camera already has and do not use accessories. On my trips to Kenya, I used a simple binoculars with my iPhone as a telephoto lens. It worked just fine without spending additional money on fancy lenses.

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What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen in smartphone photography?

Instead of looking at common mistakes, it is perhaps more helpful to give a few tips to avoid them. When I started teaching my daughters photography, we started with two points. Fill the frame: Come close to your subject and make it the main object in your picture. And clean the frame: Avoid the clutter and environmental ‘noise’ in your picture. Make sure you do not include anything in the picture that is not important to have in the frame. Try to frame your subject on a clean background like a wall or the sky without other people or objects that interfere with the frame.

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Do you think smartphones will someday match the calibre of a professional camera?

We are already at a place where smartphone cameras are being used for commercial projects. In terms of the quality of the image and ease of use we are already there. I shot a whole Indian wedding on the iPhone 6s Plus back in 2015. Photographer Luisa Dörr shot 12 TIME covers on Her iPhone. Smartphones are only another tool in the box of a professional photographer. It is a tool that enables a photographer to work in a different way and achieve different results than with other cameras. I don’t think smartphones will replace what we refer to as ‘professional cameras’ but we will be seeing more and more professional photographers use smartphones on specific assignments.

All images: Courtesy Sephi Bergerson Photography

Be a pro smartphone photographer: A masterclass by the ace Sephi Bergerson

Mikhail Gomes

Features Editor, Lifestyle Asia India & Contributor - Augustman

A watch aficionado, Mikhail also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.


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