These stunning iPhone Photography Award winners were mostly shot on older iPhones

The iPhone Photography Awards 2021 has announced its winners for this year’s contest — and one of the most striking things (besides the photos) is that they were mostly shot on older iPhones.

Of the thousands of entries taken in more than 140 countries around the world, only seven of the 54 winners were shot using the latest iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Grand Prize winner of the Transylvanian Shepherd in Romania, Istvan Kerekes shot from 2016 on an iPhone 7 while the ‘First Place Photographer of the Year Award’ was given to Sharan Shetty of India for his black-and-white ‘bonding’ was. ‘ image. This was taken on the iPhone X, back in 2017.

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None of this really tells us much about the relative quality of the various iPhones — and we still think the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best iPhone camera — but it does highlight that the award-winning You don’t need the latest iPhone to do this. snap

One winner, Diego Moreno’s “The Watchman” (3rd place in the “Children” category, which you can see more below) was actually taken on the iPhone 5S, which was launched back in 2013. It’s all the more impressive when you consider it. The scene, with a streak of light engulfing darkness, is a daunting one for any camera, let alone an eight-year-old phone.

The rules for the IPPA 2021 awards, which are independent of Apple, also state that “photos must not be changed in any desktop image processing program such as Photoshop”, but that “any iOS app” is fine to use. It is clear that many shots have benefited from some touch ups using mobile apps (especially in the ‘abstract’ category), but it is now an important part of the photographic process.

Still, many shots are probably too ‘straight out of camera’ and the sheer variety in the show is inspiring for anyone who wants to see what’s possible with an iPhone (of any kind) and a creative eye. Here are our picks of the winners of the 2021 iPhone Photography Awards.

overall winner

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Photographer of the Year Grand Prize: Transylvanian Shepherd by Istvan Kerekes (shot on iPhone 7)
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Photographer of the Year First Place: Sharan Shetty (Shot on iPhone X)
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Photographer of the Year Second Place: A Walk on Mars by Dan Liu (shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max)
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Photographer of the Year Third Place: Side-Walking on Air by Jeff Renner (shot on iPhone X)

The iPhone Photography Awards 2021 chose four overall winners, which you can flick through above. The Grand Prize winner and Photographer of the Year award went to Hungarian photojournalist István Kerkés for his candid shot of two shepherds traveling across an industrial landscape. The judges observed that “the patience of the men and the ambiguity of their environment run contrary to the hope and innocence of the lambs in their care”.

A little confusingly, there’s also the First Place Photographer of the Year award, which went to Sharan Shetty for her poignant monochrome shot of a man and his horse in an empty landscape. This is followed by a sci-fi shot of Dan Liu in second and third place respectively, an astronaut traversing a Mars-like landscape, followed by Jeff Renner’s portrait of a young girl floating on a Los Angeles sidewalk. . The latter’s clever composition based on light and shadow makes it particularly appealing.


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There are plenty of great iOS apps out there for giving your photos an abstract twist — see textures in our guide to the best photo editing apps — but sometimes all you need to do is frame an everyday scene in an arresting way. This is what Glenn Homan seems to have done for his ‘Untitled’ shot (first place in the ‘Abstract’ category), showing a path leading behind an orange and red structure that was actually exposed to sunlight. Pops in full glow.

More experimental in its technique is Bei Xiao’s ‘The Last Steam Train’ (second in ‘Abstract’), which uses motion blur and ICM (intentional camera movement) to soften details and help create a stunning landscape shot. appears to be using. And then in a more classic abstract approach, Matteo Lava’s ‘Frozen Lines’ separates the shapes created by cracked ice, which might just be a paint-flecked piece you might stumble upon in a modern art gallery.


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1st place – Animals: A Pose Strike by Laila Bakker (shot on iPhone X)
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2nd place – Animals: Untitled by Elizabeth Burns (Shot on iPhone XS)
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3rd place – Animals: Hair Raising by Theresa Lee (shot on iPhone XR)

The iPhone X was a step up from the iPhone 7 series when it comes to capturing detail and texture and the ‘animal’ category lives up to it. The winning shot of the bearded dragon, Laila Bakker’s ‘Strike a Pose’, gives some impressive detail on the scales of the beard, while

Taking a more abstract approach is the untitled shot of Elizabeth Burns’ horse mane, while Theresa Lee’s “Hair Rising” shot shows that a good understanding of composition is much more important than having a phone with multiple cameras. It was shot on the iPhone XR, which has only one rear camera.


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1st Place – Architecture: Candy by Yuxiang Wang (Shot on iPhone 8 Plus)
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2nd Place – Architecture: Untitled by Yayun Liu (Shot on iPhone 7 Plus)
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3rd place – Architecture: Taj Mahal in the Mist by Tao He (Shot on iPhone XS Max)

Chinese photographers dominated the ‘architecture’ category, winning the top three spots – but all three take very different approaches. ‘Candy’ by Yuxiang Wang focuses on bringing dominant color to the scene of its arch, which looks graphical thanks to its simple composition (and possibly some color slider tweaking).

Even more stripped down is “Untitled” by Yayun Liu, which uses the tight framing of a single cloud atop a wall that almost looks like a side-scrolling Mario level. Tao He’s ‘Taj Mahal in the Mist’ is more traditional, using unusual conditions to give us a great shot of a well-known and much-photographed landmark.

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1st place – Children: Untitled by Dong Wei (Shot on iPhone 7 Plus)
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2nd place – Children: Untitled by Iakovos Draculis (shot on iPhone 11 Pro)
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3rd place – Children: The Watchmen by Diego Moreno (Shot on iPhone 5S)

The winners of the ‘Children’ category are great examples of how choosing an unusual angle (or prop) can elevate what would otherwise be fairly familiar everyday scenes. Dong Wei’s ‘untitled’ photo (shot on an iPhone 7 Plus) combines a low-angle shot of a climbing frame with the simplicity of black and white, creating a striking shot of three children playing in Sichuan, China it happens.

Taking the opposite approach, Echovos Draculis’ top-down ‘untitled’ shot is of a child being swept away by the foam of an oncoming wave. A fast shutter speed freezes the water well in their well-balanced structure. Finally, Diego Moreno’s “The Watchman” shows off a still possible quality from the iPhone 5S with its clever shot of fake eyeballs (which we hope) in children’s mouths, giving it that “second take” quality.

city ​​life

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1st place – City Life: Untitled by Liz Huang
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2nd place – City Life: Winter Dawn in a Small Town by Lisie Lee (Shot on iPhone XS Max)
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3rd place – City Life: ‘PR_CTICE S___AL DI_TANCE’ by Ann Ghori-Goodman (Shot on iPhone 11 Pro)

Some city skylines have been shot millions of times, but Liz Huang’s ‘untitled’ photo on Manhattan (first place in the ‘City Life’ category) shows that you can always take a unique angle if you’re ready to explore a little. Can get. Taken above the roof repairs of some skyscrapers, the view may not be widely open to the public, but there’s no doubt that there are some equally unusual angles available around New York’s lesser-known haunts.

Not that great cityscapes should have famous buildings – Lisie Lee’sso “Winter Dawn in a Small Town” (shot in Xinjiang, China) uses subdued, post-snowfall color tones and a monotonous motif to create a lullaby-esque atmosphere. Finally, third-place Ann Ghori-Goodman’s timely shot of a ‘social distancing’ sign is ironically in a deserted corner of Orleans, Massachusetts.


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3rd place – Landscape: Untitled by Shi Tian Zhang (Shot on iPhone X)
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1st place – Landscape: Flight from Iguazu by Lizzie Wang (shot on iPhone XR)
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2nd Place – Landscape: Untitled by Jialin Liu (Shot on iPhone 8 Plus)

There was a scene during Apple’s iPhone 12 launch that showed the phone being mounted on a little FPV drone for aerial shots. Is this same technique used by Lizzie Wang for Landscape category-winning ‘Flight from Iguazu’? It’s not clear, but whether it’s just a clever vantage point or air support, the result is a stunning view of the Paraná River in Argentina.

Also winners in the same category are Jialin Liu (capturing a shooting star over marshland) and two atmospheric landscape shots from Snacking Road (an untitled shot of Xi Tian Zhang) in Xinjiang, China that are cleverly designed to draw the eye. Use a burst of sunlight. A particularly spooky hairpin twist in the area’s ‘Sky Road’.

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1st place – Lifestyle: The Old Gym by Mehboob Hussain Khan (Shot on iPhone XS)
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2nd place – Lifestyle: Landscaper Study by Keith Brofsky (shot on iPhone X)
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3rd place – Lifestyle: La Vue des Filles by Valerie Helbich-Poscher (shot on iPhone 8)

A more obscure category like ‘Lifestyle’ is likely to attract some diverse entries and this is reflected in this year’s winners. Sometimes to make a great photo you need an arresting, unusual scene, as shown by Mehboob Hussain…

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