Elsie’s iPhone Photo Challenge

Elsie's iPhone photo challengeToday I wanted to share a little about a personal challenge that I've just given myself. First, let me set the scene. For the past few months I've been feeling super motivated to work on my photography. I spend a good portion of my work days working on our new photography e-course as well as another lifestyle photography/scrapbooking class that is coming out really soon. This was a lot of fun and also really healthy for my personal growth. I've been using my DSLR daily, which feels awesome! 

So, you're probably thinking, "Well, what's the problem then? That sounds great." Right? Well, I often think that creativity is a swinging pendulum, especially for those of us who like to do a lot of different things. And in that time when I was bonding with my SLR, I didn't notice I was kinda un-bonding with my phone. And sometime around the holidays I started to post less on Instagram because, well, I didn't have anything to post. Not that there's some kind of rule that I have to post, there's not. But ever since I started Instagramming (sometime shortly after our wedding) it's been a daily part of my life that I really, really enjoy. And suddenly I wasn't enjoying it anymore, and I didn't like that. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge So I spent a few weeks analyzing my funk. You know, not constantly or anything, but I did spend some time asking myself questions like, "Do you even want to improve your iPhone photos? Do you care?", "If you're so bored with Instagram, could it be your own fault?" (guilty), "OK, so, what can you do to make it fun again? What can you do to feel inspired and fresh?" 

And then all of a sudden, it all felt more clear.

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge  I realized that I was using my SLR camera for all the photos in my life that I considered "important", and I was using my iPhone for all the photos that I considered "boring". Unless, of course, I only had my iPhone handy, like with this photo above. This photo above is absolutely on my 2014 top ten photos list. It's so special to me and I don't necessarily think I would love it any more if it had been taken with an SLR.

I realized that if other people could take incredible, inspiring photos with their phones, that I could too. I just wasn't trying. I wasn't giving it a chance. I was making myself bored

And that thought was encouraging to me because as soon as I realized it was my own fault, I realized I could fix it myself too! 

I knew what I had to do next. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge   So, here's my solution. I am going to try to take ALL my personal photos with my iPhone for a month or maybe two months. I don't know, however long it takes me to feel like I can get really great photos with my phone. It's that simple. 

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge    I'm so excited and inspired. My goals are to play with color and to focus on capturing Jeremy's and my everyday life in a way that doesn't feel boring to me. I have my little idea notebook in my purse. (That's how you know I'm really into something, it always gets its own notebook!)

Elsie's iPhone photo challenge     I realize that pretty much all that's changing is my mind, but that's OK. I needed to remove some mental blocks and rules and get a fresh start. It feels good to have a mini-goal going on. In a couple weeks we're going to take a trip and I really might leave my camera at home, which is something I've never done before! I'm excited to learn and grow in a new area. This is going to be fun. Follow me on Instagram if you want to. Cheers to doing old stuff in a fresh new way! xx. Elsie 

Credits: Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos taken with the iPhone. 

  • This is such a great idea!!!
    I’m looking forward to seeing what you’d come up with in the 2 months or so time you’d spend on the challenge!
    I’m motivated now to try as best as i can to take as many pictures as possible to hone up my photography skills!
    Thanks for sharing!


    kaila // http://www.thecandytheory.com

  • I feel yeah! Honestly it’s a love hate relationship with Instagram, I love it for the great tool it can be used to capture personal moments & elevate your business. Although I’m finding it hard to find balance. I hate it for the facade, perfection or perceived reality it can convey like any of the social media tools. I have to remind myself and push myself that it’s what I make of it and that I shouldn’t worry about that side of it. I can rekindle my love for what my eye see’s as beautiful, creative and fun!

  • I can totally identify with this, sort of fallen out of love with the iPhone camera. Feeling inspired to play around again now though and get more creative. I love how colourful your pictures are, they just convey happiness to me xx

  • I actually have the opposite problem in that I take too many photos on my phone and not enough on my DSLR! I find it more convenient as my phone is always with me (and less bulky than my DSLR also). But there are many times where I wish I had my SLR with me and I didn’t!

  • This is a great idea! I received a nice camera for my birthday a few months ago and love it, but I’m also finding that I’m not using my phone as much either. There are so many great photo editing apps out there for your phone too. I find myself emailing my camera photos to my phone so I can edit. Good luck with the challenge!

    -Ryan @apolishedpalate.com

  • Hi Shelby, I’m using the camera built into my phone. Right now I’m not using any other apps because I am testing for a future app we are working on. Conquering dark photos is a HUGE challenge with phones that I’m trying to figure out solutions for! I feel you.
    xx- Elsie

  • Those photos are so good Elsie and so YOU. You have such a particular, honed style. I wonder if you could help me with something though: I really feel I need to improve my phone photography. I’ve searched online for tutorials but get hundreds and it’s so hard to find a good one. Are there any you could recommend please? If be willing to pay if it wasn’t much! Thanks x

  • I use my iPhone all the time for taking pictures but I’m having such a hard time with lighting – my house is super dark even with all the lights on. Anyway! Are you using the built in camera on your phone or another app like Camera+ or VSCOcam?

  • What an inspiring post! I really want to improve my photography skills, both DSLR and phone and I’ve wanted to do so for a really long time, I just haven’t found any time for it yet unfortunately.
    I love the bright colours in your photos. The orange one at the top of the post is what really caught my attention, it’s beautiful! And good luck with your challenge! I can’t imagine going on holiday without my camera but it’d be so cool if you actually did it!

    Sofie xx

  • Love this idea! Especially as we have a new little baby on the way, the phone is most likely going to be the handiest grab, so it needs to be used to it’s full potential! Can’t wait to see where this experiment leads you!

  • “That’s how you know I’m really into something, it always gets its own notebook!”

    I am EXACTLY the same way, so that line really made me smile. My husband and I recently ditched our smart phones in an effort to be more connected in person and less attached to technology. I have really loved it so far, but it’s definitely been hard to let go of the convenience of the camera. I am only just now getting started with my DSLR, so I haven’t gotten over the awkward phase of pulling out a giant camera to take a quick snap of something interesting (or just a normal, everyday moment). Any tips on getting more comfortable with that?

  • I love all of your photos, serious camera or not. Your photos inspire me so much that I use the ABM app to make my photos that much cooler. In fact, I was so inspired by the app and scrapbooking sundays that I am now going to teach a community class where we will be using the ABM app and social media photos to celebrate mommy moments by scrapbooking them. I am even trying to get the community center to purchase your mini scrap books. So, to make a long story short…fancy cameras are great but I find that some of the most authentic pics are taken with your phone because they are handy and if they are not perfect, there’s an app for that!
    Can’t wait to see your pics. You can see my photo challenge on instagram @laurabhandmadehouse.

  • When we’re restricted is often when we get the most creative! So I think it’s a great challenge to use your iPhone more for photos. I need to do the same actually, since I too love Instagram, but I rarely have any photos to share!

  • Photography is definetely one of the things I have to work on.
    I recently brought the Blog Life e-course and submitted a question in the Q&A section.
    Is it still live?

  • Hehe- maybe when I get my own system down. I rely heavily on Dropbox, but I don’t have an amazing system to share quite yet. Thanks for assuming the best of me, though! :))

  • I’m not going to completely stop using my DSLR. I’ll still use it nearly daily for blog photos. This is just a temporary challenge to see if I can get WAY better photos with my phone. I really want to improve because I’m also working on stuff for a new photo app on the side and I need more A+ photos to test with because when you’re making app filters it’s best to use 100% phone photos.

    Thanks! 🙂 Elsie

  • Thanks so much! I am working on stuff for an upcoming app, so I promise it will be beneficial for all of us… eventually. 😀 Just need better iPhone photos to test with first!
    xx- Elsie

  • Exactly! Why wait! You will LOVE your new Rebel, but in the meantime you can push yourself creatively to make better compositions, learn about color and even some editing on your phone!
    xx- Elsie

  • Hi Elsie,

    I was wondering if you could do a series of blog posts on digital photo storage. I take lots of photos with my iPhone and camera. All of my devices are always full, including my laptop. I try to be organized but it is just a mess. If I move things from my laptop onto a hardrive it gets even worse. Any tips or systems you can suggest? I’m assuming this could be a series of posts even.

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t really get why you want to stop taking pictures with your camera. If it’s already become a habit to take your camera wherever you go, why would you want to stop doing that. I get it that you’re getting bored with the camera of your phone, because a good camera is just so much more fun. And your pictures are going to look better and you can use them better afterwards.
    So I don’t really get this challenge, because you’re not just taking more pictures overall, you’re just switching from a fully equipped camera to your phone and not because it’s just more practical, but because you think it’s sad you love taking pictures with your camera more than with your phone?

  • Elsie….I bet you do leave your big camera at home for your trip! You say, “…pretty much all that’s changing is my mind”…..your mind is your biggest ally – or opponent – in anything. It determines how well/poorly you will do in anything you put it to work towards….so if you manage to change your mind, you’ll definitely succeed! [And of course you’ll succeed! You’re Elsie!]

  • Carrying around just my phone would make my life so much easier! I have a Nokia Lumia and either its camera sucks or I suck. Or both. And the iPhone camera either is better or is more user-friendly. I think I might try this project next month! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  • Such a fun idea. Though I don’t use my DSLR camera as much as I should (I might have to try doing the opposite of what you’re doing!) I totally understand the feeling of your pictures on your phone feeling boring, or somehow less significant for some reason. I love the idea of making a conscious effort to make Instagram more personal, I think it’s so much more fun to see pictures like those!

    xo Kenzie
    easy, lucky, free

  • So excited about this challenge. I love taking pictures with both my iPhone and my DSLR. I still can’t believe how good an iPhone picture can actually come out!

  • Love this! I’ve been in a phone camera funk lately and I think the idea of using a notebook to jot down and sketch out ideas is just what I need. Thank you for sharing, and best wishes on your challenge!

  • Looking forward to seeing where this leads you. I loved your article on brighter sharper iPhone photos and look forward to more articles like that during this new adventure. Enjoy!

  • I sold my DSLR so I always use my phone anyway, but sometimes I choose not to take photos because it might not be “good” or “interesting” when really, what could it hurt? Plus, some of the most ordinary photos turn out to be magical!

  • That is a good idea. I usually work the other way. I take most of my pics through phone and I must make a challenge to myself to use my DSLR more.

    Great post dear.


  • i am very excited to follow you on this! I tend to take most, if not all, my blog pics with my iphone. I wish I were better! I keep saying I am going to work on it, as much as I try, i feel i am not very successful!

    Its just easier and more convenient to get photos with my iphone! Its always there!!!

  • I blog for pepperexpress.blogspot.com and I use my iphone for most of the photos. I went on a family vacation recently and I forgot my canon g15 and was very upset. But I was happy that I had my iphone with me. My only problem with the iphone is that sometimes the photos come out blurry and I need to work on that.

  • Challenge…. accepted! (Not that you put out a challenge, but I’m going to challenge myself.) I have been saving up for a Canon Rebel (as per your suggestion, actually) and have been putting off taking more photos until I can buy it at the end of Feb. But really now… why wait? Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I feel my challenge is to getting away from thinking that my life is “too boring” for photos. I know my life isn’t boring. I jist think that nothing in it is picture worthy.

    So my goal is going to be to try and take pictures of the little things that make me smile throughout the day. Maybe after a month I will get some great photos from it.

  • Wow! I had just been toying with this idea over the past few weeks. My photography skills lie in the range to none-to-limited. All the good pictures that I’ve taken have mostly been fluke rather than thought going into composition, light or the other details (sheesh, I don’t even know what the other ‘things’ are!). But thanks! This post is exactly the motivation/validation I was seeking for getting into clicking more pictures using my phone than lamenting about my lack of photography skills.

  • Such a good idea! I wanted a high end camara because I love taking pictures and thought that was the only way to go about having amazing/fun photos. Thank you for inspiring me to think outside the box with just my phone camara!

  • This is a problem that resonates w/ me as well. It is so much more convenient, I think, to whip out a phone, and so much easier to carry around. But once I get it out, I wish I had the SLR.

  • I can definitely understand how inspiration runs dry every once in awhile but just like you I have really made an effort to create extra special photos with my phone. You won’t always have your DSLR around and it’s important to utilize mobile photography in those situations.

  • I’ve been following your Instagram for a long time and while I love all the content that you have been posting…this makes me really excited for what’s to come. Can’t wait to follow along!


  • This is a wonderful idea! I totally get what you mean when you choose the dslr over the iPhone. Even the iphone6 loses out when you have your dslr.

    I should start adopting your method too 🙂

    X, Carina
    Running White Horses

  • You will be very surprise how amazing some cellphones take pictures!! I love my iphone, i dont have a SLR camera so all my pics from intagram are with my iphone, some of them are incredible nice for me. cant wait to see the result!

    intagram account: whatkattiedid

    greetings from Costa Rica


  • I love love love your hair bun! and I love love love the blog! Keep up the good work girls!

  • Oh my gosh, I do the same thing – take all my “important” photos on my DSLR unless I only have my phone with me! It was encouraging to read that you’re trying to give more importance to your iPhone photos, and I’d like to try it too.


  • Good luck with your challenge! I still need to invest in a decent camera instead of just using my parents all the time, but maybe taking photos on my iPhone for a while whilst I hunt won’t be as bad as I think after reading this, I just need to try harder obviously!



  • Taking important photos with a higher quality camera seems like a no-brainer to me. The DSLR gives you so much more latitude in post that I wouldn’t dream of giving it up.

    That being said, there is an argument that you end up capturing fewer moments with a DSLR because of its weight and bulk. You might look into the world of mirrorless cameras. They’re a lot smaller than DSLRs, and quite a few of them get great reviews for image quality. Something like an Olympus OM-D E-M10 or Fuji X-T1 would probably suit your photographic style just fine.

  • I feel like I’m going through sort of a similar thing. For a long time, I had lost the love for my DSLR and so I just stopped using it. At that time, I took photos with my phone constantly. Now I’m trying to get more into the habit of using my DSLR and it’s been amazing. I love taking photos, I feel like my skills are improving, and it’s good to be using my camera – but I also never post to Instagram. I think I’ve subconsciously categorized things the same was as you: DSLR = real camera = important things, phone = not as good = pictures of unimportant things.

    This is a great challenge and I’m going to make more of an effort to take phone photos again too! Thanks Elsie – wishing you a wonderful weekend!

    xx Kathryn

  • Wow…you have always inspired me with your photos, just that somethin somethin you do amazingly. I think it’s your gift and viewing your moms paintings , I can see where it came from … Super idea and this is going to be fun!

  • Is there a particular kind of notebooks you use or do you make your own?

  • A very inspiring post – thank you! I been thinking the exact same thing, I take “boring” everyday photos with my iPhone and the important memorable ones with my big camera… Which naturally leads to me not trying to get the best shot possible when I take photos with my iPhone. Very lazy! Something Im now going to change after reading your post!

  • My visual communications teacher decided to only use his iPhone for photos for a year and ended up going for about 18 months! And this is a guy who considers light his religion!

  • I noticed that as soon as I got an iPhone a few years ago, I somehow ended up stopping using my DSLR and sites like Flickr and was posting to instagram nearly every day.

    I like to mix it up a little – my iPhone is easy to grab since I have it with me all the time for quick shots but I generally use my DSLR on trips, days out or for my Project 365, which I’m doing again to get back into using my camera! I actually got a lot of photos of nieces & nephews printed onto canvas & calendars for family members Christmas presents last year that just wouldn’t have worked if I’d taken them with my iPhone!

    Good luck with your challenge 🙂

  • This is such a great idea! I just got my first iPhone and recently started using Instagram more, so any tips or advice you learn would be great to read about!

  • This is such a great idea! I just got my first iPhone and recently started using Instagram more myself, so I’d love to hear any tips you have for better photos!

  • That’s so interesting! I have exactly the opposite problem. I have one of the nicest DSLRs money can buy and I’m always feeling so guilty for using my iPhone so much.
    When I take photos with my iPhone, I feel like my life’s a little more balanced because I’m not worrying about aperture or shutter speed, so I can live a little more in the moment. But there are SO MANY times I wish I would have had my nice camera with me. It’s a constant struggle for me.

  • Either way your photos always turn out amazing! I’m trying to do the opposite and take more photos with my dslr and film cameras this year.

  • I went through something similar, but it was more so I was afraid to experiment on my main feed so I got an experimental one. i got rid of the experimental one to use the main one for what i like. i was also allowing someone’s criticism of my photography to influence what i posted. i finally said,”screw it! this is for ME and if others like it, cool. if they don’t, they don’t have to follow me.” i look forward to your challenge

  • The iPhone camera is so amazing. With the exception of a few specific types of photos like running children/animals and night shots, it can handle 90% of your photography needs. I’m trying to get more in the habit of photographing with it too 🙂


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