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


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

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

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

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

One winner, Diego Moreno’s ‘The Watchman’ (third place in the ‘Children’ category, which you can see further down) was actually taken on the iPhone 5S, which launched back in 2013. This is all the more impressive when you consider that the scene, with a streak of light surrounded cutting through gloom, is a challenging one for any camera, let alone an eight-year-old phone.

The rules of the IPPA 2021 awards, which are independent from Apple, also state that “the photos should not be altered in any desktop image processing program such as Photoshop”, but that it’s okay to use “any iOS apps”. It’s clear that many of the shots have benefited from some touching up using mobile apps (particularly in the ‘Abstract’ category’), but that is now a crucial part of the photographic process.

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

Overall winners

Image 1 of 4

Photographer of the Year Grand Prize: Transylvanian Shepherds by Istvan Kerekes (shot on iPhone 7) (Image credit: Istvan Kerekes / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 4

Bonding entry showing horse and man, for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year First Place: Sharan Shetty (Shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Sharan Shetty / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 4

A Walk on Mars entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year Second Place: A Walk on Mars by Dan Liu (shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max) (Image credit: Dan Liu / IPPA 2021)
Image 4 of 4

Side-Walking on Air entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year Third Place: Side-Walking on Air by Jeff Rayner (Shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Jeff Rayner / IPPA 2021)

The iPhone Photography Awards 2021 picked out four overall winners, which you can flick through above. The Grand Prize Winner and Photographer of the Year Award went to photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary for his candid shot of two shepherds traveling across an industrial landscape. The judges observed that “the grit of the men and the bleakness of their environment are a moving contrast to the hope and innocence of the lambs in their care”.

Slightly confusingly, there’s also a First Place Photographer of the Year Award, which went to Sharan Shetty for his touching monochrome shot of a man and his horse in an empty landscape. Then just behind in second and third place respectively are Dan Liu’s sci-fi shot of an astronaut traversing a Martian-like landscape, closely followed by  Jeff Rayner’s portrait of a young girl floating on a Lose Angeles sidewalk. The clever composition based around light and shadow in the latter makes it particularly striking.

Abstract

Image 1 of 3

Untitled abstract shot taken in Queensland Australia for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Glenn Homann / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

The Last Steam Train entry for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Bei Xiao / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Frozen Lines entry for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Matteo Lava / IPPA 2021)

There are a ton of great iOS apps for giving your photos an abstract twist – check out Mextures, 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. That’s what Glenn Homann appears to have done for his ‘Untitled’ shot (first place in the ‘Abstract’ category), showing a walkway going behind an orange-and-red structure, which really pops in the full glare of sunlight.

More experimental in its technique is Bei Xiao’s ‘The Last Steam Train’ (second place in ‘Abstract’), which appears to use motion blur and ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) to help soften the details and create a stunning landscape shot. And then in a more classic abstract approach, Matteo Lava’s ‘Frozen Lines’ isolates the shapes produced by cracked ice to produce what could be a paint-flecked piece that you’d stumble across in a modern art gallery.

Animals

Image 1 of 3

'Strike a Pose' shot of an Iguana for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Animals: Strike a Pose by Laila Bakker (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Laila Bakker / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled shot of a horse's mane for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Animals: Untitled by Elizabeth Burns (shot on iPhone XS) (Image credit: Elizabeth Burns / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Hair Raising shot for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Animals: Hair Raising by Theresa Lee (shot on iPhone XR) (Image credit: Theresa Lee / IPPA 2021)

The iPhone X was a step up from the iPhone 7 series when it came to capturing detail and texture and the ‘Animals’ category leans on this. The winning shot of a bearded dragon, Laila Bakker’s ‘Strike a Pose’, picks out some impressive detail on the beardies’ scales, while 

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

Architecture

Image 1 of 3

Candy photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Architecture: Candy by Yuexiang Wang (shot on iPhone 8 Plus) (Image credit: Yuexiang Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled photo of a wall for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Architecture: Untitled by Yayun Liu (shot on iPhone 7 Plus) (Image credit: Yayun Liu / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Taj Mahal in the Mist / iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Architecture: Taj Mahal in the Mist by Tao He (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Tao He / IPPA 2021)

Chinese photographers dominated the ‘Architecture’ category, winning the top three places – but all three take very different approaches. ‘Candy’ by Yuexiang Wang focuses on bringing out the dominant color in its arches scene, which looks painterly 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 above a wall to create what almost looks like a side-scrolling Mario level. More traditional is ‘Taj Mahal in the Mist’ by Tao He, which uses unusual conditions to give us a striking shot of a famous and much-photographed landmark. 

Children

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of kids playing in some netting for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Children: Untitled by Dong Wei (shot on iPhone 7 Plus) (Image credit: Dong Wei / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled shot of a child on a beach being hit by a wave for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Children: Untitled by Iakovos Draculis (shot on iPhone 11 Pro) (Image credit: Iakovos Draculis / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

The Watchman shot of a child with an fake eyeball in his mouth for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Children: The Watchman by Diego Moreno (shot on iPhone 5S) (Image credit: Diego Moreno / IPPA 2021)

The ‘Children’ category winners 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 iPhone 7 Plus) combines a low-angle shot of a climbing frame with the simplicity of black-and-white to create a striking shot of three kids playing in Sichuan, China.

Taking the opposite approach is Iakovos Draculis’ top-down ‘Untitled’ shot of a kid getting swamped by the froth of an incoming wave. A fast shutter speed nicely freezes the water in their nicely balanced composition. Lastly, Diego Moreno’s ‘The Watchman’ shows the quality that’s still possible from the iPhone 5S with his clever shot of (what we hope is) a fake eyeball in a kids’ mouth, giving it a ‘second take’ quality.

City Life

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of Manhattan skyline for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – City Life: Untitled by Liz Huang (Image credit: Liz Huang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Winter Dawn in a Small Town entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – City Life: Winter Dawn in a Small Town by Lisi Li (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Lisi Li / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Shot of a social distancing sign for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – City Life: ‘PR_CTICE S___AL DI_TANCE’ by Ann Ghory-Goodman (shot on iPhone 11 Pro) (Image credit: Ann Ghory-Goodman / IPPA 2021)

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 you can always find a unique angle if you’re prepared to explore a bit. Taken above some skyscraper roof repairs, this view might not be widely open to the public, but there are no doubt some similarly unusual angles available around New York’s lesser-known haunts.

Not that great city shots have to contain famous buildings – Lisi Li’s ‘Winter Dawn in a Small Town’ (shot in Xinjiang, China) uses subdued, post-snowfall color tones and a solitary figure to create a Lowry-esque atmosphere. Lastly, in third place is Ann Ghory-Goodman’s timely shot of a ‘social distancing’ sign that’s ironically in a deserted corner of Orleans, Massachusetts.

Landscape

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of a snaking road for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Landscape: Untitled by Shi Tian Zhang (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Shi Tian Zhang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Flight from Iguazu shot for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Landscape: Flight from Iguazu by Lizhi Wang (shot on iPhone XR) (Image credit: Lizhi Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Untitled landscape shot showing shooting star for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Landscape: Untitled by Jialin Liu (shot on iPhone 8 Plus) (Image credit: Jialin Liu / IPPA 2021)

During Apple’s iPhone 12 launch there was a scene showing the phone mounted to a little FPV drone for aerial shots. Is this the kind of technique used by Lizhi Wang for the landscape category-winning ‘Flight from Iguazu’ shot above? It’s not clear, but whether it’s just a clever vantage point or aerial assistance, the result is a stunning view of the Paraná River in Argentina.

Also winners in the same category are two atmospheric landscape shots from Jialin Liu (capturing a shooting star above marshland) and snaking road in Xinjiang, China (an untitled shot from Shi Tian Zhang) that cleverly uses a blast of sunlight to draw the eye into one particularly scary hairpin turn in the region’s ‘sky road’. 

Lifestyle

Image 1 of 3

The Old Gym photo taken for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Lifestyle: The Old Gym by Mahabub Hossain Khan (shot on iPhone XS) (Image credit: Mahabub Hossain Khan / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Shot of landscaper using hose for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Lifestyle: Landscaper Study by Keith Brofsky (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Keith Brofsky / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Muslim girls in white robes shot taken for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Lifestyle: La Vue des Filles by Valerie Helbich-Poschacher (shot on iPhone 8) (Image credit: Valerie Helbich-Poschacher / IPPA 2021)

A more vague category like ‘Lifestyle’ is likely to attract some diverse entries and that’s reflected in this year’s winners. Sometimes an arresting, unusual scene is all your need to make a great photo, as shown by Mahabub Hossain Khan’s ‘The Old Gym’, which shows that all you really need for a workout space is some weights and a healthy dash of determination.

Taking the opposite approach is the second place winner ‘Landscaper Study’ by Keith Brofsky, which proves that a brilliant composition can be unearthed in even the most apparently humdrum scene. Lastly, La Vue des Filles by Valerie Helbich-Poschacher (or ‘The View of the Girls’) smartly frames the uniform dress of  a group of Muslim girls in Sri Lanka.

Nature

Image 1 of 3

Pondering the Positives photo of purple flower for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Christian Horgan / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Water lily photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Mohan Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Photo of leaves on dark background for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Marton Tordai / IPPA 2021)

A great technique for photographing flowers is to fill the frame, and one of the easiest ways of doing that is to use a third-party macro lens. The iPhone X focuses down to about 10cm, so a lens accessory isn’t essential, but we’d wager that the winning nature shot above (‘Pondering the Positives’ by Christian Horgan) uses a macro add-on from the likes of Moment. It’s stunning shot that picks out the flower’s intricate details.

An equally effective alternate approach is to strip out the scene’s color and focus on form using black-and-white, which is what Mohan Wang’s untitled shot achieves nicely. In a similar way, Marton Tordai avoids a busy, distracting background in order to highlight the color and shape of the leaves in their third-placed untitled shot.

Portrait

Image 1 of 3

Untitled portrait of girl in snow for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Portrait: Untitled by Krysten Crabtree (shot on iPhone 12 Pro) (Image credit: Krysten Crabtree / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

The Christmas Trees photo showing girl blowing bubble gum for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Portrait: The Christmas Trees by Juliet Cope (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Juliet Cope / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Face surrounded by hands photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Portrait: Reach the Soul by Quim Fabregas (shot on iPhone 8) (Image credit: Quim Fabregas / IPPA 2021)

A popular portrait photography technique is using bright ‘high key’ lighting to blow out the background and you don’t need studio lights to achieve. Buried in your iPhone’s ‘Portrait’ mode is a ‘high-key light mono’ setting and it’s quite possible this was used by Krysten Crabtree for their excellent winning shot of a girl caught in the snow.

That’s just one approach, of course, with a candid portrait in an curious setting (for example, surrounded by Christmas trees) being another route to a great shot, as shown by Juliet Cope’s second-placed entry. Lastly, another great example of filling the frame in an unusual way is Quim Fabregas’ ‘Reach the Soul’ portrait, which was given third place.


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

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

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

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

One winner, Diego Moreno’s ‘The Watchman’ (third place in the ‘Children’ category, which you can see further down) was actually taken on the iPhone 5S, which launched back in 2013. This is all the more impressive when you consider that the scene, with a streak of light surrounded cutting through gloom, is a challenging one for any camera, let alone an eight-year-old phone.

The rules of the IPPA 2021 awards, which are independent from Apple, also state that “the photos should not be altered in any desktop image processing program such as Photoshop”, but that it’s okay to use “any iOS apps”. It’s clear that many of the shots have benefited from some touching up using mobile apps (particularly in the ‘Abstract’ category’), but that is now a crucial part of the photographic process.

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

Overall winners

Image 1 of 4

Transylvanian Shepherds entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year Grand Prize: Transylvanian Shepherds by Istvan Kerekes (shot on iPhone 7) (Image credit: Istvan Kerekes / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 4

Bonding entry showing horse and man, for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year First Place: Sharan Shetty (Shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Sharan Shetty / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 4

A Walk on Mars entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year Second Place: A Walk on Mars by Dan Liu (shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max) (Image credit: Dan Liu / IPPA 2021)
Image 4 of 4

Side-Walking on Air entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Photographer of the Year Third Place: Side-Walking on Air by Jeff Rayner (Shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Jeff Rayner / IPPA 2021)

The iPhone Photography Awards 2021 picked out four overall winners, which you can flick through above. The Grand Prize Winner and Photographer of the Year Award went to photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary for his candid shot of two shepherds traveling across an industrial landscape. The judges observed that “the grit of the men and the bleakness of their environment are a moving contrast to the hope and innocence of the lambs in their care”.

Slightly confusingly, there’s also a First Place Photographer of the Year Award, which went to Sharan Shetty for his touching monochrome shot of a man and his horse in an empty landscape. Then just behind in second and third place respectively are Dan Liu’s sci-fi shot of an astronaut traversing a Martian-like landscape, closely followed by  Jeff Rayner’s portrait of a young girl floating on a Lose Angeles sidewalk. The clever composition based around light and shadow in the latter makes it particularly striking.

Abstract

Image 1 of 3

Untitled abstract shot taken in Queensland Australia for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Glenn Homann / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

The Last Steam Train entry for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Bei Xiao / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Frozen Lines entry for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Matteo Lava / IPPA 2021)

There are a ton of great iOS apps for giving your photos an abstract twist – check out Mextures, 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. That’s what Glenn Homann appears to have done for his ‘Untitled’ shot (first place in the ‘Abstract’ category), showing a walkway going behind an orange-and-red structure, which really pops in the full glare of sunlight.

More experimental in its technique is Bei Xiao’s ‘The Last Steam Train’ (second place in ‘Abstract’), which appears to use motion blur and ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) to help soften the details and create a stunning landscape shot. And then in a more classic abstract approach, Matteo Lava’s ‘Frozen Lines’ isolates the shapes produced by cracked ice to produce what could be a paint-flecked piece that you’d stumble across in a modern art gallery.

Animals

Image 1 of 3

'Strike a Pose' shot of an Iguana for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Animals: Strike a Pose by Laila Bakker (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Laila Bakker / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled shot of a horse's mane for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Animals: Untitled by Elizabeth Burns (shot on iPhone XS) (Image credit: Elizabeth Burns / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Hair Raising shot for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Animals: Hair Raising by Theresa Lee (shot on iPhone XR) (Image credit: Theresa Lee / IPPA 2021)

The iPhone X was a step up from the iPhone 7 series when it came to capturing detail and texture and the ‘Animals’ category leans on this. The winning shot of a bearded dragon, Laila Bakker’s ‘Strike a Pose’, picks out some impressive detail on the beardies’ scales, while 

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

Architecture

Image 1 of 3

Candy photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Architecture: Candy by Yuexiang Wang (shot on iPhone 8 Plus) (Image credit: Yuexiang Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled photo of a wall for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Architecture: Untitled by Yayun Liu (shot on iPhone 7 Plus) (Image credit: Yayun Liu / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Taj Mahal in the Mist / iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Architecture: Taj Mahal in the Mist by Tao He (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Tao He / IPPA 2021)

Chinese photographers dominated the ‘Architecture’ category, winning the top three places – but all three take very different approaches. ‘Candy’ by Yuexiang Wang focuses on bringing out the dominant color in its arches scene, which looks painterly 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 above a wall to create what almost looks like a side-scrolling Mario level. More traditional is ‘Taj Mahal in the Mist’ by Tao He, which uses unusual conditions to give us a striking shot of a famous and much-photographed landmark. 

Children

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of kids playing in some netting for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Children: Untitled by Dong Wei (shot on iPhone 7 Plus) (Image credit: Dong Wei / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Untitled shot of a child on a beach being hit by a wave for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Children: Untitled by Iakovos Draculis (shot on iPhone 11 Pro) (Image credit: Iakovos Draculis / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

The Watchman shot of a child with an fake eyeball in his mouth for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Children: The Watchman by Diego Moreno (shot on iPhone 5S) (Image credit: Diego Moreno / IPPA 2021)

The ‘Children’ category winners 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 iPhone 7 Plus) combines a low-angle shot of a climbing frame with the simplicity of black-and-white to create a striking shot of three kids playing in Sichuan, China.

Taking the opposite approach is Iakovos Draculis’ top-down ‘Untitled’ shot of a kid getting swamped by the froth of an incoming wave. A fast shutter speed nicely freezes the water in their nicely balanced composition. Lastly, Diego Moreno’s ‘The Watchman’ shows the quality that’s still possible from the iPhone 5S with his clever shot of (what we hope is) a fake eyeball in a kids’ mouth, giving it a ‘second take’ quality.

City Life

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of Manhattan skyline for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – City Life: Untitled by Liz Huang (Image credit: Liz Huang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Winter Dawn in a Small Town entry for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – City Life: Winter Dawn in a Small Town by Lisi Li (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Lisi Li / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Shot of a social distancing sign for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – City Life: ‘PR_CTICE S___AL DI_TANCE’ by Ann Ghory-Goodman (shot on iPhone 11 Pro) (Image credit: Ann Ghory-Goodman / IPPA 2021)

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 you can always find a unique angle if you’re prepared to explore a bit. Taken above some skyscraper roof repairs, this view might not be widely open to the public, but there are no doubt some similarly unusual angles available around New York’s lesser-known haunts.

Not that great city shots have to contain famous buildings – Lisi Li’s ‘Winter Dawn in a Small Town’ (shot in Xinjiang, China) uses subdued, post-snowfall color tones and a solitary figure to create a Lowry-esque atmosphere. Lastly, in third place is Ann Ghory-Goodman’s timely shot of a ‘social distancing’ sign that’s ironically in a deserted corner of Orleans, Massachusetts.

Landscape

Image 1 of 3

Untitled shot of a snaking road for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Landscape: Untitled by Shi Tian Zhang (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Shi Tian Zhang / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Flight from Iguazu shot for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Landscape: Flight from Iguazu by Lizhi Wang (shot on iPhone XR) (Image credit: Lizhi Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Untitled landscape shot showing shooting star for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Landscape: Untitled by Jialin Liu (shot on iPhone 8 Plus) (Image credit: Jialin Liu / IPPA 2021)

During Apple’s iPhone 12 launch there was a scene showing the phone mounted to a little FPV drone for aerial shots. Is this the kind of technique used by Lizhi Wang for the landscape category-winning ‘Flight from Iguazu’ shot above? It’s not clear, but whether it’s just a clever vantage point or aerial assistance, the result is a stunning view of the Paraná River in Argentina.

Also winners in the same category are two atmospheric landscape shots from Jialin Liu (capturing a shooting star above marshland) and snaking road in Xinjiang, China (an untitled shot from Shi Tian Zhang) that cleverly uses a blast of sunlight to draw the eye into one particularly scary hairpin turn in the region’s ‘sky road’. 

Lifestyle

Image 1 of 3

The Old Gym photo taken for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Lifestyle: The Old Gym by Mahabub Hossain Khan (shot on iPhone XS) (Image credit: Mahabub Hossain Khan / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Shot of landscaper using hose for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Lifestyle: Landscaper Study by Keith Brofsky (shot on iPhone X) (Image credit: Keith Brofsky / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Muslim girls in white robes shot taken for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Lifestyle: La Vue des Filles by Valerie Helbich-Poschacher (shot on iPhone 8) (Image credit: Valerie Helbich-Poschacher / IPPA 2021)

A more vague category like ‘Lifestyle’ is likely to attract some diverse entries and that’s reflected in this year’s winners. Sometimes an arresting, unusual scene is all your need to make a great photo, as shown by Mahabub Hossain Khan’s ‘The Old Gym’, which shows that all you really need for a workout space is some weights and a healthy dash of determination.

Taking the opposite approach is the second place winner ‘Landscaper Study’ by Keith Brofsky, which proves that a brilliant composition can be unearthed in even the most apparently humdrum scene. Lastly, La Vue des Filles by Valerie Helbich-Poschacher (or ‘The View of the Girls’) smartly frames the uniform dress of  a group of Muslim girls in Sri Lanka.

Nature

Image 1 of 3

Pondering the Positives photo of purple flower for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Christian Horgan / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

Water lily photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Mohan Wang / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Photo of leaves on dark background for iPhone Photography Awards 2021

(Image credit: Marton Tordai / IPPA 2021)

A great technique for photographing flowers is to fill the frame, and one of the easiest ways of doing that is to use a third-party macro lens. The iPhone X focuses down to about 10cm, so a lens accessory isn’t essential, but we’d wager that the winning nature shot above (‘Pondering the Positives’ by Christian Horgan) uses a macro add-on from the likes of Moment. It’s stunning shot that picks out the flower’s intricate details.

An equally effective alternate approach is to strip out the scene’s color and focus on form using black-and-white, which is what Mohan Wang’s untitled shot achieves nicely. In a similar way, Marton Tordai avoids a busy, distracting background in order to highlight the color and shape of the leaves in their third-placed untitled shot.

Portrait

Image 1 of 3

Untitled portrait of girl in snow for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

First Place – Portrait: Untitled by Krysten Crabtree (shot on iPhone 12 Pro) (Image credit: Krysten Crabtree / IPPA 2021)
Image 2 of 3

The Christmas Trees photo showing girl blowing bubble gum for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Second Place – Portrait: The Christmas Trees by Juliet Cope (shot on iPhone XS Max) (Image credit: Juliet Cope / IPPA 2021)
Image 3 of 3

Face surrounded by hands photo for the iPhone Photography Awards 2021

Third Place – Portrait: Reach the Soul by Quim Fabregas (shot on iPhone 8) (Image credit: Quim Fabregas / IPPA 2021)

A popular portrait photography technique is using bright ‘high key’ lighting to blow out the background and you don’t need studio lights to achieve. Buried in your iPhone’s ‘Portrait’ mode is a ‘high-key light mono’ setting and it’s quite possible this was used by Krysten Crabtree for their excellent winning shot of a girl caught in the snow.

That’s just one approach, of course, with a candid portrait in an curious setting (for example, surrounded by Christmas trees) being another route to a great shot, as shown by Juliet Cope’s second-placed entry. Lastly, another great example of filling the frame in an unusual way is Quim Fabregas’ ‘Reach the Soul’ portrait, which was given third place.