Two challenges to Apple’s claim that its iPhone X can shoot studio quality portraits have been turned down by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The complainants took issue with Apple’s advertising line that the phone could deliver ‘Studio-quality portraits [...] Without the studio’ and believed consumers would misled, but after an investigation the ASA found that the statement was fair.

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The basis of the findings is that there isn’t clear definition of what ‘studio quality’ means, and that there is a wide variety of talent in the studio photography industry that meant that the term didn’t necessarily indicate that a ‘studio quality’ portrait was a good one. Rather, the ASA agreed with Apple that the Portrait Lighting effects, the depth-of-field mimicking software and the inclusion of a standard, instead of a wide, focal length meant that the characteristics of a ‘studio’ portrait could be achieved. The investigation also found that the effects shown in the Apple adverts could indeed be produced with the phone at the time of shooting or post capture.

The ruling might seem a smack in the face to the portrait business and to undermine respect for the profession, but photographers are perhaps becoming victims of our own well-worn stock phrases such as ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’. While there is no clear measure of what ‘studio quality’ means, skill and vison are required to create a good portrait and as we all know ‘it’s the archer not the arrow’ – though Apple forgot to mention that bit.

The fact is that smart phones are genuinely becoming better and better at taking pictures, and their developers are devising features and functions well ahead of those traditional camera makers offer. These features often exist to compensate for the physical limitations of the tiny camera units, but they also put incredible flexibility into the hands of the user. At every turn in history the advances of smaller formats have been opposed by ‘proper’ photographers, but that has done nothing to prevent the inevitable progress of the convenience and popularisation of photography. You would be mad to buy an iPhone X to start your portrait business however, as a decent interchangeable lens camera can be had for less than the same price – with change to use a pay phone.

For more information on the complaint, the investigation and the ruling see the Advertising Standards Authority website.