This is a review of the iPhone Photo Academy, an online video course designed to help you massively improve your skills taking pictures with your iPhone.
After hearing a lot about the course, I reached out to the creator and keen photographer Emil Pakarklis, so that I could see what all the fuss was about.
I’m a big advocate of dedicated cameras over smartphones for ‘real’ photography. However, I also realise that our smartphones are usually what we have closest to hand for capturing a moment.
In addition, the cameras and the technology in smartphones have got to the point where it’s very hard to tell the difference between a shot take with an iPhone, and with a dedicated camera.
It’d be great if there were some form of iPhone photography school where we could learn the techniques for getting the most out of our phone cameras…
With this review, I wanted to find out whether the iPhone Photo Academy is the answer. Let’s dive in and find out what it’s all about.
Table of Contents
What is the iPhone Photo Academy?
Don’t be put off by the long sales page – this course isn’t some kind of get rich scheme created by Emil…
As I found while trawling through all the videos, a massive amount of time has been invested into the creation and development of the Academy.
In a nutshell, the iPhone Photo Academy is an in-depth online course that promises to show you how to take incredible iPhone photos to wow your friends – ones that you’ll be proud to look at years later.
The goal of the iPhone Photo Academy is that every student learns to take, edit and share amazing photos just with their iPhone, freeing them from the need to carry a bulky camera.
While most iPhone photography courses focus on showing you which buttons to press and ignore the topic of how to think creatively, this one shows you the technical aspects as well as teaching you how to see the world through the eyes of an experienced photographer – despite the limitations of your tool.
iPhone Photo Academy Course Structure
Click to expand the modules to see more information below:
1. The Essentials of the iPhone Camera (11 lessons)
2. Additional iPhone Camera Features (7 lessons)
3. The Principles of Great Photography (10 lessons)
4. Creative iPhone Photography Techniques (10 lessons)
5. Common iPhone Photography Scenarios (11 lessons)
6. Technical iPhone Photography (9 lessons)
7. The Advanced Camera Features Of The Latest iPhone Models
8. Expanding Your Creativity With Live Photos
9. How To Manage, Share And Print Your iPhone Photos
10. Video Analysis Of 459 iPhone Photos
There’s also ‘Lifetime Membership to the Private Online Community’ – something that I initially dismissed as being a cheap sales stunt, but which actually proved to be very impressive indeed – see later in the review.
Module #7 is a nice addition which shows how current the iPhone Photo Academy actually is detailing the advanced features of the latest iPhone models.
This is especially relevant if you have one of the latest iPhone X series of cameras with two separate cameras on the back of the phone. This module alone has 6 lessons.
There’s clearly a lot of information in the iPhone Photo Academy (over 10 hours of videos!), but the question has to be asked – is there any point to it all?
Before starting the review, I must admit to being rather sceptical about whether it’s even necessary to have such a course, so I decided to investigate the following question:
Why the Need for an iPhone Photography School?
I’ve never really been interested in taking ‘serious’ photos with my phone. I mostly use it to take ‘throwaway’ photos of documents, recipes, food I’ve eaten, etc., or just of photos of my kids that I intend to share with family.
I’m well aware that the average smartphone can take an image that’s virtually indistinguishable from the average DSLR camera, but I’ve never felt the desire to learn how to do it.
As with most things, having the right tool isn’t enough. Even if you have the latest iPhone XS, it doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to be able to take amazing photos with it. This is where the iPhone Photo Academy comes in…
We all know the old adage, the best camera is the one you have on you. For most people, this is their smartphone… and the majority of these people are still using an Apple iPhone.
(Incidentally, if it’s not obvious already, this course is only for iPhone owners – it doesn’t deal with any Android device.)
Since we all have such powerful devices in our pockets, it seems a shame not to put the camera to its full use.
Just like I’m a big advocate in investing to learn to take better photos with your main camera, I’m also starting to realise the benefit of something like the iPhone Photo Academy – to make the most of the power of the iPhone camera.
Sure, anyone can set an iPhone to Portrait mode and take a blurred background photo for Facebook, but you’ll need to invest a bit of time to really learn how to create something amazing with it.
After spending a couple of weeks with the iPhone Photo Academy, I’m confident that it’s the right course to recommend to help you do this.
What I Like about the iPhone Photo Academy
1. Feedback from Real Students
This is what I look at first when reviewing a course – what other people have said about it.
I know how easy it is to fake a testimonial, so I was particularly impressed at the video reviews left by so many past and current students of the iPhone Photo Academy, which are clearly genuine (at least to my eyes, anyway!)
The reviews show students who are clearly enjoying the content of the course and finding it useful in their own iPhone photography endeavours.
These seem to be people who had no prior experience with using their phone to create great pictures, and their video testimonials give proof as to the quality of the course.
2. Quick ‘hacks’ for Better iPhone Photos
I thought I was fairly proficient with the iPhone camera – after all, you just point, tap and shoot, right? I knew how to adjust exposure by dragging my finger up/down the screen, and how to trigger the shutter using the button on the Apple headphones.
However, I was surprised to learn so many other tips from the iPhone Photo Academy to get even more out of the camera.
I can’t reveal the tricks here, but they’re things that help with focusing, exposure, and getting sharper pictures in general – all things you may be able to learn through a bit of Googling, but unless you know they exist in the first place, you won’t know what to Google.
3. Fundamental Principles of Great Photography
As a professional photographer, I already knew the contents of the majority of the module on the fundamentals of photography.
Despite this existing knowledge, I enjoyed re-learning about what makes one photo so enchanting, while another falls flat on its face, especially when it relates to using an iPhone to capture the moment.
Most of the content in this module is applicable to all kinds of photography (not just iPhone photography), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
However, I did like how Emil kept relating each point back to the iPhone, and how each tip would apply when you’re using the confines of the iPhone’s camera.
The tips on using directional light to take beautiful photos with your phone, and how to make the most of golden hour and blue hour by adjusting your exposure in a specific way, were two tips in particular that I enjoyed.
4. How to Make a Photo more ‘Likeable’ on Instagram
I always find it strange how some Instagrammers attract thousands of Likes on photos while other photographers struggle to get three figures.
As the author of this course with years of experience using his phone to take great photos, Emil’s own Instagram account attracts tons of Likes and Comments.
You have to admit that even if you don’t like the subject of the photos he takes, there is certainly something about each photo and his feed that is alluring enough to want to follow his work.
In one module of the Photo Academy, Emil breaks down all the little iPhone photography tips and tricks that add up to make photos more ‘Likeable’ on social media. I like how he walks the walk, with evidence shown on his own social media accounts.
5. Specific Actionable Advice based on Specific Situations
I’m a big fan of actionable advice that relates to specific situations – what I mean by this is a tip on, say, the exact settings to help take amazing landscape photos with an iPhone, or how to hold your phone to make your subject look more flattering when taking portrait photos, etc.
Again, a lot of it I did already know based on my 10+ years of experience as a pro photographer, but it was nice to see how all the tips could be applied when shooting with just an iPhone.
Also, for any beginner (whether to regular photography or smartphone photography), the tips are all useful and immediately actionable.
Since anyone who buys the iPhone Photo Academy will already own an iPhone, it’s good to know you can watch the videos, change the settings as advised, then immediately go and put the tip into practice by creating a nice photo.
6. Simple Editing Techniques
With the plethora of iPhone apps for photography, it’s a bit overwhelming when trying to work out which apps to use to edit your photos.
Even if you already have a favourite iPhone photo editing app, the challenge is then how to master all its tools to help you consistently create good photos.
I particularly liked how Emil simplifies the editing process in the iPhone Photo Academy, bringing much needed clarity to a topic which is often convoluted with complicated and largely unnecessary techniques.
7. Secrets for Managing a Huge Photo Library
This is one of the 4 bonus videos included with the iPhone Photo Academy and is genuinely really useful.
I’m guilty of having tens of thousands of photos on my iPhone which I never even look at – perhaps you’re the same?
Emil offers some sound advice on how to deal with having so many photos hidden away in your iPhone archives, and tips on how to ensure you don’t keep ‘losing’ all your important photos.
It’s not ground-breaking by any means, but it’s one of those things that every iPhone user should know – especially considering the price of an iCloud subscription, which with the tips in this module, becomes unnecessary.
8. Facebook Group/Support
I only encountered one issue when using the iPhone Photo Academy (and that turned out to be user error!), but the support staff were quick and helpful – I got a response within 8 hours.
The Facebook community is very active and I was surprised to find a few other Facebook friends of mine were already enrolled in the course.
With over 33,350 members, an average of 150 posts per day, and seven admins (!!) last time I checked, it’s clear that there are many happy students.
You do tend to feel confident that you’ve made the right decision in purchasing the course.
9. Photo Critique Videos
This is a nice touch I haven’t seen in other photo courses, namely the critiquing of photos. Emil goes in-depth in his feedback while reviewing a broad selection of user-submitted iPhone photos.
It’s good to hear the opinion from someone like Emil who’s spent the last 6+ years of his life learning and practising everything there is to know on the topic of getting better photos from an iPhone.
While I didn’t agree with his opinion on all the photos, I did appreciate his approach to tackling the wide variety of images, and the tact he employed with the feedback.
I also felt he wasn’t sugar-coating the feedback, which always helps to ensure useful and honest constructive criticism.
What I Dislike about the iPhone Photo Academy
1. Videos require an Internet Connection
One thing to note – the videos in the iPhone Photo Academy are only available to view when you have an Internet connection – i.e. they’re not downloadable.
Initially, I wanted to download and binge watch the content on a flight, but quickly discovered I’d have to pay for in-flight wifi to be able to watch it at all.
Apparently, the reason for making the course ‘online-only’ is so that your progress can be tracked, students can comment and ask questions, and to reduce any cases of video pirating.
Admittedly too, pretty much everywhere you go these days has an Internet connection, and most people will be watching the videos in the iPhone Photo Academy at home anyway, so I guess this isn’t such a huge deal.
2. Limited Information on Lightroom Mobile
I was expecting for the iPhone Photo Academy to teach students how to use Lightroom Mobile to organise and edit photos taken with an iPhone. However, this was not the case.
Although there’s a useful lesson on editing in the course, I felt that Emil could have introduced the power of Lr when used in conjunction with the iPhone.
(I assume he chose not to based on Adobe’s recent decision to make Lightroom a subscription-only product, placing it out of reach of most beginners.)
Emil does offer a few other video courses which are focused more on the editing aspect of photography, including ‘Lightroom Editing’ and ‘iPhone Editing Academy’ – I haven’t had a chance to check these out yet, but hopefully they go into more depth about post-production.
3. iPhone only!
I find it rather strange that Emil decided to focus only on iPhone users for his Photo Academy.
As much as I love the iPhone (and have no intention to switch to an Android device), I also know many photographers who love their Samsungs, Pixels, and other Android devices.
About 30~40% of the iPhone Photo Academy is actually applicable to any smartphone with a camera, so it seems a shame to exclude Android users by producing a course that’s exclusive to Apple products.
4. Cost (…when not on Sale)
The price of the iPhone Photo Academy fluctuates throughout the year, from a rather steep $497, right down to an 80% discount of only $97.
Emil reckons there’s over $1,000-worth of content in the course, but this is obviously hard to quantify.
While I agree that 10 hours of video footage should justify a premium price, I’m not sure I’d be prepared to pay the full price of $497 for the course, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t either.
However, Emil assures me that the 80% discount sale will be available regularly throughout 2022, and at $97, I think the course is a steal.
There’s also a 30 day money back guarantee if the course isn’t what you hoped for.
iPhone Photo Academy 80% Discount
As mentioned above, when there’s a sale on the iPhone Photo Academy, it’s great value for money.
In my opinion, the price is worth it for the Facebook Community and support alone – it really is that good.
The 7 admins in the community are active and helpful, responding to any question you have regarding the topics in the course, or anything else photography related.
It’s a bit like having 7 photography mentors, whose brains you can tap at any time!
The other members in the community are active too, with over a hundred posts per day from students of all levels.
Who is the iPhone Photo Academy for?
Before I watched the lessons in the iPhone Photo Academy, I was convinced the content would be for absolute beginners – not just of iPhone photography, but of photography in general.
The topics in the ‘fundamentals’ module led me to conclude this, with lessons on ‘the rule of thirds’ and ‘hard and soft light’ being more the domain of someone just starting out with photography.
However, the more I watched, the more I realised that this is a course for all standards – yes, even professionals like myself.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but I found myself taking notes at multiple times when watching the course!
Now I think about it though, even with 10+ years of pro photography experience under my belt, this doesn’t mean I know everything about using a device normally reserved for making phone calls to take a great photo.
Composing an image with a phone screen is a lot different to composing one using my DSLR’s viewfinder, for example.
Learning to shoot within the limitations of an iPhone sensor, or how to shoot to make the most of the technology in the iPhone, is something that’s not immediately obvious – even for a pro.
So to answer the question of who would benefit from the iPhone Photo Academy… Newcomers to photography would undoubtedly benefit the most from it, as well as amateurs who’ve never explored using the iPhone for ‘serious’ photography.
…but even know-it-all pros like myself (!) might need to swallow their pride a little – this is, after all, a domain that’s new to so many of us.
Just because we have an iPhone in our pockets doesn’t mean we’re immediately great iPhone photographers!!
Also, I must admit that it’s refreshing to carry only an iPhone out with me, and be confident I can still capture a great image. Leaving the bulky DSLR at home is incredibly liberating.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I take better pictures with my iPhone?
There are a number of ways you can improve your iPhone photography, starting with learning the fundamental principles of photography and moving through to knowing which settings to use and which editing techniques and tools are best. All of this is covered in the iPhone Photo Academy course.
Can iPhone take professional photos?
These days, there are professional photographers who use only iPhone for their work. Of course, whether the iPhone offers enough quality and versatility for your needs depends on what you’re shooting, for who, and for what ultimate purpose.
Which iPhone is best for photography?
The latest model iPhones have advanced camera specs and features like adjustable depth of field, making them especially great for high-level photography. The triple‑camera system on the iPhone 11 or 12 will allow you to capture beautiful images, even in tough conditions like very low light.
What is the best online photography school?
If you’re looking for a school specifically for iPhone photography, then the iPhone Photo Academy gets our vote. It’s well structured, in-depth and suitable for photographers of all experience levels.
iPhone Photo Academy Review | Final Words
As much as it pains me to say, the future of photography is definitely sitting right there in our pockets.
I love using DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but the first thing I reach for when taking a photo is usually my humble iPhone!
The iPhone Photo Academy may seem too good to be true – their marketing and sales are a little too convincing, but after reviewing and using the course for two weeks, I’m confident that it’s a great course for anyone wanting to improve their skills shooting with an iPhone.
I’m a little disappointed Emil didn’t widen the net and make the course more generic for other smartphone users too. Hopefully, there’s something similar for Android users in the pipeline.
If you’re an iPhone user and you want to explore how to get the most out of that tiny sensor, check out the course.
If you can snap it up for the sale price, I’m confident you’ll get more than your money’s worth out of it.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.