Saguaro Textures

I’ve been photographing with my old iPhone camera after a camera club assignment to develop a phone image as a black and white image. I realized, for the first time, how good these images are and relatively easy to work with in Photoshop. I’m having fun taking pictures of things I might normally not shoot. I’m finding the whole process, from field to finish, filled with creative possibilities.

Specific Feedback Requested

Can you tell this was taken with a phone and not a “regular camera”?

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
iPhone SE (2016 model) camera captured using the camera in Lightroom app.


The time difference between you and me gives me a chance to comment before most of the members. This gives me an unbiased opinion.

Your image is wonderful, and I would never have picked it to be a “phone” image. The shapes, line and colour are all outstanding. It’s an image that could be horizontal or vertical.

I have a friend on another forum whose forte is finding grand compositions of light and shape from the most mundane. And, usually right at his feet, or very close by.

So much beauty in the imperfections. I’m enjoying this image very much.

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No I couldn’t tell this is from a phone. Even one of that age has a decent camera in it and you’re a processing wizard so can make it even better. Having never lived where cactuses grow, I’ve never seen black(ened?) spines on one so this is a nice discovery. I have also not paid attention to the warty bits they accumulate, like barnacles on a whale.

Thanks for the comment @Kris_Smith. The black spines are very common, actually. New spines are usually white and the older they get the darker they become, it seems. So on older saguaros, the spines near the bottom are frequently black, or even missing entirely. I’m not sure what causes these “barnacles” but agree with @glennie that there is a certain “beauty in the imperfections.”

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Tony, this is outstanding. No, I couldn’t tell this was from a phone but phones are so good now that unless you blow it up pretty big, it’s hard to tell the difference between a phone image and a DSLR or Mirrorless image. You have excellent contrasting colors with the bluish greens and the oranges and I love the black spines and the spore like growths all over the cacti. Do Saguaro usually have black spines? My only nit would be the right side of the image where it looks like the depth of field falls off and/or you have the merging of two cacti columns. It’s a VERY MINOR nit and in no way negates the beauty of this image. No you know you have a new tool to use when you are out and about.

Tony, my first impression was that this feels like an aerial view of a boat dock… :man_shrugging:. It’s spectacular with all the shapes, colors and spines against the green. Phone’s can take great pictures. As I always start out saying to beginner’s photoworkshops, “It’s not the equipment, it’s the person knowing how to use their equipment, that makes good photos.”

This is incredible! And I never would have suspected an iPhone, much less an older one! The colorful details are a wonder to explore and I love the “flat field” look from the huge DOF. The black spines are also, for me, an unusual and very interesting feature. Well done!!

I wouldn’t have known this was a phone pic at all. The colors and textures are wonderful. I’m going to show this post to my husband because he LOVES photogging with his phone rather than his perfectly nice XT-3. He enjoys being able to compose using the bigger screen rather than the viewfinder or even the back screen. He’ll be gratified that a pro like using a phone camera, too. :slightly_smiling_face:

@Bonnie_Lampley–XT-3 + any lens is an absolute brick compared to an iPhone. I’m very much enjoying composing on the smaller screen too and actually feel my compositions have improved using the significantly smaller equipment package that the iPhone provides. Recent blog has more information. For me, one of the keys to appreciating what the iPhone could do was to actually develop some of the images in Photoshop and ending up delighted with the results both as online images and as prints.

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Wonderful image. The only thing wrong with it is that I didn’t take it. I was looking for similar images when I was I AZ but didn’t find anything as exciting. I think the major difference between the iphone and a standard sensor is printing at larger sizes, significant cropping or noise when shadows need to be brought up or very low light situations. I may have to try using my iphone in the field now.


Yes, @Don_Jacobson, the small sensor will have more noise. Lately I’ve been experimenting with Topaz Denoise and finding it does an amazing job on many images.

I had to do a double take on this one. I had no idea the Saguaros had these wonderful textures and patterns. The random brown splotches juxtaposed with the strong vertical lines and sharp spines is compelling.

@Chris_Baird, I think it’s some kind of infection (fungus/virus/bacteria) that causes this. Many suguaros don’t have these blemishes or this many. It’s an interesting pattern an probably represents a dynamic process of infection > healing > scarring.

It’s truly astounding what our phones are capable of achieving - even one from “way back” in 2016, as they are so much better even six years later. It makes me wonder the state of digital photography in another decade or two, when smartphone cameras inevitably take over the “consumer camera” market. Then again, it’s unlikely it will even take that long.

As for your photograph, Tony, I find it to be truly stunning. I love all the detail throughout the composition; it’s as if I would be stabbed by the thorns if I got too close. And the colors seem to be so natural yet quite vibrant as well. This is a photograph to be quite proud of and one I would gladly hang upon my wall.