Check Out the White House Christmas Decorations Shot With an iPhone 6

Brooks Kraft, the photographer who’s been covering the White House for over a decade, has shot this year’s Christmas decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with an iPhone 6 Plus camera. “I’ve covered this event about 10 times before,” he told TIME, while adding that since this has “no real, intrinsic news value”, it is a good opportunity to try out new gear that he might use later in more “news-oriented environments”.

White house christmas holidays brooks kraft 12This year, Kraft has chosen to shoot in the square format with an iPhone 6 Plus, as he thought that this format would work well with the formality of the architecture in the White House. “There are a lot of mixed lights in these rooms and there’s also [natural] light, and the new iPhones do a really good job of balancing colors right out of the camera” he said, while highlighting that he likes to shoot with an iPhone because it allows him to work rapidly. 

“The iPhone has a lot of depth-of-field, which allows me to shoot the [picture] and move around quickly, which worked in this situation because we were sort of ushered through the rooms and didn’t have a lot of time. I wanted to photograph most of the spaces with few people in them, so the window of opportunity in which to shoot was brief.”

Kraft uses both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but in this case, he wanted to test the larger model’s new image stabilization technology, which is supposed to help in low-light situations. “Some of the rooms are quite dark, and I used the 6 Plus for that. And the larger screen also helps. There were situations when I was holding the camera above my head to try to make vertical lines more parallel on the edges of the frame, and in that case having the larger screen helped me [compose the shot].”

In the end, Kraft gives 5 tips for better shooting with an iPhone:

  • Make sure you get the best exposure you can when you’re shooting, because it’s pretty hard to correct a bad exposure on the phone. It’s worth taking the extra minute to get it right.
  • Don’t use the flash. With steady hands, the iPhone is frequently capable of capturing images in low light situations, and the results often look better then with the flash. But in some cases, you don’t have a choice.
  • Don’t use the zoom function because it’s not an optical zoom. It’s just blowing up the pixels you have.
  • Pay attention to the image settings of the app you’re using to photograph. Some will downsize your files. I use the native camera app because I’m sure to have a clean, maximum resolution file that I can go back to.
  • Think about what you do with your images once you’ve shot them. There’s a tendency when you’re using a mobile device to let your images sit there instead of organizing them, archiving them or printing them. I really think that when people look back at their visual histories, they [might find big gaps in their archives].