There’s an easy way to get a filmic look from your iPhone!
I set out to help my wife, Amanda, get a filmic look from her cellphone images. Her “main” camera is a Fujifilm X-T4, but she also shoots quite a bit on her iPhone 13 Pro; her interest in photography and videography began with the iPhone. The filmic aesthetic is highly sought after, but not always easy to achieve; however, I found a good way to get it on the iPhone, so read on to find out how you can do it, too!
What exactly is a filmic look? I would describe it as a cinematic film aesthetic. Think stills from a motion picture, or photographs captured with cinema film that has had the Remjet layer removed. This wasn’t an attempt to mimic any specific movie or emulsion, but just achieve a general filmic look through cellphone photography—make it seem less digital and more analog-like, except without all of the editing that is traditionally required. As a mother of four and behind-the-scenes Fuji X Weekly cohort, Amanda is quite busy, and doesn’t have time for extensive editing, so post-processing pictures could not be a prerequisite for achieving a filmic aesthetic.
I started with a Sandmarc case for her iPhone 13 Pro because Sandmarc has an adapter, which they call Step Up Ring Filter Mount, that allows you to use filters on your cellphone camera. This adapter has 40.5mm threads, and, using a 40.5mm-49mm step up ring that I already owned, I was able to mount my 20% CineBloom diffusion filter to Amanda’s iPhone. I felt that this filter would be a key component to achieving a filmic look, and the Sandmarc case with the Step Up Ring Filter Mount plus the 40.5mm-49mm step up ring was the easiest way to get that CineBloom filter onto her iPhone.
I’m sure the Sandmarc case isn’t the only one that allows you to use filters, but it is the one we got, and so far it seems to be a quality product. It works well and is reasonably inexpensive, so it’s easy to recommend. It did take a fall; while the case kept the phone safe and undamaged (which is great!), it did leave a noticeable mark on the case itself. Another note: Sandmarc has their own line of filters—including a diffusion filter—but we used the 20% CineBloom because I already own it for my Fujifilm X100V. I personally really like CineBlooms, but the brand of diffusion filter doesn’t really matter all that much, I don’t think.
On the iPhone 13 Pro, you can attach the filter over the main 26mm camera or over the telephoto 77mm camera, but not over the ultra-wide 13mm camera. You can only use it on one camera at a time, so it does take some of the convenience out of using the iPhone for photography—not only do you have to carry the filter, but also screw it over the correct lens. Not a dealbreaker for this method, but certainly a limitation that one should be aware of.
The camera app that Amanda uses is RitchieCam, which has filters inspired by film, crafted to have an analog essence. Designed with a one-step philosophy, RitchieCam produces photos that are ready to be shared or printed the instant that they’re captured. RitchieCam was recently enthusiastically endorsed by Leigh & Raymond Photography as their favorite iPhone camera app—it was one of their five suggested ways for achieving a film look on a digital camera. RitchieCam is my very own camera app; download it for free today from the Apple App Store!
I said that the 20% CineBloom was key to getting a filmic look because diffusion filters take the digital edge off of digital pictures. It blooms the highlights and softens the shadows more like negative film. Also, diffusion filters have been a cinematographic tool long before they were popular for still photography, so the aesthetic produced by these filters is inherently filmic. Below is an example of what a diffusion filter does to an image. I chose this particular set because the difference is obvious; oftentimes the effect is a little less apparent, especially if there is not a bright light source (such as the sun) in or near the frame. The strongest CineBloom is 20%, so if you find it to be too strong, consider the 10% or 5% options instead—sometimes subtlety is preferable.
Below are some of Amanda’s pictures captured with her iPhone 13 Pro using RitchieCam and the 20% CineBloom filter, made possible by the Sandmarc case and filter adapter. Combining RitchieCam with a diffusion filter produces images with a filmic quality, and, because editing isn’t required, this process works well for those who don’t have time to post-process their pictures, or who only want to do quick adjustments.