Good photographers make good pictures, not the gear. People can use the latest, fanciest cameras, lighting and lenses and still take average pictures, or even awful ones. On the other hand, someone with a good eye can take amazing pictures with any camera. iPhones take great pictures. There are photographers all over the internet showing commercial shoots and weddings they have done with their iPhone cameras. However, a really good, close up portrait will be better with good lighting and a long lens in the right hands.
These two photos were taken seconds apart. The first was a quick snap with my iPhone for the model release, using window light. The second was the light test just a few seconds later, using my DSLR with a 105mm lens.
Same beautiful girl, same hair and makeup, same outfit, same room, same gorgeous blue eyes, same photographer. So, why are they so different? The iPhone, like most phone cameras, has a lens with a field of view similar to a 35mm lens. That's great if you are taking group shots or even photos of individuals at full length, but it is certainly not ideal as a close up portrait lens. Photographers generally agree that a focal length of at least 85mm is best to create flattering portraits which show faces naturally, how we see them.
I used very simple, soft lighting from in front and behind, as well as adding three reflectors to bounce more light into the subject's eyes. So next time you look at a phone photo of yourself and feel a little discouraged, just remember that you probably look a whole lot nicer in real life! When you need a profile photo or a portrait, consider hiring someone to take a picture you will be happy with.