Huawei Ad Boasts Its Nova 3i Phone Camera Abilities, BTS Image Shows a DSLR Was Used Instead

Huawei has published an ad of its new mobile gadget sporting several cameras and impressive AI specs for the avid selfie-taker. We, as photographers, love behind-the-scenes images, and this one is both informative and hilarious.

In this Egyptian commercial Huawei tells us about the multiple cameras on the phone equipped with AI that can post process selfies, recognize faces, recognize scenery, and simulate bokeh. Heading onto the official page of that phone model you can see that they admit the photo samples are not taken by their phone which may raise a few questions in your mind, or at least an eyebrow or two.

Huawei Nova 3i official page excerpt

But let's go back to the commercial. The spot where the couple takes a photo at home shows us how the AI kicks in and airbrushes the recognized face of the female model even if she hasn't put her makeup yet. While we can say a lot of things about the post-processing involved in this photograph, the more interesting story is a behind-the-scenes image posted by the actress Sarah Elshamy herself on her Instagram account. This image has been already deleted, but below is a screenshot of her Instagram post together with the frame from the commercial showing that moment.

Huawei shows a selfie supposedly taken by a phone

You can clearly see a DSLR on a tripod taking a photograph of a couple where the man pretends to hold a phone (their phone) with his left hand. What was the reason for not using the phone while having all that well-lit and controlled environment? Yes, Huawei never said these images (or the images on their website) were taken by their phone, but do you think that's honest advertising?

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michaeljin's picture

Is any advertising "honest"?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Yes, I've seen many honest commercials of great products. The fact we see more fakery today doesn't mean this is the way to do it or we have to be indifferent to that.

michaeljin's picture

Well, it seems to me that the vast majority of commercials are anything but honest so I don't really find this surprising. It's just par for the course.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's the sad truth nowadays, but there are honest ones albeit rare.

Deleted Account's picture

Commercials are honest if it doesn't interfere with the primary objective of promoting the product. Nothing else matters.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I agree.

James McDonald's picture

I can only speak for the Australian advertising market (not so sure about Egypt) but I can assure you that everything we work on is backed up in fact (or at least the perceived idea of a fact at the time... ahem... smoking.)

Many times I have worked on "rush" jobs only to have them get held up in legal for days and weeks to ensure that they pass compliance. It is far too expensive for a large company to have an advertisement pulled after all of the production and ad space has been paid for because they are practising deceptive and misleading conduct.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I agree that it could cost way more to get pulled from publicity, but I wonder why in this case they didn't use their own product when lighting was all set up and here weren't any strong backlights that would scare the sensor of any camera (not only phones').

jacob kerns's picture

Cigarette ads said they were recommended by doctors. Camels were smoother than Marlboro

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Maybe they meant doctors of philosophy (Ph.D.), not M.D. (medical doctors).

Wodan Rheingold's picture

No no, real doctors. My mom had a cold in the sixties and was advised by her doctor to start smoking, because it would "kill the germs".

Tihomir Lazarov's picture


Mark James's picture

I think they learned this from the news media. Publishing standards are at an all time low.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture


Daniel Medley's picture

" you think that's honest advertising?"

No. It's not.

Yes, advertising, by its very nature, will always stretch the truth, but I think this crosses the line to reasonable people. I mean the guy is actually pretending to hold a phone to take the photo we're being presented as being taken on said phone. The photo was not only NOT taken with said phone, it was taken with a device that said phone is supposedly in direct competition with.

My head hurts thinking about it.

When the photographer who took the photo was hired by Huawei he presumably was aware of the product he was photographing for. He presumably could have used anything he wanted to take the photo.

The fact that he's using a DSLR instead of the phone pretty much sums up the reality that serious photographers aren't going to use a phone to do their work. Not even a Huawei.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I don't think advertising will always stretch the truth or it's meant to stretch the truth.

Imagine you make a product or a service that is unique, say a real hoverboard. You just advertise the way it is without stretching the truth. Even if you make the commercial on a cheap mobile phone your hoverboard will sell quite well, because it's a groundbreaking product. The problem with these ads is that most of them sell commodities, i.e. they are just like everyone else who sells the same. This is where they're starting to twist the truth. I still wonder why they haven't used a phone for the photographs having so well lit situations that weren't of so high contrast.

I have a phone picture on the first page of my website to show that when you have the lighting the photographing device is of less importance. They had the lighting and most of those situations were easy even on small the sensors. If there were issues they could always light it to aid the phone. I think they just took a shortcut risking they wouldn't be caught.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Remember when Nokia got caught doing this because of the reflection?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Yeah, it was a way cheaper deception. This one would have almost fooled the public if it weren't for the BTS leak.

Felix Wu's picture

They were filming a TVC. Time to think independently.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

So, it's OK to be a lie... But see their website. They're showing images on the phones that weren't taken with their phone. Why not get the perfect lighting conditions and take an image with a phone?

Felix Wu's picture

Hmmm...I suppose you have never worked in the advertising industry? Calling that a lie is just a bit naive. Do you really think those two in the pic were real couple? Did they really go on a holiday to take those photos? Was there no light pointing at them and also the reflector right next to their face?

They had models acting, they had an entire crew filming this TVC and they had digital artist to retouch and composit images. Could they have shot that picture with a Huawei phone to be more authentic? Of course but in this case they might have chosen not to...

Have you seen a McDonald ad where the burger was huge and ingredients were all fresh and colourful? Do you feel disappointed when you actually purchase a meal and see the burger in your hand looks nothing like it is on the ad? Were they misleading? Heck yea! Advertisements are there to prove a point, to create a feeling to attract consumers. And as consumers we have grown used to it.

Besides, do you have solid proof that, apart from the BTS photo on instagram, the advertised photos were not shot using a Huawei? I would be curious to find out what’s Huawei’s response.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I am in fact working in the advertising industry and carefully pick the projects I'm working on. My personal preference is to make things accurate as possible and fakery is just to aid to the story, but not twist or alter it. For example I have to show a celebrity in their working environment, but currently we don't have the access to it, so I may use a bit of compositing. This doesn't fake the person. It would look the same if we had access to the location. The same goes for the retouching I do. I keep people as natural as possible.

Saying that in the current commercial I would use that very phone to photograph these images and would do my best to get the lighting as easy on the phone as possible.

The commercial is not about a real couple. It's about a phone that is capable of taking pictures. Ask the audience and you will find that nobody believes they are a real couple but most viewers believe the phone is capable of doing such and such. We don't even question the lighting. In real you very seldom have that quality of light, but it could happen by chance, you know... when all stars align.

The fact many corporations are faking their ads and pictures doesn't make this the right way to do it. As I said in another comment most of them do that, because they sell commodities and it seems that a lie is the "only way" to stick from the crowd. To me, they can be more creative and yet sell their commodity pretty good. There are many examples of ads that don't even show the product, but still sell it.

Advertisements are not meant to lie. They are meant to inform. This is why I choose the projects I work on. I don't agree with the fakery in most ads and this doesn't make it a standard for working.

Felix Wu's picture

Btw, I tried the Huawei P20 pro in store and its camera is fantastic. It’s AI can enable filter to airbrush your face and also slims it making an average person look amazing. That’s not real for sure but I am sure many in the market will like it. I also believe their phone could produce similar quality of a photo to that “Canon” shot.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

But they didn't do it for some reason. This is the most curious question: why?

Felix Wu's picture

Who are you to say that they did not use their phone? Did they say so? Bashing at the company simply by looking at that single BTS photos is a bit absurd don’t you think? Again, think independently. If I were the Huawei PR I could have intentionally leaked that BTS shot to have the entire internet circulate such rumour, then make an offficial statement with proof that the image was actually shot using Huawei.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

See the screenshot in the article. The screenshot is from their website. Click on the link to their website that is in the website. Read the small letters under the features and the images. They say the images that are placed on their phones' displays are not shot with their phones. The BTS photo has been posted by the actress. The post has been removed 1 day after that. The BTS shows the actress, the actor, and the environment. I just judge based on usual practices of the manufacturer they've outlined on their official webssite and on the information by members of the teams they work with.

Read the article again. This information is all there. I simply write what I saw on their website and on the BTS photo. If you want to prove that the BTS photo is fake, go for it and let us know, so we write a follow-up article. You can't proove the images on their website are taken by their phone, because they aren't and this is their official statement.

Is the article saying their phones are not capable of capturing good images? No. Are they capable of doing that? I, personally, don't know and the information on their website or the BTS image doesn't help much in that direction.

Felix Wu's picture

If they stated the image was used as a placement then what was the internet upset about ? If its an ad and there was a clarification how was there a lie? You can find that fine print on tons of ads produced every year.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The fact it's full of deceptions in ads doesn't make it OK. Next time they will advertise you a camera that shoots video and when you pick it up you find that it only shoots SD while the commercial was shot on an ARRI. You usually pick such a product based on the results supposedly from the same device.

This reminds me of a guy that went to fast food restaurants and complaining that the food doesn't look like in the print ads in the restaurant and returned it. Then they have made food for him just like in the ads. Just look that up.

Felix Wu's picture

Needless to say? Test the camera and read its specs thoroughly before purchase. If it truly falls under misrepresentation then let the law take care of it.

Most of food ads will tell you photo is only a reference. And when you get it you will know its fake as..try to ask McDonald to match what’s in the ad. No way.

Felix Wu's picture

Ha...They didn’t even get it right on the second time its so pathetic. The video is more of an entertainment I would say.

Tomash Masojc's picture

that selfie was taken with 5D Mark III, but somebody knows, was it filmed on that camera? All commercial

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I don't know if the commercial was filmed with a 5D mark III. At some parts the sky is overblown which is an often case with DSLR video, but that could happen with a real cinema camera in case the DP decided to expose the scene like that.

I'm also not sure if this is a Canon 5D Mark III. Indeed this DSLR was used to fake other images of theirs for previous campaigns, but I don't know what this one is.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Used a DSLR, and also a ton of obvious skin retouching.

Ben Pearse's picture

Totally misleading Ad as usual...

Yasir Saeed's picture

The only thing they seem to be guilty of is not learning from past mistakes.

Huawei needs to understand that while to the average joe this might not matter much, photographers are used to seeing videos of peers taking a shot, and then it appearing on screen straight out of camera.

The ad is misleading in its nature because it emulates that same process, implying that the resulting image is from the camera.

It's simply carelessness on the part of the producer of the ad film. The model could simply have been holding an actual phone in the empty hand, and it wouldn't be that much of an issue.

No one walks into McDonald's looking to see the exact McWhatever they saw on the billboard. Why should this be any different?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Exactly. You buy this product, because you see the supposed results from the device.

As for McDonald's: look up a guy that returns food that doesn't look like in the ads. Then they prepare him the meal just like in the ad.