The Professional Photographer Vs The iPhone

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‘Just shoot it on your iPhone!’  has to be the most common quote of every marketing department throughout the land right now.

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‘BLOODY iPHONES!!!’  is the No.1 thread of discussion in every Professional Photography Forum online!

I actually don’t hate the iPhone and its built-in camera, I love it!  It is sensational to have the ability to record any moment at any time anywhere.  No one forgets to bring a camera and the convenience to post on social media as it happens is a phenomenon. Many times I have made the judgment call not to take my bulky SLR out with me and opted to cover a personal moment using just my phone.

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Professionally I would have to have a gun to my head to do the same on an actual paying job and that is exactly the point of this article.

If you said to a Professional Photographer 15 years ago that one day there will be a piece of kit no bigger than your hand, wide angle f1.8 and telephoto f2.8 lenses (that can take pin sharp images if used right), 4000×3000 image resolution and the ability built-in to upload images anywhere in the world, you would of had a waiting list of pro’s putting their names down screaming to have this technology! Did I say it can also make phone calls! If you fast forward to 2017, no professional photographer will go near one on an actual paying job!  Crazy really considering our bulky, expensive, but superb camera equipment can’t do half the things the iPhone can.

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So what is the problem with the iPhone? The real bone of contention I have is one that has existed ever since modern camera photography began and is increased tenfold by camera marketing departments.  Just because a camera is of exceptional quality, that doesn’t necessary guarantee you will take great pictures!  That part is done by the operator and some are better than others.  Even professional cameras produce poor results if operated by someone with little understanding of photography and that is the problem we have right now.  A massive amount of professional social media image content is being created and fed by camera phones operated by completely unskilled people.  Just to repeat in case you missed my point.  Professional social media content being created by unskilled amateurs.  There wouldn’t be an argument here if the images were all good, but sadly the majority are mediocre to poor.

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The iPhone is a brilliant point and shoot. There is nothing wrong with it at all.  The camera is fully automatic and has been brilliantly designed to work in most environments.  Some photos are better than others and that is just the way of the world.  Some people have a flair for image making and some don’t.  But also the iPhone has limitations as does every point and shoot camera.  This is why professionals use cameras which can be controlled and used accordingly to a given situation.  A skilled image maker understands those limitations and adapts to its short comings.  I know I said the iPhone is exceptional, it is! But the quality isn’t that great if you compare it to a professionally shot image.  The iPhone is exceptional because of its convenience in modern society.

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Major companies and business’ are increasingly using the power of social media as a tool to communicate with their ‘followers’(customers).  The quickest and most simple method to create content is to do this via their phone.  It appeals to the voyeuristic and the sense of ‘being there’ helps an audience connect.  An image posted of an event ‘as it happens’ suggests a less calculated approach to marketing therefore more trustworthy and ‘real’ than a carefully constructed campaign.  If done well it works!

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Because it is ‘only the internet’ very little budget, skill or forethought is being allocated to creating good content. Why get a Professional when anyone can do it?  If you have a global reach of millions then surely it is worth making your output as impressive as your company?  Not taint the brand with poorly shot images taken on a phone.

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‘Come on, it ain’t rocket science’ I once overheard, as a marketing employee held a camera high above his head to shoot an event on his iPhone.  The picture published on-line shortly after was terrible and showed a bald head in the foreground of the frame. The background was totally bleached out.  It was hard to tell what the event was but because it was on the official feed the viewer already knew what it was thus making it vaguely acceptable.  That image was shared tens of times and liked by over 600 people.  So in theory that was successful marketing.  It has to be, it was shared and liked and went viral all over the world.

If you now analyse how that same moment could of been captured by an experienced image maker (I won’t say Professional Photographer) using a camera phone, then that measurement of success is put into perspective.

An experienced photographer would look at everything happening, calculate what the marketing department was trying to illustrate and produce an image fit for purpose.  That shot would be taken from a carefully considered position including all relevant content, well composed with the timing precisely right. All this whilst making allowances for the limitations of the technology.

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Alternatively they would probably have suggested a phone isn’t the ideal tool and insisted on using professional camera equipment which has the ability to capture the moment perfectly.  If the event has colour and excitement a professional can illustrate that, persuading the viewer to connect with that business or product.  The viewer has an urge to tell the world ‘WOW! CHECK THIS OUT!’.  The image is shared on the internet in thousands and creates a viral buzz whilst upholding that brands high standards.

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Going back to my previous article ‘The Photographer Vs The Internet’  I asked the question why an image has more value in print than used on-line? The exact same question can be directed at marketing departments.  Why are thousands spent creating a companies branding but so little is spent when used on the front line of it’s global audience of millions on social media?  Advertising no longer has to be tailored for an exact demographic or targeted to certain audiences.  A captive audience have already made a connection by following or liking a post online, allowing content to be delivered direct. Communication with an audience was once a calculated process with a precise strategy but that is no longer necessary. The message doesn’t have to be displayed on a bill board on a customers particular route to work or on the back page of their favourite magazine.  Promotion can now be done with a single click from a phone to potentially millions of customers. It is an impressive amount of power -  that is being abused.

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Obviously a £5000 camera with a £2000 piece of glass is going to produce a better image than a phone but isn’t it overkill?  That may have been the case at the turn of this century but these days the quality of our devices are able to display to a much higher definition than ever before.

Nikon & Canon have also got to get their act together fast. They have to build into their cameras a direct connection to the iPhone as standard.  I don’t want expensive additional bolt-ons but a blue tooth connection (I would settle for a lead) direct to my phone so within seconds of shooting I have the ability to upload to social media as easily as the iPhone can.  Just a simple paid for App that automatically does a quick RAW edit into a medium size JPEG ready for distribution.  Simple.

If this doesn’t happen and happen soon more and more jobs and commissions will be lost. Come on Nikon/Canon throw us a rope!

But the client doesn’t want the extra admin of having to deal with commissioning a pro! Why should they wait for the photographer to download, edit and upload when it could just be done on their iPhone? In our minds it is obvious. The quality will be exceptional and the editing will ensure the images uploaded will be sensational.  Guaranteed viral power!

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Us professionals know that but a large proportion of businesses simply don’t get it and refuse to accept it.  You could argue that a post online is not necessary always trying to sell you something and it is just a snap to keep a global audience informed. This is very true but it is still the ‘shop window’ and without care it can look a disaster.

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An experienced professional photographer approaches image capture with a totally different set of skills that are mostly performed sub-concisely – regardless of the camera in his or her hands.  Light, composition and timing are calculated in the split second before the button is touched.  To a professional it just comes naturally, from working day in and day out taking thousands and thousands of photographs.  Absorbing knowledge which is processed neurally to be recalled automatically when a situation presents itself.  We also appreciate a shoot for social media isn’t the same as a Corporate brochure or a front cover.

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So if you ask me what I think of the iPhone I will tell you, I love it!   But what I think of its pictures depends on who is operating it.

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