A few weeks ago I did a full fashion photo shoot with my iPhone 3gs. I posted a few of the images and asked people to critique them (never exposing that they were shot on my cell phone). I couldn't help but laugh when a few of our readers claimed that these were "the best images I had ever taken." Nobody ever claimed that they were too grainy, too soft, or lacked detail.
So before I say anything else let me start by saying; I created this video to simply show that you should not be limited by your camera. Obviously there was a lot that went into this shoot including a professional model, hair and makeup, a studio, lighting, and a retoucher. We may create another video in the future where we shoot with only natural light but this video is simply about the camera. There are so many photographers who are obsessed with noise, sharpness, color, dynamic range, megapixels, chromatic aberration, moire, distortion, etc. So many photographers get wrapped up in the technical side that they forget how to take compelling images. This video is for them.
So a few months ago I called Olivia Price; "Hey Olivia, would you be willing to let me do a full photoshoot with you but I'm only going to use my iPhone camera." I had worked with Olivia before, and I must have gained her trust because even though she was very busy she agreed to model for me. Luckily, we set up the shoot right before she was scheduled to move to LA to continue her acting career.
Next I called the local high end hair salon in town, Stella Nova. Madison LeCroy and Tiffany Starnes agreed to donate their time and talent to be a part of this shoot.
I then contacted Pratik Naik of Soltice Retouch. Pratiks portfolio is mind blowing and I was thrilled when he agreed to do the skin retouching for the video.
Travis Harris, a photographer from Miami was in town for the week and he agreed to help Patrick Hall film the whole day.
I now had a full team of extremely talented people and I had yet to even test the phone's camera capability in the studio. At this point I was scared that I may be in over my head. What if the iPhone wasn't capable of creating good quality images? A few days before the shoot I called Patrick Hall over to my house to help me test out the camera. I set up a standard square beauty lighting scheme and got Patrick to stand in. I took this shot:
We were both shocked by the quality of the image. Once we uploaded the picture to the web, you couldn't even tell it wasn't shot on a DSLR. I now had the confidence I needed for the upcoming shoot.
The day of the shoot went very well. I tried to be as informative as possible in the video so I won't go into great detail here about how the images were shot. After the shoot I sent the files over to Pratik for initial retouching. Once I got the files back I gave each of the images a "look" using different photoshop techniques and filters. In the video you can see the original image, Pratik's retouching, and then my final editing.
People may claim that the original images don't look that great but I was shooting with the intent of using Photoshop afterwards. If the backdrop paper didn't fill the frame I knew I could easily fix it afterwards. With today's market being what it is I see Photoshop as a necessary tool for every image I make. I am in the business of making money and my clients do not care if I got it perfect in the camera or made it perfect in post, they simply want a perfect image. It's the same process with music. A band could record and entire album in 1 take, but what successful artist does that? Today, everyone records track by track one at a time and use software to combine them all together into a perfect mix.
A quality camera and lens is a fantastic tool to begin with but even the most expensive camera in the world is capable of taking bad pictures. When your clients view your work they aren't thinking, "Wow I don't see any chromatic aberration in this image!" They are simply thinking, "Wow, I can't put my finger on it, but this looks great!" Olivia has one of these images as her profile picture, and it already has a ton of comments like: "G-L-A-M-O-R-OUS", "LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", you are so beautiful!!"... These are your clients; these are the people that will pay you to take an image and they are not pixel peepers. And many of you, who are photographers, even still said these are some of the best pictures I have ever taken. I can't say that I agree with that but I will say they are pretty damn good for a cell phone.
You can view all of the edited images below both as high res raw and edited images here.
Please help support Fstoppers.com by commenting below and joining the conversation on our forum here.
UPDATE: A lot of people have asked us what sort of budget equipment we could have used to create these photos. Here is a list of a few items that would make this possible on a budget:
Interfit Photographic 36" Octobox: Large enough for soft light; good on the wallet.
Pro Studio Solutions EZ Pro Strip Box softbox 12"x56" soft box with Speedring Great little strip box; this one is for Alien Bees but can be used with constant lights
Cowboystudio 24" x 36" softbox soft box for Alienbees Alien beesLarger softbox for beauty style lighting. Again, Alien Bee version
Cooper/Regent TQS1000 Twin Work Light 1000-Watt and StandThese would work so much better than our studio strobes. Just be careful with 1000 watts in a 1000 watt softbox, don't let it run too long.
For more photography by Patrick Hall and Lee Morris, check out www.patrickhallphotography.com and www.rlmorris.com
I have Canon 1000d but i want to learn how to take a professional photos like Celebrities photos and i have Canon EFS 18-55mm lens i wish i can help me guys and i'm sorry i was side that in the other place
Point taken, thank you guys.
I enjoy it very much.
Hey Lee, you don't need to defend your position against all the critics, you have not done this video to please anyone.
Be encouraged, many of us are inspired to take a better photos, no more excuses !
OMG! the pics looks great! great job guys!
These are brilliant mate, great job to you and Patrick, keep em coming, lets collab soon, or just have a pint....
I love the video watching how you did the photography. Interestingly when working in a studio with sufficient lighting, the camera f-stop is stopped down to a point where the large lenses don't even matter. Where the 'fancy' cameras with large big lenses really only win in lower / complex lighting situations. I have take great pictures with point and shoot cameras when the lighting is sufficient. In essence, a camera is nothing but a box with a sensor; the light is really what does all the work. Great job, I really enjoyed looking at the pictures and video.
I enjoyed your video until the time you made a complete ass of yourself by putting down the entire Olympus brand. I am not going to get into a rant here but by listening to your comments about Olympus cameras you lost all credibility to me.
I am by no means a "fanboy" of Olympus cameras but I do like them especially their lenses. No, they are not huge full frame cameras but if you get to really know your camera and have the ability to use it to its full potential you can get great photos from it. I guess that you feel you have to put down another camera brand to make yourself look "cool" and attempt to be funny, when in actuality you did just the opposite.
It's too bad that you had to stoop to such tactics because without them you have a great website.
Just my opinion
less tool but big talent.
Great idea, in theory, but you defeated your own hypothesis of not needing all of the expensive camera equipment for nice photos, when you used all of the professional lighting equipment, styling and professional retouching! I totally agree with your initial point though. I tell people the same thing all the time. I knew a photographer in college who set out to prove the same point by shooting all of his assignments with a point-and-shoot for a week and came out with some award-winning photos!
wow.. incredible and I really like your idea. " no need any good equipments " Just enjoy what you do.
Love the work. I somewhat agree with a few of the "WELL YOU PROVED YOURSELF WRONG THERE HAHAHAHA" kinds of posts, but only a little bit.
Im sure if you started with construction lights it would still look halfway decent.
I may have some questions for you guys in the other thread if you wouldn't mind humoring me =).
Thanks for putting all this awesome material up here, it truly kicks ass.
Maybe we should take the idea further and set a place for great pics taken with minimum possible or very primitive equipment?
What do you guys think?
Love the video. This is so true. Some so called photographers out there are all about "all gear, no game". You have proven that as long as you know lighting and post processing, you don't need all the gear. Great job! You have inspired me to used my iphone camera more.
What are you going to use to stabilize the iPhone during behind the scenes videos?
Hey Don, you can use the Hague MMC for iPhone. I've got one for my videocamera and it's light and very good. They recently made an iPhone-version at $99: http://www.b-hague.co.uk/hague_i_phone_mini_motion_cam_camcorder_stabili...
LOVE IT!!! I've always said the same, it's not about the camera, it's about the photographer! I hate it when people ask me "What camera do you use?"
Of course I humour them and answer the question, but it is so not about the camera! The best camera in the world would be worse than an iphone if the photographer doesn't know what they're doing.
Again, love this. Thank you.
Beautiful shots! You are an awesome photographer! Still, your point with customers not being pixel-needing; there are a few shots here with so much noise, no magazine would ever buy them. Secondly; you mention you have ready for viewing, RAW-failes... what camera did you get RAW- files from? Certainly not iPhone..? ;o)
Best Regards, Buller.
Wow! This is incredible! I am a wedding DJ, but LOVE to take photos of friends and family... I have GOT to learn about lighting.
how nice shots!! Depends on creator, photographer ....
awesome video. Next time I get a wedding request and they ask me what camera I'm using I'll tell them I will be using an iphone 4 with a 3gs as a backup.
Fantastic video and the whole concept/exercise is brilliantly executed. Thanks for taking the time to do it. Reading some of the comments I can't help but feel the 'take home lesson' is getting lost in semantics and minutia.
One question ... I couldn't find it in the comments (forgive me if I've missed it) ... You held up a print towards the end of the video ... I'm curious as to how big you were able to print these images before the quality became an issue?
Good on you guys, super impressed.
The print is an 8x10. Obviously up close it isn't as sharp as my pro gear shots but at arms length you have a hard time telling that it is pixelated.
pics look cool.... Hardly ever to do with the camera, more to do with the lens and of course lighting! This photo shoot elucidates that well I think.
puta queo pariu!!!
Nice video, but I don't get it why you don't like Olympus, did you ever shoot with Olympus E3 + top pro lenses?
Creativity is all about the story, a good piano does not make you play like Motzart
very well executed, the lighting can be replaced with cheap flood lights while almost everyone is complaining how expensive the lighting was, if you we're to think you can just replace it with a couple of alternatives
@Lee Morris, WOW - love the video and explanation! You remind me of Chase Jarvis video blogs where he's basically giving break down about his photo shoot. Two thumbs!
Curious, what iPhone App did you use? I have the iPhone 3G (before the 3GS).
I don't hate Olympus... I have never even used one before. It was just a stupid joke. I picked on other cameras too but had to pull it for time.
I wanted to be a great golfer, so I bought the best, most expensive golf clubs. That "Tiger Guy" is * still * better than me. I see this trend amongst photographers, going latest and greatest with limited success. A great shot has so many more facets to it and certainly this piece proves the value of great lighting, models, make-up, style captured by a professional photographer. If your sitting around with a 5DMII or a D3 and you can't get quality shots like these, it's not the camera. ;>
Really enjoyed this piece, I love Hipstamatic on my iPhone, but will set-up some lights and give this a try for fun.
You must be kidding me. These pictures look awful and to call them fashion. What about them is fashion? Is it because she has clothes on? I don't see it. These pictures look amateurish and cheap. At best they could be use for a high school year book portrait session. What a disgrace to photography. Who ever picked these should be fired. Frank Marshal
Calm down Frank. I am a wedding photographer, not a fashion photographer. I am sorry that I have disgraced the art of photography. I'll fire myself when I get a chance.
These photos do look far superior to anything I've seen come from a phone. However they do not appear professional quality to me, and I suspect others think so because: (1) they are all human (face) subject, where the brain is trained to fill the gaps, (2) the background is removed and the clothing is monochromatic, and (3) the hazy lighting and texturing make the camera's weaknesses appear as styling effects.
Now I don't have any photography background, so I say this just as someone who thinks he can tell a good picture from a great one. But I can certainly see the limitations of resolution in the raw images. Also, I don't think the light saturation does not look "real:" I've seen some pictures of people where it's the same as if you are looking at them and these do not look like that. Along the same lines, the coloring does not look right. Again it's hard to tell what is camera limitation and what is photographic style, but again I suspect you are covering for the camera's weakness.
Again, these do look very good to have come from a phone. But your thesis should be this phone is much better than all others when it comes to taking photographs, not that you can take something approaching professional quality photographs with this device.
My point is not that the iPhone can take professional quality pictures or even that the iPhone is a good camera phone. My point is simply that your gear should not be a limiting factor in creating good pictures. It is possible to take "better" images with whatever you happen to have at the moment.
I'm a professional photographer as well and I couldn't agree more by the words you are not limited by your medium. Amazing photos. I just learned a bit from your lighting set up BTW. All I can say is your a beast for doing this and proving that it's all in the eye and a little photoshop goes a long way. My question is simple...how does this translate to print? Did you have to higher the pixelation? I know it's not possible to do that but I have seen photos taken with a Iphone and yours seem to be smoother and less grainy for print. Is that all the magic of photoshop?
PS one more thing...to all of you who are arguing the quality and the colors...Be a little creative with your quality and colors. When you see an old photograph that has coffee stains or water stains or aging do you say "oh that looks like crap because look at the grain and the stains and the age...UGH" No it is what it is. Every camera has a different feel to it. I personally own 30 different cameras from all different times and they all take pictures completely different. I think people need to get out of this hole they are looking in when looking at photographs. A photograph is a moment in time. No matter what you capture it with it was there at that moment and that makes it completely unique. Photoshop helps but again that's trying to get it out of its small constraints and open the color scheme to something else. Just my 2 cents.
I don't really get the point. When do we actually use the iPhone this way? How often do we take tons of lighting equipment with us and forget the SLR camera at home?
Liked the whole project nevertheless.
Just phenomenal results. Thanks for proving once again, that it's not necessarily the camera , but the creative mind behind the camera, that visualized the 'impossible'.
Perfect pictures. I like iPhones but i didn't know i can take so good pictures with my iPhone! Can you please make a shooting with iPhone 4!
The images are grainy but they came out very nice. The raw images are actually very good by themselves. If the iPhone 3 can produce these images, I can't wait to see what comes out of the iPhone 4!
Great vid - and thanks for reinforcing the point that great pics can come from modest resources. Besides the iPhone camera, the hint of MacGyver was also there with the shop floods in this vid. Now how many of us will ever admit that we actually tried this - well done!
Omg. this is so INSPIRATIONAL :) AMAZING work and I just heard about this site TODAY. ha. Definitely, will add it to my Bookmarks ;)
This video is amazing. I dont have an iPhone but Im definitely trying it on my blackberry. This is very educational & inspiring as well. Great job Lee Morris, Soltice Retouch, Olivia Price & of course the iPhone. ;))
great video, great concept. Makes me want to use a rim light more often.
that's a complete LIE. If you need Photoshop any picture will look that amazing. I have a photo studio and most of the pics I ended delivering are taken not with my nikkon, but with a cheap Casio because the way it handle exterior light. A little bit of PS and there you have it. a GREAT picture.
Just like "albert kinng" said - try doing the same thing without Photoshop (and the pro set of lights etc) and then you can make such a big fuss out of shooting with ipod or some other shitty camera. Now it's just funny for people who know anything about photography and PS.
Nice try though
Very nice video!
Well they got really expensive light equipment, makeup staff, great models and designer clothing.
and if they want to print that pics, they can't, because the iPhone has really low resolution.
Great to see someone else is experimenting with mobile phones as cameras. Well done!
I shoot fashion, beauty and advertising for a living but I also have a personal blog only made of pictures taken with my cell phone, no retouching, just as shot.
Would be great to hear what you think and I hope you don't mind me writing the address to it: http://lensgrey.blogspot.com
Keep up the great work!