There are dozens of articles pitting iPhones against typical pro-grade cameras. Dozens of iPhones shootouts. But, what happens when a professional photographer actually relies on an iPhone to shoot and deliver work to clients?
Jenn and Steve Van Elk are wedding photographers shooting out of Indianapolis. After experimenting with the new iPhone for a while, they matched up with a couple that was eager to experiment with them:
We saw a few shoots where people used iPhones to see if they would be a viable option. What we didn’t see was anyone actually shooting a full wedding with an iPhone 11.
The Van Elks covered their couple's day with two shooters equipped with their normal cameras and a third sporting an iPhone.
According to the Van Elks, perhaps the biggest benefit of shooting with an iPhone is how unobtrusive it can be. Shooting with a phone is going to let you blend in. Big cameras and bigger lenses can attract attention and ruin otherwise candid moments. In particular, the Van Elks note that the iPhone allowed them to shoot candid emotional moments throughout the day where the guests just didn't notice them as pro photographers.
No one paused and looked at the iPhone when we were shooting candids. People thought we were just another guest and treated us as such. Pick up a 5D Mark IV, and suddenly, that all changes.
Second, the Van Elks gushed about how straightforward it was to cull images that were already on your device. As any wedding photographer knows, downloading, rendering, and culling a day's worth of shooting can take hours or even days. Jenn Van Elk was able to cull and provide a mobile Lightroom edit to the wedding images on their drive home. In fact, their excited couple received a wedding gallery before the reception was finished.
The Van Elks feel that the iPhone lacked the creamy shallow depth of field that you can get from shooting details at f/2.8. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it does set the iPhone images apart from their DSLR counterparts.
The iPhone can force you to get too close during intimate moments. Shooting a first look from just a few feet away can be a bit intrusive in comparison to shooting with a 200mm lens.
The Van Elks also note that after shooting with DSLRs for years, using an iPhone throws off your whole shooting positioning.
On the subject of ergonomics, there isn’t a good button for taking photos. You’re either tapping the screen, which requires visual or audio confirmation that it was tapped, or you’re pushing the volume rocker, which is stiff and doesn’t feel good to push. Neither one of those things seems bothersome when you just take one or two photos at a time, but after 8 hours of constantly tapping the screen or pushing the volume rocker, you start to notice these things.
A Few Tips
Practically speaking, the Van Elks explain that you should turn off passcode entry to get on the iPhone. Wedding photographers need to be quick on the draw. You need to be able to pick up your phone and start shooting at the drop of a hat, particularly during the reception. Likewise, they suggest that you turn off facial recognition, as the program may slow down the iPhone's response, leading to missed shots.
What do you think? Would you ever shoot a professional gig with a mobile phone? Do you think that in a few more hardware and software generations we'll see a big enough change that you'd be comfortable using a mobile as your primary pro camera?
The Van Elks' decision:
Would we prefer to shoot with an iPhone 11 Pro? No. While we do enjoy looking more like guests, we’d rather have a device that produces consistent results. It’s bothersome in its current state. Also, we prefer the way the pistol grips and buttons feel with the DSLR/mirrorless cameras.
All images provided by Van Elk & Co. Wedding Photographers.