Are More Pros Incorporating Smartphone Cameras Into Their Workflow? Chris Burkard Is.

With the newest flagship smartphone cameras taking huge leaps in sensor and software technology, are we seeing the beginning of more professional usage in the commercial market? 

The smartphone camera is a part of everyone's day-to-day life. If nothing else, it has proven to be an invaluable tool for so many professions. It documents our lives in more detail than any previous camera ever did. To top it all off, there is no denying that companies like Apple and Google are continuing to push the hardware and software capabilities beyond what most would have ever thought possible. Smartphone photography is an ever-growing genre in our photography industry, and the reality is we can all benefit from its rise. 

For me, my smartphone is a tool of convenience and one that has become a huge part of my mobile workflow. I edit my photos in Lightroom Mobile, I use apps like Photopills for location scouting, and I even have a digital clapboard for small video projects. Although I take a lot of photos with my smartphone and occasionally a few I’m proud of, I never use them for anything and have yet to really embrace the full value it holds. 

All that being said, I can’t deny that in the right hands, smartphone cameras can create beautiful images or tell amazing stories. Here at Fstoppers, we write all the time about how amazing the tech is getting, how you can get better quality images, and all the creative ways artists are utilizing smartphones. I am continually envious of how effortlessly some can capture epic moments. Even beyond the average user, smartphones do have a place in our professional world, and more and more companies are springing up to facilitate that need. 

Recently, Olloclip, one of the larger producers of smartphone lenses and accessories, announced a partnership with the very talented and popular adventure photographer Chris Burkard. This endorsement by Burkard is a pretty interesting sign for the professional side of smartphone photography. Every major camera company and so many different manufacturers have pro shooters representing their brands. It makes sense if more and more pro photographers are utilizing their smartphones to help tell stories in this new social platform conscious commercial market that brands like Olloclip would want to capitalize on this. 

Photographers building a career off of smartphone images on Instagram isn't a new thing. Neither is the occasional wedding or fashion shoot being shot exclusively this way. There have been plenty of magazine covers, advertisements, and even parts in blockbuster films shot on smartphones. We have pushed past the gimmick and novelty of it and started to find ourselves in a place where we can really think about using these devices seriously. 

Our smartphones are incredibly powerful devices with much more computational processing than the average camera. Right now, better glass and a wider choice in lens selection is the best way to improve upon the high-quality tech and software we already have. Similarly to how the evolution of lenses and filters for drone and GoPro cameras, both of which have dominated their niche for pros, in the commercial market, I think we are seeing the first steps to a more open acceptance of utilizing our smartphones by pro photographers. 

I’m very interested to see how both the cameras and lens accessories from brands like Olloclip improve and what talented artists like Burkard can do with them. It is true that sometimes, the best camera for a job is the least intrusive or the one you always have on you, and I think this will only become truer for professionals. 

What do you think about Chris Burkard's collaboration with Olloclip? Do you see more pros embracing their smartphones or are you utilizing them in your work?

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12 Comments

Adam Palmer's picture

P30 pro has me thinking maybe I might switch out some of my smaller cameras like my olympus tg-4. My bag of sony stuff for weddings is about 40 lbs now so sometimes I just can't be bothered to pick a few items and repack it into a smaller bag then pack it all up again the next day for a wedding or portrait shoot. Sometime you just want to run out the door with no preparation. I''ve been loving the quality of shooting raw on my note 8.

Adam Palmer's picture

With the new trend in 3 lens rear camera setups Olloclip is a thing of the past. I did have some fun with my wife's moment lenses. Surprisingly high quality.

stevepellegrino's picture

All of the 3rd party lenses are becoming a thing of the past. They're expensive for what they are and have the issue of not being compatible with future phone models. We're not going to see legacy glass for mobile phones.

The biggest bang for your buck with mobile lenses are the 37mm lenses. You need to have a case that the lens can mount to, but you also have the option of mounting filters.

James Alexander's picture

Just looking to make a buck

stevepellegrino's picture

Aren't we all?

Motti Bembaron's picture

Funny you are showing iPhone in the article...old habits die hard, right? The P2- Pro, the P30 Pro and Google Pixel 3 might (might!) be a consideration but still ways to go.

Kirk Darling's picture

The author keeps repeating that more and more professional photographers are doing this, but never names names.

So who is actually paying rent with a cell phone camera as a normal part of his professional workflow, and how?

Besides Burkhard, who is getting an endorsement for saying so.

stevepellegrino's picture

The only photographer that comes to mind is Brad Mangin. While he's been a traditional sports photographer for decades (starting with film), the PGA hired him to shoot with his iPhone to contribute to their social media. Just Google "Brad Mangin PGA" and there is more info.

Kirk Darling's picture

Okay, I can see that utility. I've seen it work that way for company communications, but they don't usually hire a professional or use one of their staff photographers for such work.

Michael DeStefano's picture

I'm sure very very few people are paying rent with a cellphone. That's not what incorporating something into your work means. It's another camera or tool to be added to the kit and a lot of photographers are doing it. I've sold BTS shots to clients that were shot on my cellphone and I've sold editorial shots to magazines. Lots of photographers include social media images as part of their commercial work because that has become a large market. Clients want content for their feeds and that content is increasingly being shot by professionals with small sensor cameras like cellphones, gopros, and drones.

Christoph .'s picture

I wouldn't wager there are very many people paying rent solely from using a smartphone camera - if you want to be taking pictures competing at a commercial level, you'd be silly to limit yourself to the hardware in a phone.

That said, there are plenty of people using pictures and videos on their smartphones to get more eyeballs on their work, and more traction to their business. There are oodles of businesses promoting themselves using small shots on their phones instead of hiring a pro photographer for every little thing. The extra traction they get from this social marketing would surely, surely be paying rent, tax and wages.

Tools like this just help to expand what phones can do, which I personally think is great. Even as a fulltime pro, with full frame bodies and cinema cameras and (almost) all the lenses I could ever want, studio lighting kits, softboxes, sometimes I just want to use my Pixel 3 for something less demanding or something quick. I much prefer my proper gear, but sometimes I don't want to haul it, and something like this means it can be even more useful and allow me to get more content for marketing

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

I knew I was going to record a testimonial after a client assignment a couple of days ago. I'd packed a monopod, a shotgun mic, and my studio headphones to monitor the audio.

For a less-than-thirty-second testimonial.

Fortunately, when I got to the location, I realized how foolish bringing all that stuff was and left the extra gear in the car and just used my smartphone for the testimonial. It was more than sufficient for the task and it was the right tool for the job.

This was the second smartphone testimonial I've done in the last week as part of my effort to step up my game in the testimonial arena. I can see very easily how a handful of "recorded on smartphone" testimonials can have a significant impact on sales...much more so than all the time I've wasted on social media over the years.

I know this wasn't the particular angle this article was pursuing, per se, but I think this is definitely a way for professionals to leverage smartphones to generate revenue.