Plenty of phone companies claim that their advertising images were shot with their phones. Some are outright lying, but others are in more of a grey area. When is it accurate to claim that is was shot with a phone?
When a company claims that their advertising images were created with their phones, I always find it interesting to see the images. Sometimes, they are very well done cell phone photos. Other times, they are clearly impossible, such as Huawei and Samsung’s recent advertising efforts.
Huawei has actually been caught multiple times. Their advertising for the upcoming P30 Pro mentions impressive technical specs, including four cameras and 7x zoom. Even with these capabilities, Huawei ended up using this stock image from Getty Images as part of the promotional content posted to Sina Weibo. In the past, they staged selfie style images for an ad, but behind the scenes photos revealed the models were posing in front of a DSLR. They also faked a post on Google+, where EXIF data revealed the shot they linked to their P9 was actually shot on a Canon 5D Mark III.
It isn’t just limited to Huawei, however. Samsung was caught using a stock photo, which they extensively edited, in a promotion for their Galaxy A8 Star.
Those examples are pretty clear-cut examples of misrepresentation. The companies claim, even if indirectly, that their cell phones produced those images that originally came from DSLRs. Not every company goes to that extent. Apple’s recent campaign, The Bucket, genuinely does use imagery from an iPhone XS.
Unfortunately, anyone who purchases an iPhone XS and expects to produce that quality of footage is in for a surprise. Setting aside the award-winning director and years of experience behind the production staff, which includes over 40+ credited individuals, there are a number of pieces of equipment supplementing the iPhone. Apple’s behind the scenes video reveals just one facet of the production, an Arri Skypanel, which starts at about $6,000.
Advertising always seems to be about stretching the very limits of the truth. In Huawei and Samsung’s case, the truth was never present. In Apple’s ad, the truth is there. It was shot on an iPhone, with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment to capture the audio, enhance the lighting, and stabilize the camera, all under the direction of a renowned DP and Director.
I feel that this starts to enter a grey area, where no consumer could possibly expect the same results from their phone. Sure, the images were captured on an iPhone, but don't realistically reflect what any reasonable individual could produce. When you've added professional gear, like a lighting panel that costs multiples of the phone's value, is it really still shot on the phone? I'm sure Apple's legal team has an asterisk buried somewhere, mentioning that additional gear was used and results aren't guaranteed, but I don't know if that is enough.
What makes this particularly disappointing is Apple’s customers are creating amazing work with their phones. The recent Shot on iPhone challenge highlighted exceptional iPhone photos, and it feels like a much fairer representation of the concept. Even that campaign isn't without controversy, as there was debate over whether Apple was going to compensate winners with anything more than recognition.
Considering the actions of their peers, Apple is doing better. Advertising shot with their products actually uses the camera's footage, along with some serious help from professional gear. Currently, there are a number of debates raging about truthful representation in media. Photoshopping models is a hot-button issue, while the landscape photography community debates the merits of compositing. All of these issues revolve around the concept of accurate representation, and for me, claiming that ad was shot on an iPhone violates the spirit, if not the literal meaning of that statement.
Image courtesy of Dennis Cortes.