I Get Paid to Shoot With My iPhone So Why the Hell Did I Just Buy a Full-Frame Camera?

I Get Paid to Shoot With My iPhone So Why the Hell Did I Just Buy a Full-Frame Camera?

Just five years ago I started down the path of photography and it's been some of the best professional and personal years of my life thus far. It has opened up my creativity to a whole new way of thinking which has added great value in the day job of design and advertising. Sparking my interest in this field was Instagram. Like many others in 2011, it was the iPhone that challenged me and helped me hone my skills over the years but I always wanted to get my hands on a full frame after talking with so many professionals. This year I finally did it. Here is how I feel professionals and even those starting out can maximize using both a DSLR and iPhone in a professional setting.

To begin I have to be honest and say that the iPhone has not always been my only camera but rather my preferred and most used camera when shooting both personally and professionally. It's likely because it is that always-in-your-pocket mentality or that it's the camera I feel most comfortable with, having started with it. After the first year of shooting I grabbed a cheap Canon body and the one and only 50 f/1.8 lens as a start. That camera lasted me all the way through the end of 2015 where I had the option to finally put a few extra dollars towards the setup I had always wanted: a Canon 6D (full frame) paired with the Sigma 35 1.4 Art. In my eyes I have the perfect setup for me without going overboard, which I have seen happen when photographers start out and feel gear is the way to great photos.

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A few of the essentials when traveling // #WHPshadowplay

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So you might be asking why I would still use my iPhone in a professional setting even after grabbing a fully capable setup like the 6D and Sigma 35? Or why would I go and buy a full-frame camera if I make a majority of my money using simply an iPhone? Let me explain in a little more detail below why I chose this setup and hopefully if you are either a professional or just starting out you can pick up a few tricks and tips on using the iPhone to its fullest potential.

An Instagram Following Helps, But Only So Much

I've been able to make a solid go at using nothing more than my iPhone to pull in clients such as Harry's Razors, General Electric, Mashable, Xbox, and even Apple. All of these clients were attracted to my work via Instagram. Though my following is larger than some, it has not always been that way. I had built my following by simply taking good photos along the way using, you guessed it, my iPhone. It was that simple fact that got me ahead on social and has helped me learn how to communicate with clients and allow them to understand I use my phone to take photos. 

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Burning daylight // #igersindy

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Sure my following helps, but it becomes more clear when talking with clients that you must be able to communicate and set expectations going into any project and that calls for the simple act of professionalism and respect.

Communication is Key

As funny as it sounds I have been hired to shoot senior photos and even weddings, and when the day comes to shoot the client will ask "I thought you only shot with an iPhone?" It becomes clear that communication is more important than ever as I work professionally in the realm of both iPhone and DSLR work. Even though in my eyes those two worlds are one and the same, it is not always clear with clients. You have to be able to know when and where to use either camera system. I have gotten away with quite a few shoots with only the phone, including a professional soccer game, but it's not ideal and that situation is better suited for a DSLR. 

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In this case it was mainly for social media work and advertising I was able to generate some solid images for the client. Personally I wish I could go back and use a huge zoom lens with a crazy fast shutter speed but I don't regret my decision. The end result would have been the same as the client loved the work and thought highly enough to want to hire me back for next season. 

Where I Plan to Use and Not Use My New Full-Frame DSLR 

It's been a point of discussion with many people on what clients I decided to use my phone versus my camera, but in the end I simply wanted to create great images for my clients no matter what I used. How do I look to differentiate the two when shooting? I'm not quite sure yet considering I have had this camera for about a week, although I've got a pretty good idea.

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It starts with the glass. The Sigma 35 1.4 is brilliant in low light and will easily fill in those projects that need great depth at events, weddings, and on the base level, more portrait shoots. Another big point of using the DSLR is the dynamic range which ranks highly in the Canon lineup currently. Being able to save darks from shots while editing in Lightroom is a huge plus compared to the iPhone, which has piss poor dynamic range and needs to be shot perfectly for editing on the go. Though editing on the go is hands down the best feature on the iPhone as I am able to shoot, edit, and share all in one place, the DSLR market is catching up with Wi-Fi enabled cameras. That is where I will begin to use my 6D more often than my iPhone. The speed in which it transfers photos to my mobile device is brilliant and I have no idea why more pro level cameras don't have it.

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Finding inspiration in the everyday // #WHPmystery

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So Why Did I Buy a Full-Frame DSLR If the iPhone Has Worked So Well?

In the end, I wanted control. I weighed the options over the last 18 months shooting with a lesser Canon body paired with my trusty iPhone and found that a few key pieces were very important to me going forward. Those features I have marked below. 

  • Dynamic range and depth
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Weight and build quality
  • User interface

Having been familiar with Canon I decided to go that direction solely for the fact I know it and I know it well. The other factors in going with the 6D specifically were that it holds a solid build quality with weather sealing along with a solid weight well below the 5D for on-the-go shooters like myself. I pride myself on a minimal setup and you can read more about that here, but I wanted something light and powerful at the same time. The full-frame sensor along with the great weight are perfect in my eyes. Adding the Wi-Fi capability makes this a triple threat as I am able to shoot, quickly transfer, edit, and then post to social quickly all while saving the highest quality image possible.

My setup is not perfect but it's pretty damn close to perfection for me and many shooters in the same market as myself both professionally and just starting out. After my recent article on shooting with nothing more than an iPhone professionally I can't wait to push the limits with the new gear and see where it takes me. Knowing that it's not the gear but rather the photographer that makes the image, it does help when envisioning something and not having the right tools to make that happen and I feel the new 6D can do that paired with the Sigma 35. 

I hope you found this article helpful and can see the importance of pacing yourself when buying gear. In my case, I spent a little more time than I had wished to get to this point but I'm really glad I waited and weighed all the options. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and hit me up with any questions or comments you might have with my methods as I take this journey from almost strictly iPhone photographer to a more professional level.

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Andrew Feller's picture

Great post and point of view. I sold my 5diii and work on a pair of 6d's because the wifi is so important to being able to share immediately when I am photographing an event. The Sigma 35 ART is one of my most used lenses, you'll love it.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Thats awesome. Yea I have been attracted to the 6D for as long as its been out and have yet to pull the trigger or have the cash flow to purchase one. Finally did it! The only downside I saw was the focus points and going from a 60D that was6+ years old with 9 cross types to 1 cross type was a bit scary but so far so good.

Matt BuckShots's picture

I purchased my 6D a year and a half ago. I love it, it has a couple little quirks to it but all in all I love it. (the quirks might be due to outdated firmware, not sure have to investigate) I think for the price its a great buy. I love having full frame. I didnt have the cash for a mark iii so at the time I rolled the dice with what I feel is Canon's budget full frame.

They work well enough that my employer, Hasbro Toys Photography Studio purchased 4 6D's to help us capture lifestyle projects. We also use Mark iii, and the new 5DS. And for stills and product photos we use Phase One IQ 160 and 140 with 645DF bodies. So the 6D's that we use are in great company! The 6D's have worked very well for us to date.

I would not hesitate on the 6D for the price. cheers

Ben Perrin's picture

Scraping the bottom of the barrel for articles are you Fstoppers?

Kyle Medina's picture

Who shit in your oatmeal this morning?

Ben Perrin's picture

Come on, you can't call this article anything other than self promotion. There is no educational content, it's just about some random guy deciding to buy a dslr. Nothing noteworthy compared to many other Fstoppers articles.

Does it worry you that other people got something out of this article? So maybe it's you, not the writer? Because I found it informative. Andrew has made a name for himself shooting with a freakin' iPhone. So clearly, it's not about the camera. But even with his success, he still went ahead and got a DSLR. And he did it because even though the iPhone has been great for him, he wanted more control over the exposure, and more dynamic range.

Since so much of the content we create is destined for the web, resolution isn't even a huge issue for a lot of projects. From the images I have seen, Andrew takes a lot of still life images. A DSLR will allow him to more easily capture decisive moments that the iPhone cannot. It may help him expand his creativity even more. Either way, I bet he's going to spend time honing his craft, rather than whining about content on the internet that no one forced you to read.

Ben Perrin's picture

So you're telling me that you valued this article because you learned that a dslr has better dynamic range and more control than an iPhone? Really? I stand by what I said, self promoting articles like this bring down the quality of Fstoppers. As does his previous article stating that you only need instagram, not a self hosted website. YMMV.

No. But the comments have reminded me that some people are either thick-headed, or just like to argue.

I actually thought it was April first.

Martin Van Londen's picture

I have to agree. This was fluf. I'm guess it helps someone somewhere. But come on...

Andrew Griswold's picture

True. This article is not for everyone but it was also for me as a writer to make a piece for me. In the end I write what I want to write from my experiences as a professional photographer in hopes it helps someone else in the industry. Maybe this did that, maybe it didn't but from the handful of private messages and countless great comments from folks that it helped it was worth it for me all around. It was also a bit of a transition piece to get a bit away from the iPhone only mentality people know me with and how I'm pushing to a more serious path and equipment to help with vision.

Martin Van Londen's picture

I guess I can see how this would be helpful to a particular group of photographers. I guess its not "fluff". I have need to remember that there are a lot of different levels of photospheres in the Fstoppers community.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Since the iphone is your shtick, which you are doing well with why go with what everyone else shoots like DSLR? If you are the iphone guy that means something. Otherwise what's the hook for your brand?

jonathan sander's picture

Nothing wrong with a bit of fluff or light reading. I personally found this a good short read and interesting insight to how someone uses mobile in paid work.

Henry Louey's picture

It's obvious the images you have taken with the iPhone vs the Canon.

The iPhone images are just so much better :D

Hugo Onink's picture

should've gone for the nikon eh? ;)

Andrew Griswold's picture

It was under consideration but only shortly. I've just never been comfortable with their button layout and UI for daily use. I've been forced to use them in the past and they are great systems but just not for me.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Henry, how do you know which photos were taken with what? Would love to see how you're able to come to this conclusion. Heck for some added fun hit my Instagram up @the_gris and make a comment on any photos you feel are DSLR vs iPhone.

Njoi Fontes's picture

an iphone.... really... you mean pretty much the only high end phone that gives you zero controls over pictures. comparing pictures from phones to pictures from DSLR is always ridiculous but at least Lumias and many top end android phones give you control over many of the camera elements usually found on a dslr (speed, ISO, etc). And quality wise the iphone is not even in the top three of the best camera phones (the top three would be the Lumia 950/950XL, the LG V10 and the Samsung galaxy S6 edge)

Kyle Medina's picture

So what have we learned today? It's not about the camera, it's the content.

Tim Foster's picture

Why an SLR?

Andrew Griswold's picture

I may have forgot to mention it in the article but overall build quality and UI familiarity of the Canon system brought me back to them. The other big factor was the battery life compared to the mirrorless options of the Sony a7 line, assuming that is where you think I might have gone like many others recently, but when I tested that camera system the battery went from 100% to 8% with average use for just around 2 hours of shooting.

Tim Foster's picture

Yeah, the battery's definitely undersized. I assume both Canon and Nikon will introduce large sensor mirrorless systems within the next five years.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Yup. They have been SO SLOW to the lunch while Sony is dominating and bringing some really great shooters to their systems. Maybe one day they will finally wake up and get out of selling lower end cameras to he masses and focus on the pro shooters again. I'm excited for the future and feel Olympus is even getting in at the right time with high res shooting.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Also the battery was a big favor I have not switched. I went out with a buddy last month who switched from Canon to Sony and had 10 batteries on him for his Sony. If was eating through those like a freaking monster. Ha! They gotta figure that out. This cameras are powerhouses but they consume it so bad.

Andre Goulet's picture

I've stayed with my DSLR despite the mirrorless craze for this very reason mainly, coupled with a few additions: By the time you carry your mirrorless, enough spare batteries, a lens adapter so you can use your favourite primes, in some cases a separate EVF... what have you saved in terms of either weight or money? I feel the same way in regards to speed lights vs strobes, most of the time. There are exceptions to both, where I carry my EOS-M and speed lights, but I'd say that's only once or twice a year. My EOS-M is strictly a hiking/biking camera otherwise.

Leigh Miller's picture

Really long way of saying "content is what's important, not the tool".

Thanks though, one of the better recent FS articles.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Ha, true. I wanted this to be a bit of a transition article for myself as well as I continue to write for Fstoppers. Moving from simply the kid with an iPhone to one that is taking this to the next level professionally. In this case it was bringing more voice to my decision to go full frame and Canon as well as pushing the communication with clients to reflect that.

I spent part of last week running around a trade show, with my 6D sending images to my phone, for upload to Instagram between appointments. Photos were ok, but it's clear to me that when being so rushed, quality suffers. Even with L glass on a full frame. Then I shot a product at my kitchen table with an Android, and it's far and away better than most of what I ended up with from my DSLR.

In other words, I get it.

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