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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Andrew Griswold is a photographer and designer based in Indianapolis. Born and raised in Indy he has made a name for himself by staying very active in the creative community in both photography and design. He has also founded a community of photographers via Instagram connecting them with brands to work with and shoot locally.

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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.

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.

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

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

Who shit in your oatmeal this morning?

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

The iPhone images are just so much better :D

should've gone for the nikon eh? ;)

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.

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.

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)

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

Why an SLR?

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Thanks though, one of the better recent FS articles.

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.

The struggle is real my friend. Trying to find the balance between which device to use in any setting is tough. They each have their pros and cons but in the end as long as you are pushing to create the best content possible you are good to go.

Andrew - When you're shooting for a client, is their intention to use the images for their respective Instagram feeds? Or is how they intend to use the images a factor in your decision on which device to shoot with? I ask because obviously the 6D can produce much larger files with greater IQ and DR than the iPhone can so why not shoot with the 6D all the time and just use your iPhone to edit them and post on the spot (via wi-fi).

Jarod, that has always been my dilemma but each of these devices has their respective places in shooting. Most clients are for social media and web use so the final image quality can easily be taken with an iPhone and produce high quality image. The 6D can easily do that same thing but it comes at the cost of a larger camera body, one with wifi capabilities but then I have to take more time to transfer and set that up while on the go when the iPhone can shoot and have it ready on my phone right then and and there. The other great thing I love about phone are all the apps that can control my shots as well. I never let the device I use dictate what image I will produce, I want the image to be great so I will use what I have and feel comfortable with both. In some cases the iPhone has its advantage like with reflections or puddle shots. A trick I use is flipping the camera upside down and shooting as close to the water as I can to get a perfect relfection shot. With a DSLR you are a bit limited as you will easily be inches from the water missing the effect.

Though with much of advertising today the majority of uses are for web or social so that is where many people have begun to think their phone is enough to call themselves a professional. Then if you really want to get down to the print quality of an iPhone shot these phones can easily produce an 11x14 image at full 300dpi which is pretty incredible. Of course the lighting needs to be pretty great to be sure to get the fullest from the camera. Even then that is where apps like Cortex Cam comes into play and can do an outstanding job, handheld too, on taking multiple shots and averaging them together to clean up dark spots and noise.

Put ShutterSnitch on your phone and connect to your 6D. Much better than the standard apps form either Nikon or Canon unless you need to use your phone to remotely trigger your camera. ShutterSnitch can receive images in real time as they are shot, run some simple rules like resizing and then automatically transfer them online depending on your network connectivity options. (Phone and camera have to on same WiFi hotspot or better yet run ShutterSnitch on an iPad or iPod Touch and connect it and 6D to phone for data to be self sufficient.)

Woah! Seriously this is why the phone is such a powerful tool for a photographer. The apps are endless. Thanks!

oh look, another article on a camera phone. am i the only one that thinks these kind of articles is doing nothing but hurt the photo profession ? why buy a D5 when an iPhone will do just as good ? why hire a wedding photog when my cousin has a "nice" camera ? why hire a wedding photog at all since everyone there will have their phone and can # you. then people wonder why their stuff sucks or why they can't just have all the files so they can edit them since they saw a video on photoshop. must be a slow day at fstoppers. how about next week an article about another paper that fired their photo staff and gave high school kids iPhones instead. what's next, no boobs in playboy ?

I will see what I can find on the latest news relating to big news outlets firing their staff photographers for kids with iPhones for sure. Thanks! Stay tuned.

What is the definition of getting paid? Will it pay your bills? Or, are you being exploited by various companies to make images for $20 an image. That is not a living....When you're netting $80K+ a year then we're talking until then you're just giving you images away and killing the industry.

I currently have a full time job and photography is a side gig but I'm getting paid just like any other full time shooter and charging per the standards. Instagram promotions for example bring in anywhere between 300-1250 per post. Not bad for one square crop image with an iPhone. Indi quite a few of these posts throughout the year and make almost half what I make at the day job at an ad agency. I'm confident it could easily be a living if I went free lens but it's not for me at the moment.

Thanks for the post on the off week of photo news (slow in my opinion).

Question: Why are people so mad about this post?

Haha! Likely because it's another iPhone related post (sorry people, it's kinda a popular device in this world) and then the fact it's a bit of a "from my experience post" and may or may not help the masses but rather a few individuals that find value in it. Thanks for the support!

As much as I don't like "Why my iPhone is better than ____" posts...This is less about the iPhone and more about branding and using technology to your advantage to better your business. This shouldn't make people mad.

As my friend Rosie said after reading this thing -- "I guess airheads who waste their time on Instagrab like to hire airheads who waste their time on Instagrab."
She also thinks maybe Indiana ain't where the Prime Time Players reside. She works for a small newspaper and is paid to take professional photographs with a Canon Rebel. We should all go out and buy Canon Rebels, is what she tells me. I used her Rebel once and found it ind of cheesy.
I'm a country boy myself and always say it's not the box but the eye and the brain,

Awesome read! thanks for sharing with us.

Looking at your portfolio on Instagram, you must be very lucky to get paid for your photos. You have a good eye but 90% of them looks like random snapshots. Seriously, what is all about multiple variations of reflections on water, your foot, random sky and clouds, waterdrop on glass, cute babies, snow&trees. You have covered 90% of all cliches in the photography world, gotta be more selective.
But I suspect that most of your income comes from Instagram posts, and this nonsense article must be an effort to increase your followers.

I would love to give your portfolio and Instagram page a look so I can give you a solid critique of your body of work as well.