Lee Morris Responds To The iPhone Fashion Shoot

Wow, the iPhone fashion video has really blown up over the past few days. The video has been viewed by almost 300,000 people as I write this. My 3 websites have been completely crippled for the past 2 days. So crippled in fact that we couldn't even login to create/edit posts.

As with anything controversial brought into the lime light there will be people on both sides. I have received countless comments and emails thanking me for this video but this video may have gotten even more negative comments. At first I tried to respond to everyone individually but that quickly became impossible. Last night I read a very well written post on macgasm.net named "Why the 3Gs fashion shoot is misleading" by Joshua Schnell.

In this post I will comment on every point I have read brought up about my video.

I'll start with the biggest complaint: Lighting.

First I will quote a paragraph out of my original post that I am sure most of the haters never read: "So before I say anything else let me start by saying; I created this video to simply show that you should not be limited by your camera. Obviously there was a lot that went into this shoot including a professional model, hair and makeup, a studio, lighting, and a retoucher. We may create another video in the future where we shoot with only natural light but this video is simply about the camera. There are so many photographers who are obsessed with noise, sharpness, color, dynamic range, megapixels, chromatic aberration, moire, distortion, etc. So many photographers get wrapped up in the technical side that they forget how to take compelling images. This video is for them."

I believe I made it clear that this video was only supposed to show the limitations of a terrible camera giving it the best possible chance of success. I understand however that I did say "you don't need fancy lights" at the beginning of the video and then I used fancy lights. Yes, Dyna-lite strobes and power packs are expensive but they are expensive because they are strobes. We didn't even use them correctly... we were only using the underpowered modeling lights that were 200 watt bulbs. The lights we got from Lowe's were actually much brighter and for $50 we got 2 lights and stands. I believe my most complicated lighting setup used 6 lights so if you were to do it yourself it would cost $150.

"But Lee! You have all of those light modifiers as well!" It's true, I do, but all these products are doing is making the light smaller or larger. That is what hard and soft light is, small or large light sources relative to the size of the subject. You can modify light with anything. You could have up a huge bed sheet and fire light through it or you could bounce light off of a wall. You could simply move the bare bulb lights closer or farther away from the subject.

It was hard enough doing a full photoshoot with a cell phone and I didn't want to complicate it even more by buying cheap lights that I didn't need when I already had perfectly good modeling lights. I also didn't have time to create homemade light modifiers when I already owned the real deal. Just because I didn't do it in the video doesn't mean that it isn't possible. But remember, lighting wasn't the point anyway. This was supposed to be about the camera.

Someone else commented "I'd like to see you go outside without any of that light and take a good picture with the iPhone." Are you kidding? That would be even easier because there is a fantastic light outside that is free called the sun. I take pictures professionally all the time and I don't bring a single light or reflector with me. There have been millions of great images taken outside with cell phones. I wanted to do something new so I shot a studio session and of course that is going to require lighting.

Someone on Youtube commented "If you take away all of that lighting the pictures wouldn't look as good." My head almost exploded when I read this. OF COURSE! Photography is all about lighting. If I didn't have any lighting in my studio the pictures wouldn't just look bad, they would be black.

One reader, attempting to be smart, wrote this in our comments "...next time (you're) snapping pix round town with your iPhone – bring two huge flood lights..." and Joshua Schnell, in his Macgasm article wrote: "Not exactly something an everyday iPhone user would have kicking around their apartment, is it?" referring to my lighting gear. These are not your every day type of pictures, this was a professional session.

This brings me to my next point: This video was created for professionals.

Fstoppers.com is a website dedicated to showing professional behind the scenes videos of photoshoots. A couple weeks ago we did a poll and only 2.6% of our readers do not own a DSLR. Only 1.7% of our readers were not interested in photography and just happened to stumble across our site. That means that almost 95% of our readers are either pros or serious amateur photographers. This video was created for them, not the average iPhone user. Why would the average iPhone user ever even want to take fashion photography?

I read a comment on DPreview that said "I don't like the fact that he is suggesting that you can work professionally with just an iPhone." Of course I am not suggesting that, and I have no idea why any adult would think that. This video was supposed to be a fun humors video that simply inspires you to stop making excuses and start working on your craft.

If I was going to create a video for normal iPhone users about how to take good pictures I would have gone outside in the shade and taken "normal" pictures. Obviously this video was geared towards other professionals.

Point number 3: "You said I could do this for cheap but then you spent a ton of money."

You CAN do this type of shoot for cheap but I actually did it for free. People everywhere have been complaining that they could never afford hair and makeup and a professional model. Guess what, I have NEVER paid for them. If your work is good enough then you should easily find people to collaborate with. Obviously this doesn't just happen. You have to prove yourself first. I can still remember my first fashion shoot. The model had never modeled before and she did her own hair and makeup. After that shoot though I had something to show people. After a couple years of quality shoots I now can call up local talent and ask them to be a part of ridiculous shoots (like those taken on a cell phone) and they are eager to help.

Point number 4: You don't need a professional retoucher.

Guess how many time in my entire career I have used a professional retoucher?...ONCE, and this was it. Pratik is an amazing retoucher and the reason I asked him to be a part of this was really just for the novelty. He is used to working on super high end fashion images that will be seen on magazine covers and his skills cannot really be used on a 3mp cell phone image. If there was ever a shoot where I was capable of doing my own retouching it was this shoot but since he agreed, I was excited to see his work and help promote his business. Remember the 2nd image in each series was his and the 3rd was my final edit. If you argue that I shouldn't have used photoshop then chances are, you are not a professional photographer, and are not the intended audience of this video. And, I knew people would argue this so I put the original images in the video just for them... If you don't like photoshop then pay not attention to the edited images. I will quote another paragraph from my original post: "People may claim that the original images don’t look that great but I was shooting with the intent of using Photoshop afterwards. If the backdrop paper didn’t fill the frame I knew I could easily fix it afterwards. With today’s market being what it is I see Photoshop as a necessary tool for every image I make. I am in the business of making money and my clients do not care if I got it perfect in the camera or made it perfect in post, they simply want a perfect image. It’s the same process with music. A band could record and entire album in 1 take, but what successful artist does that? Today, everyone records track by track one at a time and use software to combine them all together into a perfect mix."


I am thrilled with the response we have gotten from this video. I am glad that professionals, amateurs, and iPhone users have enjoyed watching it. The sad truth is that the average person is more likely to comment on an internet video these days if they have something negative to say. If they actually liked the video they have a better chance of not commenting but sharing it with friends, and that is what hundreds of thousands of people have already done.

If you are not a serious photographer then you should simply watch this video and be entertained by the fact that your cell phone camera isn't too bad. There is no way you are going to be able to take studio photography with your phone or any camera without some sort of lights. But that is fine, you don't need to take studio shots. Just remember that you can always work to take better pictures, no matter how bad your camera is. We are very thankful that you took the time to view our video. It was a good bit of work to produce and it's fun to see such a huge response.

If you are a serious amateur or an overly techy professional I really created this video for you. Obviously (at least I think it is obvious) I am not suggesting that you can do professional work with a cell phone camera. This video was created to simply put things in perspective. The people that view your work whether they are friends, family, or a paying client, do not view your work the same way you do. We love to be overly critical about photographs but it is important that we don't loose sight of the image itself. I have taken some shots that I have absolutely loved in the past and nobody else liked them; I took these pictures on my cell phone and some people said they were the best images I had ever taken (before they knew how I took them).

I will leave you with my favorite comment I have read so far. This comment comes from the most critical and technical photography forum on the net, DP Review. "These are obviously taken on a cell phone, the dynamic range cannot compete with my Canon." I tried guys.... I tried.

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"no good deed goes unpunished".

You made a fun video for the fans of your website. It got picked up by a major blog, hundreds of thousands views later, you got a few hater comments. Don't worry about them, they couldn't make a printable 4x6 with a D3X.

Keep the videos coming, I could only hope to make 1 image as good as your iPhone shoot.

Don't worry Lee, those who have been reading Fstoppers since its beggining know what you wanted to show, creativy is endless and people should be less obsessed about technical quality and more about artistical or creative quality of a photoshoot.
This kind of experiment has worked, and it's a really cool video, dont waste your time by replying people who doesn't even own a DSLR or are just behind the screen freaks...they won't understand that photography is not just about cameras, gear, lighting and mpix, it's ART, it's PASSION!

The whole point is - the camera (and gear) is irrelevant. It's the vision and execution that matters. Take the tools you have available to you and get out and shoot!

I loved the video. Thanks for taking the the risk.

Von Wong's picture

Great post =]

I think you addressed the questions extremely well! As a semi-pro photographer, I enjoyed the video a lot. Doesn't change the fact that I want a 65 MP hassie =P

I can say that i liked some points of the video and some i don't, but the must important thing is that you made a video, you made a proposal with it and the internet community debate about it.

Very good work, you made people talk about your work.

A friend of my once told me that the best camera is the eye of the photographer (anything else is vanity) ;)

I truly enjoyed the video. I found it humorous and inspiring. I am a amateur photographer and my Canon DSLR actually stopped working a few days ago. Since then I have been using my iPhone for my normal everyday shots of my life and kids with a lot of photoshop. LOL! I know it's unprofessional but these are for myself, so I'm not sweating it. However upon seeing you video I laughed seeing to what extent you pushed yourself with the iPhone camera, and made me feel a little better about myself using mine for the time being, till my DSLR is up and going again.
Now on to the people viewing this video with the intent of doing a shoot with an iPhone, not being a professional, and complaining about lights! BE REAL PEOPLE!!!!

For the record, I 'got it', and I'm absolutely amazed that you got any negative reaction at all!

Mad world.

Keep up the great work! :-)

I´ve enjoyed the video. This and similar videos help me look behind my borders and boost my creativity with the whole technology.

Thanks Manu,

I have no problem if people don't like my images or the video. My issue falls with people who are negative just for the sake of being negative without even attempting to learn about what is really going on.

I welcome everyones comments, whether they be positive or negative.

I really enjoyed your video about using the iphone in a fashion shoot, it really did out things in perspective for me. The video made me stop and think about my own camera and wonder why ive been saying if only i had the Canon 5D.. thats not the case, the only way my photography is going to improve is with my vision. That is something you have to work on if you want to produce excellent images. Thanks again, i love your site and your message! thanks Lee

Completely agree with your rebuttals and I completely understood what you were proving. I did the same thing with a friend's 5mp canon consumer camera the other day on the water to prove it is not the camera that makes the images.

Great Video! You should not have had to defend the process or make it clear for those who lack the intelligence to understand what you were doing.


I am a photographer. Please see these links:

iPhone 3G photography:


iPhone 4 Photography:


The only thing I did was edit the photos in Aperture 3. All editing I did in Aperture 3. I also could have done with a $1.99 app.

Lee is correct, just because you went out and bought a new DSLR doesn't mean it's going to take great pictures for you. First and foremost you need and eye for great shots and great angles. Second you need to be able to take advantage of any light available for the shot, the iPhone image sensor struggles with low light. Finally, you need to know how to edit photos. This is all stuff that is learned. Neither myself, Lee or any other photographer was born knowing how to take great photos. So don't get frustrated and miss the entire point of what Lee was trying to show us. It's not about the camera. It's not about the camera. It's not about the camera!

Dude, you did an amazing job. All of the people who complain about it are totally missing the point. Obviously they don't know that all of this can be done with standard lightbulbs and bed sheets.

I agree that the world has gotten too tech crazy. I mean, it's good to want the latest and greatest to help your business, but some people take the pixel peeping and tech whoring to a whole new level.

I've become a huge fan of this site and I hope to be able to contribute something in the future.

I thought the video was fantastic, myself. Made me want to go out and buy more strobes, anyway. =D

“These are obviously taken on a cell phone, the dynamic range cannot compete with my Canon.” - Haaa that's a good one!

I really (well I'll say softly), don't like those guys who are freaking out on technology, pixel peaking everything and so on, and absolutely forgot how to take cool pictures, maybe not so technically ideal but, as I always say if it looks good I don't care about the noise in the blue channel :)

Your video has inspired me to focus on the creativity of the photo shoot, not the technical stuff, and I don't care if the highlights are blown out, if it looks good let it stay.

Thanks guys, hope to see some creative videos from you soon !

Just for the record...I loved it!!!

Lee, I have to say this is one of the best videos about photography I have ever seen and the perfect antidote to those fixated on speeds and feeds of cameras rather than the art of photography itself. I am amazed that so many people got the wrong end of the stick and didn't get your rationale for making the video, but fair play to you for writing this post and addressing their (generally misplaced) comments.

Keep up the good work!

I think it was an excellent video and really showed how amazing the camera on the iPhone 3GS is. I never would have thought it could take pictures of that quality.
Thank you for your hard work producing the photoshoot!

Lee- Good job on the shoot. It was obvious what your intentions were, and so what if you used some quality light diffusers! These people with negative claims, questions, and assertions are simply out there trying to get a response out of you and your team...

Anyone with a little common sense and understanding knows what the goal of the shoot was...don't respond to the haters (that's what they want). Keep up the good work. (Also, when you don't respond to haters, it eats them up....)

I have to tell you that you remind me of Andrew Kramer and that is a really cool thing! Since I found this site late last week I have been on a fstoppers high and that has led to some other discoveries and searches. Suffice it to say, you guys are my latest inspiration.

Burt Johnson's picture

I am one of those that did not comment earlier, but passed it on. Excellent job all the way around.

My only complaint is that your iPhone images look better than my Canon 5D MK II images. Can I get you to come to my studio? :)

Burt Johnson's picture

I am one of those that did not comment earlier, but passed it on. Excellent job all the way around.

My only complaint is that your iPhone images look better than my Canon 5D MK II images. Can I get you to come to my studio? :) (Your comment is awaiting moderation)

(Hope this message isn't duplicated -- web page said there was an error the first time it was submitted...)

Lee, it's great what you did with the iPhone. The entire video was fun and creative, and pretty enjoyable! Thumbs up to you and the entire bunch of people who were involved in the photoshoot. I'm further impressed that you are actually responding to all those major "issues" that people have raised.

Even though it's true that having all that proper lighting, touchup etc helps in creating a really impressive finished product, the original images are really good, and at first glance they look great! So thanks for the reminder that photographers are not so much limited by their camera but just by their creativity! (And yes, I admit that I'm one of those who would lament on the limitations of my camera ;p I do try my best to have some interesting composition though!

Kudos on the video. It was great fun, and made an excellent point. I have both an iPhone and a Nikon DSLR and never felt betrayed, not even once. I appreciate the creativity, time and effort. I found it inspiring and encouraging. It reminded me that the fun is in the process and the technical should be an enhancement not an impediment. Thanks Again!


This video was my intro to Fstoppers and I have to say it was a great intro. As a product designer I dab into photography as another creative outlet. I've always looked at professional photographers and thought I can never get to that level with my camera and kit lens, but this video has inspired me to go pick up my camera, adapt to my situation and work towards that level.

Thanks for the awesome and fun intro to Fstoppers and I can't wait to see more videos...i've already went back and watched all of the old posts.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Well said. I really enjoyed the video and I'm glad you and your crew took the time out to make it. It was obviously a labor of love and it shows in the final product.

The fact that some people are upset by the video or feel that you misrepresented the capabilities of the iphone with expensive lighting is to be expected. Most of these are probably the same people who think you need a $5000 camera to take a good picture.

When I first started out I had photos published with my old Digital Rebel. I still use alienbees. You could have used a lighting setup that cost $300 and gotten the same results.

Work on the craft, everyone. Well done guys!

Lee, I really enjoyed your video and perhaps it's because I'm an amateur (and not even a serious one since I have yet to buy a DSLR) but my understanding was that this was supposed to be a fun, inspirational video and for me, it achieved it's objective. Thanks for putting this together.


Thanks for putting in your 2 cents worth on this subject. I've been reading and hearing this same old tired excuse for quite some time now. I've written about it in my blog but did it with $679 in equipment. If you are interested please read or point to it.



I thought the video was excellent. I am assuming that those who are posting negative comments and dissecting every scene of the video are the ones who have the most to gain from your video. They are still searching for a reason as to why their photos are not as good as yours.

"Fear not angry 'togs, the camera is not your enemy"
best wishes, James

Loved the video and the commentary. I love my iPhone and always look to get the best out of all the camera apps out there. We all know of the limitations of a "camera phone" but geez, what an improvement over just a few years ago... Your point was well made (even if there were some out there who just missed the point). No one should expect the iPhone cam to equal a DSLR. Come on... But the art of photography is in the eye of the artist. Picasso could have painted a masterpiece with a tree branch (if he wanted to). Just curious, have you (or did you) use any of the enhanced camera apps out there like Perfectly Clear, Camera Plus Pro, TiltShiftGen, TouchRetouch, Photoshop App, etc? I wonder how well your pics could be with these apps without any other "non-iPhone" post processing. I've seen some pretty impressive shots created only using iPhone Apps. Bottom line: loved the piece!

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