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.

Lee Morris's picture

Lee Morris is a professional photographer based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of Fstoppers.com

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Well said Lee!

Cannot agree more than how people are so superficial in critiquing what they read today. And talk about their sense of humour... geez!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the video and have shared it with friends on what photography really is about... a work of art! I'm pretty sure Van Gogh would have painted the same with the lousiest of brushes and paint.

Please keep on posting and I look forward to more innovative photo shoots to come in the near future.


Hey Guys,
I found the site via the iphone story, and love it. I have been really interested in photography and videography again recently and LOVE what you have done on the site. You guys are simply great! Keep up the good work!

I passed the video to 8 of my friends and we all liked it (100%).

And we don't think using expensive lighting matters.
Same lighting can be build from inexpensive materials/devices from a homedepot like shop.

I hate destructive criticism and people who only criticize without doing anything constructive, so I'm sorry for that post at macgasm. We notice similar criticism from other people on some of our work (not related to photography) and we just ignore it.

In life is good to listen to criticism from people that have done something (people who are important) in that field, and not from everybody.

We (me and my friends) hope that such (bad) people/opinions will not stop you in doing more things. Just ignore them.

I've seen beautiful pictures taken with point and shoot 2MP cameras. 90% of people on forums know best to criticize and are horrible at taking pictures :).

It seems that good (smart) things are not for everybody... :)

So thank you again, keep on doing good work, ignore bad people and .... know that sometimes heat can be a good thing :).

Its a great video and the pictures at the end of it are also great. The photographers who are complaining obviously don’t "get it".. After all, the internet is full of idiots.


Sorry - I have to disagree with the "this site is for professionals." I won't dispute if that is the demographic you would /like/ to be going for, but I would say that another poll of who owns what kind of lighting equipment would be rather enlightening.

That being said, it was a great video. I was a little frustrated, but you did take a lot of time to clarify that you were talking about the camera, not the lighting.

Good work! Love it and can't wait to see the outdoor video.

I really enjoyed the video and the point that you were trying to make. I was one of the ones that shared the video with my friends.

Being a photographer is more than just what kind of camera you use. It is about combining artistic talent with technical ability to overcome any limitations you are working under and still provide an image that satisfies the customer's requirements. If you can also handle the business end and still produce great work in a profitable way then you are probably a successful photographer.

In your example, you defined the set of conditions up front and produced results to emphasize your point. That made your video successful to me.

As Chase Jarvis has put so eloquently (and profited from): "The best camera is the one that's with you."

Thank you.

Loved the video, and the point was well made and well taken. A friend of mine likes to tell a joke along those same lines: A photographer is invited to a dinner party, and when the host learns that he's a photographer they say, "Wow, you must really have some good cameras!" He gives a non-committal answer and turns back to his dinner. At the end he compliments the host on the dinner and says, "You must have some really good pots and pans!"

I admit, the lighting threw me off at first, too. But when you brought in the two halogen work lights, I had to smile. I do a lot of interior shots at work, and have to use what's available. Work lights get pressed into service pretty regularly. I've used the floor, walls, and whatever I had on hand as a reflector. But dang it, I need to get a couple of bed sheets and store them at work now!

From a testing standpoint, I thought your approach was dead-nuts on: change one thing, and observe how it affects the results. Aside from using hot lights instead of strobes (for understandable reasons) you only changed one thing: the camera. Well done.

- Tom

Only on the internet in 2010 could you post a video like this and have people *complain* about it! What is wrong with people?! Fun, informative, stupid, clever, and above all you took the time to actually do it and share it. It gave me a nudge of inspiration, so thank you. Great job.

Great all the way.
You barely needed to reply to the negative comments. These people don't read and they don't listen. It is SOOO obvious that you're just challenging the camera thing, not the entire studio thing.
Great video, great challenge.
You win.

I thought the video was great and entertaining, especially when the phone rang and it was a telemarketer. Great job and thanks for a great website!

Great video! People need to lighten up. The web is full of people that like to find faults with everything. It gets your point across and inspired me to try something like that.

I shoot my nieces and nephew with a 5D Mark II and all I hear from my brother and sister is how great my camera is when they see the photos. I think I'm going to do my next shoot with my iPhone, not tell them, and see what the comments are. I know it's no big deal but it will be funny to see if they say the same thing.

Thanks for a really cool video.

Thanks for the video! Watching the video and reading the debates really gave me a lot of knowledge and inspiration.
I always wanted to keep reminding myself to appreciate what I have and not always thinking about what if I can buy those full frame body or premium lenses but this video has made it all clear now.
The most inspiring video I saw since I picked up and started to learn photography!

All publicity is good publicity, Lee - how many (thousands) of people have now discovered fstoppers as a result of the exposure the video got on Strobist?

Keep up the good work :)

I love the video and I totally got your point about what you were trying to prove :) - I am not professional like you, maybe one day :)

Loved it! That's one excuse people can't use anymore! :)

Kudos for the great iPhone video Lee! I am truly inspired!

Unfortunately, it is a shame you are plagued with these negative comments; and it is probably due to internet readers that never "read" but instead, scan the page!!

I thought it demonstrated beautifully that lighting is everything (well 95%) in photography... the rest is made up with post processing and maybe a camera that works.


Sorry to see that so many people have missed the point of your video. I found it to be a great inspiration. Too often photographers focus in on the equipment and miss the importance of composition and lighting. Amazing video and a true inspiration. It amazes me that anyone would find your video to be misleading. Thanks and keep them coming! Great site. BTW - I found his site because of this video - Thanks to David Hobby's site!

The video was a ton of fun. And it made an excellent point. Needless to say your website is now in my photography favorites folder

Cool video, really enjoyed it, but was the Olympus bashing really needed? :(

<3 <3 <3

I enjoyed the video for what it was.
Well done guys.

Wow I can't believe some people were so bored out of their minds that they would go into such great lengths to do some nitpicking like this. I have to say that despite that fact that I'm no pro and usually only wield around my Canon for kicks and giggles, I thoroughly enjoyed this video. Once again, to Lee and everybody who was involved in this shoot, job well done! it highlights the point that camera alone isn't the most decisive factor in producing professionally looking photographs. I too, found this video and the website through David Hobby's Strobist site RSS feed. I thank you guys, Lee and Patrick, for taking the time to create these BTS videos and share with us your tips and experience. Your work is really inspirational to me and I'm glad I stumbled across here and will be checking back regularly. Again, for those who missed the point of this video, it is only their loss.

I'm a student and aspiring photographer and i couldn't agree more with your point of view, and you are right, if people truly like the video? They wouldn't comment but share it with their friends & family ;) And for the record, i absolutely loved your video and the part where olympus sucks. Yeah olympus does suck >:) Made the switch after using it, made taking photographs so much easier and convenient.

the model is hot

there will always be haters.... at least your stirring the pot...... So does this mean you win the free camera? shoot I was hoping my iphone 3gs could shoot the video.... i guess i'll have to upgrade to the 4.

I have for a long time now argued that taking a good photo should not be about the pixels or the grain or whatever. A good image is a good image. Too many get hung up obsessing on these things and I am amazed they even get round to taking a picture at all.
Great video - great idea - anyone picking holes in this just didn't get it and ended up proving why you did it in the first place

Well I enjoyed the video!
It was only a few weeks ago I bought a (very cheap) point and shoot Nikon just for a bit of fun, something to carry around in my pocket.
The images aren't up to the standard of my bigger Nikons but I knew that from the start.
With a bit of help in post from Aperture I've captured some very satisfying images and have been enjoying the fun the baby Nikon has supplied.
I also play with the iphone and have often thought about a tripod of some description ... hadn't given a thought to velcro!
It's horses for courses ... I wouldn't use it for my work but it's nice to know I can have some fun with it.
I thought that was the point of the video as well ... to have a bit of fun with photography.

It amazes me how stupid people can be. I really enjoyed your video. It was pretty obvious that you were just having fun trying to prove a point. I am a professional and it seems ridiculous to hear some of the comments by other "professionals". Get a frickin' sense of humor people, or at least lighten up a little. I've been photographing some of my clients (H.S. Seniors) with their own cell phones in addition to my 1Ds Mark III. It gives them a quick photo they can share with their friends and they look better than any cell phone photo they see, because they were taken in proper lighting conditions.

I say NICELY DONE guys! Keep up the good work.

Matt Green

love it!

Just wanted to say nice job... point well made, especially for those of us just getting enthused about photography and struggling with the "how much do I spend on my equipment" question. The answer, which you so ably demonstrated is, that the more time you spend learning the craft, the less important your equipment becomes. Thanks for a hugely entertaining video that will help keep me focused on the right things as I delve deeper into the wonderful world of photography!

I recently bought a $.99 camera app for my iPhone and I love it! I loved it so much in fact that I decided to do something very similar to what you have done here except on location. This video is awesome and really shows exactly what every true professional photographer knows..... iPhones RULE!!!!! :D Well, that and the camera is not the most important part of a photo - vision is! Thanks for sharing this with us and way to go! Two thumbs up!

Don't stress about people who are missing the point. All the explanation in the world will not help. And for the record, I do think the unedited photos look good. Not perfect, but, and here's the real issue: far better than most people probably believe could be captured on a cell phone camera. And that's the kicker. This is all about getting out there and getting work done with what you have, right? I think that many of the serious amateurs on here would be happy to end up with what you did with their full-size cameras. Seeing that it can be done on the iPhone gives you the confidence to get out there and try it yourself.

A superb video and the following discussion is amazing! Thanks for drawing back my attention to how important good lighting of a scene really is. My personal proof happened last weekend using just a single strobe bouncing into a silver umbrella while shootimg some portraits outside in the garden early in the evening.

Actually this video is a real nightmare for all gear heads! No more excuses about wrong camera, lens or whatever. Since I can read so much complaints about expensive lighting and light modifiers used in this photo session this seems to be the last item on the list of our beloved gear head community to defend their approach on photography. Dream on, boys and girls - your local dealer in his photo shop will love you forever for your mind setting!

haters always gonna hate!

we loved the video and will be checking back the fstoppers website on a regular basis.
Best regards,
Photo Digitaal Magazine
the Netherlands

Funny how many people missed (or wanted to miss) the intention of the movie. Maybe they just felt offended by the quality of the images. Imagine that guys, having no clue about photography buying a 5D MKII and a lot of equip and never get pictures that are even close to the iPhone shots. They might see this clip from a very different perspective (as in: "that's just because you're a noob and don't have any skills").

I think people should stop trolling and realize what the movie is:
A motivation for all of us! Thanks Lee for this amazing work and washing our brains :) You really made an excellent point.

Don't spend time worrying about it - we all got it, they're all dicks :D

I have enjoyed your video very much, and I think your point is relevant and well made!

@ Martin Moore

Excellent photos my man! You should have made a video as well, shut the negative posters on youtube up!

Thank you. Your video was one of the best I have seen in a long time. It brings to mind the old saying, "A bad carpenter blames his tools" You have proven without a doubt that it is technique, experience and knowledge of photography that is important. When I got married 10 years ago (second time around) my 14 year old daughter followed our professional photographer around and took pictures at the same time. The photographer had high end film cameras, my daughter had a $75 point and shoot film camera. Guess what? My daughter actually took some better pictures that the photographer.

The point of this, is to learn your craft, then worry about the equipment.

Thank you Lee for a great, eye opening video,



Not really sure why you even bothered to respond to these people. They pretty clearly have no knowledge of photography and perhaps shouldn't have been reading your blog anyway.

A good photographer is one that is able to capture emotions / feelings / time / space. Well done on your video, your shoot and your article. Thanks for taking the time to make it.

I loved watching your video, reading the post and coming back to see that you actually had this much response. Keep up this great work. I bookmarked the website to come back as much as I can :)

Who gives a crap if you use 'proper' lighting for the job at hand!! It's like they don't get the whole point of the exercise you produced.

Would I be penalized for using my £6k ringlight in a shot that called for it? No, you simply were showing what could be achieved with these camera phones ... YES you lit it right and used relevant lights for the job... it's not like you went out the ‘Briese’ and ordered 1 from every list in their kit room... now that would be expensive, and to some, OK

This was the first time I heard of fstoppers or visited the site. As a pro, I was inspired by the video. It really challenges my way of thinking. We all get caught up by the "I want the best" bug but we have to remember that some of the best photographs are made with very inexpensive equipment. Thanks again, and keep em' coming!

Hey Lee,

I just found your site after watching the video which was linked from TUAW.com.

I liked your fun look at using an iPhone for a pro shoot. I shot weddings for 15 years with Hasselblad equipment and always had guests come up and say that of course I got good pictures due to the equipment. I always told them its the lighting, the pose and the expression that makes the photo. I could do good work with point and shoot cameras. I would sometimes grab their point and shoot and take a picture for them using my setup.

The only reason we used Hasselblad was to enable us to make large prints. Today, nobody needs anything bigger than an 8x10, so a 3MP camera is ok and a 6MP is good. Anything larger is overkill unless it captures a better dynamic range.

If you look at my site, consider that it hasn't been updated since 1999 and I stopped working as a full-time photographer in 2001 when digital was just starting. I did some freelance digital jobs until 2005 shooting with Phase one backs and Hasselblad for portraits and Nikon D2's for candids.

Keep up the good work and keep inspiring photographers to take better photos. Don't let the haters get to you.

I spent a few hours browsing through your site yesterday, great stuff!
Today, to my surprise, I found a article in a Norwegian newspaper about your iphone photo shoot! If you didn't already know, here is the link

You did good. Don't worry about the rest.

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