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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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Previous comments

Thought the video was great, told all my camera friends about it, and we all agreed that it was a fantastic idea. It had the intended impact on us, and just made us want to get off our butts and start shooting.
Thanks for posting it and keep up the great work man!

Chill your beans bro. 95% percent of people loved it.

Lee Hi,
I'm glad I came across your site.
Amazing work on this important project.
I have returned to photography after a long absence. I bought a decent DSLR and I'm having fun. But I take simple pics too and I consider it a personal challenge to get the best shot I can, regardless of the camera I'm using. I try not to waste shots either even digital doesn't have the cost factor as film where waste is concerned.
Your video is the most powerful way to show people that it is knowledge and method that matter. The camera comes after such considerations.
Well done. Truly. It is a case study in the art of the possible and I sincerely commend you for even doing it.
As for the whiners and the naysayers, ignore them Lee. Their mission in life is to spread depression and ridicule anyone who strives for excellence.
Don't let such buggers get you down. They're like mosquitoes. Just swat them and move on with your work. That's where the joy of the reward lies.

I actually stumbled upon your blog BECAUSE of this video and I love all the videos and posts. Keep them coming!

Thanks for sharing.It's hilarious when the the discussion falls into "proper" this or that. I think your results speak for themselves. I was sent over here from Strobist and now it's a daily stop. Thanks again!

i thought the video was a lot of fun and i got that it was geared towards people with low end equipment who want to be be pro shooters.

i like the way you layed out in your response how they could achieve decent lighting on a low budget. you summed it up correctly by saying if you do all the low end stuff and come up with some compelling images, people will be impressed. plus it helps you to think on your feet when your gear is down, stolen, flaky and you need to get the shot done.

thanks for doing this. the responses are just as interesting as the video.

That is what happens when you try and think outside the box....people want to shove you right back in. Everyone has gotten so used to voicing their opinion via tweet or status update, that they don't even think before they speek anymore. "Well...I have an opinion on this matter....even though I don't know anything about anything." Please....spare us.

That video was an excellent example of how light is the most crucial part of the equation when taking a photograph. It was meant to show that the camera is just a tool, capturing the reflection of light. Closing comment was the best....competing with his Canon? What a bonehead....

Fantastic job.

I can't believe someone actually challenged you by saying- Betcha can't make great pictures without the great lights. Tell that to Chase Jarvis. I'm sure he is really hurting in the iPhone Picture Book Sales dept. (did you get my sarcasm- did you... you see how I put it in there?)

This video was awesome and it definitely had the desired effect on me, because while I am not a professional photographer I like to consider myself at least an amateur. I've always been a little self-consicious about pulling out my cheap DSLR camera and missing the chance to take, what I envisioned, a great image. This video really put it in perspective for me and I thank you for that.

Keep up the good work!

Very fun video to watch. I'm not sure what's misleading, or upsetting. A fashion shoot using an iphone. Fashion infers lights, models, make up, etc... Well done.

I so agree with the point you were trying to make. Here, where I live, many are buying very expensive gear but don't know how to even take presentable (not to mention good) pictures with their Canon 70 - 200 mm lens and Canon 50D etc.

After watching your video and reading the comments: it has made me think more about what (and how) I want to photograph rather than what do I need to buy to do it. So thanks for that! And I wanted to thank you for your website. It's always a thrill to find a site were you can see the "how to's" and get ideas to try out myself. Off to shoot now :) All the best, Helena

I really enjoyed watching the video, it looked like a lot of fun, and the photos look great. Thanks for creating and sharing it!

I think its absolutely critical that photo pros point out that the camera is not the most critical part in the equation for amazing photographs.

Almost everyone can benefit more from working on their technique and skills more than from the very latest or most expensive camera gear.

Thank you!

Great video Lee, just ignore the negative people. I think it's great that you can take these kind of shots with just a mobile phone. People don't understand that lighting is pretty much the main thing with photo or video. As someone that shoots video professionally, you learn very quickly in the early days (well I did) how much you need good lighting. It can be the difference between a good and a bad shoot. There are also limitations with shooting with a camera with such a small lens. So you need to compensate with more lighting. Like you said, you use lights even when you shoot with your DSLR's, so having lighting is normal. Good job..

Lee - you made it totally clear about the fact it was about the camera and nothing else. I thoroughly enjoyed the video, and passed it to some friends (found it via a link on strobist).

Also - "Photography is all about lighting." AMEN!!!!!

Keep up the great work ... really glad I found your site, loving the videos.


Dude, ignore all these nay sayers. They obviously didn't get the point, which is too bad and not really your fault. I loved the video and am amazed at the final picture quality. As you said, photography is all about lighting. Photography literally means, writing or recording light. If the light is not beautiful then a photo will obviously suck. Thanks for making this video.

Keep up the good work. Cheers!

I doubt you'll ever read this - sooooo many comments but I really appreciated the video. I'm a keen amateur and feel that the negative comments you received have proved one of my misgivings about photography, namely the constant race for better technology being at the center of everything. Light is all and you've creatively proved that it's the eye and manipulating light that creates an excellent image not the tool you capture it with. I have a Canon 40d that does all I ask of it. Most of the images of my kids are taken with my iPhone because it's always there. Are those images as technically perfect as my 40D would take? Of course not! Are they awesome images that I'm proud of and will look at throughout my life? Yes!

All you did was point out that it's not all about the camera and you did it in an entertaining informative way. All those that didn't get it are caught up in the tech race and are forgetting about what is important. The image you create, not the kit you create it with.

Well done!

Great video, I think it was pretty clear that this type of shoot wasn't available to every iPhone user, I think you showed excatly what you set out to do, some people are just never happy, keep up the good work!!!

I've been wanting a video like this one for so long!!! Whenever anyone asks me what kind of camera I use I try to tell them to get whatever and just learn how to use it. I used a xt with the kit lens for like, my first nine shoots and the images were lovely simply because I knew how to use the thing. Some of my friends bought a camera they couldnt afford and didn't learn to use it and took horrible photos with it... I think everyone should watch this!! The camera totally doesn't make the photographer and I love that this was done so well. I am gushing...this is so good. I'll stop. But really...so good.

Don't worry about those negative comments. I am not photographer but I am owner of iPhone and I really enjoyed these 10 minutes of your video. Great work!
Sending regards from Czech Republic ;)

You are correct, people like to complain before they praise, but fear not, I believe your video was well received by many photographers. I'm a software architect and find I get stuck in the details and the video was a good kick in the teeth.
-- Get out there and shoot, stop reading and upgrading your stuff!

Thank you for creating and sharing the video - Happy Shooting

People are retarded....especially some of them on this Internet thing.

It was an awesome video and someone with half a brain would have realized the point you MADE - not trying to make.

fstoppers.com rocks!


Great video. I have to laugh at the people that pounced all over your work. They missed your humor at the beginning and missed the most important message of all .... Stop complaining about the equipment you don't have. Go out there, take pictures, make videos and have FUN!

Thanks for a great video.

First of all, I really ENJOYED this film a lot !! Second, reading your response, you are too much defending yourself. And there is absolutely no reason for that !

Please keep doing "crazy things" like that ...



I didn't agree with the attacks on the video saying it was misleading because of the lights you used. The main points I took away from the video were the lighting concepts. Also, it proves that the camera doesn't matter. It's all about lighting, composition, moment. It helps if you have a $4,000 camera, but this video proves that you can make great images without it. The most important part of any camera is the area 4 inches behind the viewfinder.

Lee, critics be damned. What you did was very telling, revealing, and you did it in a fun and entertaining way. There are folks out there that are crawling the web simply to try to poke holes and shoot down things that are trying to uplift arbitrary limitations. Do your thing, Lee, it's awesome.

As a pro shooter all my family and friends always ask me for camera recommendations... and I always say, well if you really want to get serious about taking good pictures, buy a flash that can be operated off camera, learn how to do so, and then buy the cheapest camera that will sync with it.

I just can't believe anyone actually had serious critiques of this video... or more specifically the photography in this video.

From the 1st few seconds of this video I could tell its intent. Mostly to be fun/funny, but also to prove that you shouldn't be limited by your equipment. I mean, who cares if you used expensive lights and modifiers and pro models, etc... you shot these images with an effing PHONE! I don't care if you were somehow syncing Profoto packs and heads with your iPhone, you were still taking pictures with a PHONE that looked great.

Where were all the people being like "Hey, I love Olympus cameras"? That's actually most of the guff I was expecting to see from this video. Can't believe people were pissed that you used a phone.

Also... do people forget that the word "photograph" comes from the Greek "photos" and "graphe"... meaning drawing with LIGHT!

That's our whole business!

Great video. Don't sweat the haters. They just need to vent on 'the internets'.

"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!"

But what if I don't own a DSLR and understood the point of the video? :(

Time to write a book and title it "Adventures in Missing the Point" :) You had me at "Olympus, who shoots with that?!" Keep up the good work!

@Ken Just watch, learn and enjoy :)

I thought it was great, and I for one did not miss the point. It's too bad really that people always have to find something to complain about. I'm more camera geek than photographer, and I do obsess over things like chromatic aberration, but I know I shouldn't, so again, I got it. This reminded me of two other things I've come across on the net that make a similar point... the first is a post called "Alex Majoli points and shoots", about the Magnum photographer using (ironically) Olympus point and shoots (C-5050 etc.) for his award winning published photojournalist work. Just Google the title and it will come right up. The other article that came to mind is called "Dirty Lens Test". Again, Google it, it should come right up. The author shot a roll of film through an old camera with a filthy crapped up lens to prove that a lens doesn't have to be pristine to produce good images. Good stuff.

Anyway, thanks for making your point so well - much appreciated.

The biggest thing I got out of this video? Your website! What an incredible training tool for even interested amateurs like myself. (And the video, with the points in this post, were awesome too.)

very inspiring and fun idea. as a few said already, before you shot this admittedly controversial video, only people who are interested in (semi-)professional photography knew about fstoppers. with the video you reached a bigger crowd, some of which with different values and looks at photography.... and with that additional traffic the web-trolls came along, that don't have anything better to do to criticise and bad-mouth anything that gains popularity. it's always easier to identify what's wrong with something, than to point out what's right.

keep up your great work!

I thought the video was well done, incredibly entertaining, and illustrated well your very valid points. I'd never been to the site, but it's bookmarked and in my daily RSS list as well. Awesome stuff. Thanks!

It's a really good video and I even shared it with my collegues!!it just remind me again that insight,ideas are far more important then tools. And by this video I know about your website,which is really good!!!Please keep sharing with us the behind scene shots!!

Great video, loved the concept and proves that any camera will take an excellent picture when used right. However, being an Olympus user, I was downright mortified about your comment in the beginning and felt you were putting me down personally. Really? Honestly, you don't have to put down user preference just because you can afford and have access to higher end equipment. I thought you were a professional? If you were trying to stimulate some friendly brand rivalry, I think you may have gone about it the wrong way. Olympus has been the first brand I used and will be the last. The brand has served me well and has brought me great pictures. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Loved the video! I'm another that found your site via Strobist.

I'm laying the groundwork to start shooing professionally again after 20 years. Like many I'm on a reduced budget. I've created a number of light modifiers for cheap ala Dean Collins' 'Tinkertubes'. With that said, I've been catching myself thinking I can't 'X' because I don't have that super expensive piece of equipment (even though I know better).

Time for those lame excuses to go the way.

I got the point of the video pretty quickly - and had a good laugh at the same time.

Thank You.

laughed my a** of at the comments ! the best thing I've read this week . people are some seriously funny creatures you can't ever get enough of them.

Great video! And congratulations on your response to those who criticize without foundation.
I live in Argentina, I'm learning and would like to improve my skills as a photographer. Your video was a big motivation.
Thanks a lot!
Silvio Barba

Sod the why's and the wherefores ........ Truly inspirational stuff.... I'm glad this game is all about imagination.

Lee, I thought the video was very well thought out and put together. After seeing it via The Strobist, I've become a real fan of your blog! All caveats were very clear to anyone paying complete attention. As John Wayne said, "Life is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid!" Ignore the "stupid" viewers.

I have to agree with many of the people above. Taking pictures isn't just about having fancy equipment. The expensive equipment is to make a professional's life more convenient and time/cost effective. As an amateur DSLR hobbyist, I avoid paying top dollar whenever I can. :)

Your video was well done, humorous (loved the phone ringing), and reminded us all that photography is about being creative and having fun. Well done, sir!

I must admit, I too thought you were a bit misleading in what you said, not needing fancy lights and knowing all the editing software. But then I got it, it was JUST about the camera. I thought it was fun and entertaining and made the point you were trying to make. I used to own a Sony Cybershot F717 5mp, and it was a fantastic camera. Never took a blurry image. But you need 18-24mp! I got rid of it as I have DSLRs and it was too big to use as my point and shoot. But it would do well for someone who complains they don't have good equipment and can't afford anything, so they don't take photos. Or get a used Nikon D100 or D40 or something!

I'm really disappointed -- there were NO shots of a brick wall! How can I tell the quality of the iPhone lens with NO brick with photos. ;-D

Fun video, keep up the good work!

I am an absolute noob in photography, own a really old digital camera that cost about a hundred bucks, I don't know how to take good pictures and I don't own an iPhone.

And still I thought the video was great and fun. It demonstrates what's essential about photography - the skill and knowledge of the photographer. That it is the artist, with his lighting, postprocessing and composition to make pictures that rock. It gives me an insight into how you guys work, and what makes the good photographers so good.

Any artist, or simply anyone with passion for something they create can relate to that. Loved it.

I'm adding this blog to my RSS feed. I like the way you think. :)

Telling the truth will make you enemies!

Keep on doing it however, not only great fun but a reminder of what photography is all about.

I feel like the negative comments were more plentiful than the positive ones, and that's a shame because so many people appreciated it - myself included. The fact that the video got posted on a few blogs that aren't photography specific, opened up the gates for everyone with an iPhone thinking you were talking to them.

It's like me seeing a video of a pitching technique to break that pesky 90mph mark for my fastball. Clearly no tips, or fundamental guidelines for that kind of thing could render me capable of throwing anything <i>faster than I can run.</i>

I however, feel like I'd have the presence of mind to realize that kind of instructional video would never be meant for someone like me (who has no physical ability for anything whatsoever). Therefore, I wouldn't call bs on something like that.

I kept trying to tell people in all kinds of forums and comment sections (to no avail) who this video was for, and why <i>we</i> understand it. However, the people who don't play baseball, and don't make any kind of living off of photography, will often miss the point.

Thank you for doing it. At least you got a ton of hits!

It's a good try. Your video is very interesting and fun. I'm agree with the fact everything is about light.

I'm really impatient to see the iPhone shoot in natural light.

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