Time Magazine Releases 12 Covers All Shot on iPhone

Time Magazine Releases 12 Covers All Shot on iPhone

In a creative world where there is a mentality of “bigger is better,” most photographers will be shocked to hear that Time Magazine just released 12 magazine covers for their September issue all shot on iPhone.

As told in an article on the magazine’s website, Time’s Director of Photography Kira Pollack found Brazilian Photographer Luisa Dörr while browsing Instagram. What caught her eye wasn’t the elaborate editing of photos or any apparent use of expensive equipment, it was the fact that all of the photos on Dörr’s Instagram feed where shot only using her iPhone. “The pictures were incredibly consistent,” she told Time. “In her bio line she had written ‘All photos made with the iPhone.’ I tracked her down immediately.”

Pollack had been working on a large project entitled “FIRSTS” for Time which sought to showcase women of all ages, races, and ethnicities who’d broken barriers, or as Pollack put it, “who have broken glass ceilings” in every professional field. Pollack knew that Luisa Dörr and her curated and intentional Instagram feed would be the perfect photographer to capture the project, using only her iPhone.

The project, which involved photographing portraits of 46 iconic women, spanned several months and took Dörr across the country photographing portraits in multiple states. The women photographed included Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Aretha Franklin, and many more. Dörr said that most of the subjects, used to being photographed by some of the most prestigious photographers in the world, were taken aback by Dörr’s incredibly stripped down and simple iPhone setup. What’s more is at the beginning of the project, Dörr only had an iPhone 5 and shot many of her portraits using a model of iPhone that many might consider to be completely outdated. As the project continued, Dörr moved from using the iPhone 5 to using the iPhone 6s, and eventually was able to photograph the last 36 subjects using the iPhone 7. All of Dörr’s portraits were photographed using only natural light with a reflector.

Pollack noted how impressed she was with Dörr’s process, which often took less than five minutes, even with such powerful and iconic women as subjects. “What I couldn't know was how well she would use her iPhone in unimaginably small windows of time — sometimes just five minutes to capture cover portraits of some of the most important women in the world,” she said.

For more info on Dörr’s process, and the behind the scenes of Time’s “FIRSTS” project, check out the interview.

[via Time Magazine]

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I really don't think, "most photographers will be shocked to hear Time Magazine just released 12 magazine covers for their September issue all shot on iPhone." I frankly don't think any photographer with half a clue what is going on in the photographic and image making world would even be a little surprised. But because I really tend to like your articles Danette, I'll make my best shocked face for you... :^O

That being said, Luisa did an incredible job! Just imagine what she could have done with more precise instruments. As I like to say, could Caravaggio [or insert artists of your choice] have created a masterpiece with finger paints [or insert unnecessarily handicapped medium, supplies or tools]? I'm really not sure, but I'm damn glad he used the best equipment he could to create the amazing art that he was able to create!

And that being said, there is nothing wrong with using an iPhone for art, and frankly if that's what you've got and what floats your boat, I would encourage artistic expression with whatever you have at your disposal. But I think we might all agree that the use of an iPhone is not really surprising, for me it's just a little disappointing. Ask yourself, if you were told Annie Leibovitz was headed over to take your portrait and she showed up with an old iPhone, you might still be excited (I know I would be!), but you'd probably be a little disappointed.

Robert Nurse's picture

If Annie Leibovitz showed up at my door, LOL, I'd probably beg and grovel to photograph her instead. I see where you're coming from though. Frankly, until an IPhone, or any other smart phone for that matter, can provide what a DSLR can, I'll just smile and wave. But, if an iPhone, in the right hands, can help produce compelling imagery, I won't complain.

I'd at least grab a selfie with her! Hahahaha!

Danette Chappell's picture

Thanks for your input Andrew! And I totally agree with you. Using an iPhone for a professional job used to be way more surprising a few years ago. I do like, however, what Kira Pollack said regarding why she chose Luisa to take the portraits using an iPhone, “The iPhone has become so ubiquitous in our culture, so essential to the way we are communicating, that our subjects, I think, were at first surprised that something so basic was being used for something as singular as a portrait for TIME. But such a universal tool in fact became a refreshing and equalizing force for each session. It enabled the shoots to be much more about the “act” of portrait-making—the gestures, the eyes, what even the most subtle body language can reveal about a person.” - I really like the point of making it about the portrait-making, and not so much about what equipment was used.

I would think that a cover shot with an iphone would be perfect acceptable for most any publication. Creatives might notice, but far fewer than 1% of the readers would be able to determine the difference between an iphone 7 photo and a Hasselblad H6 photo.

I think her photos look great.

Jared Wolfe's picture

Only 1% might be able to articulate the difference well but I think anyone would be able to tell the difference between a iphone shot vs even a simple APS-C camera especially when printed at that size. The other 99% might be able to say one has more 'pop' or detail or something but could certainly tell the difference. Iphone has plenty of pixels but is extremely lacking in color separation and detail that is glaringly obvious at magazine size.

Shocked... No, because this is a publicity stunt. What will next months cover be shot with? I doubt it will be an iPhone, and I expect there will only be one cover.

If they had shot 12 cover but with a Canon/Nikon/Hasselblad or one cover with an iPhone (or God forbid an Android phone) would Fstoppers have run an article about it?

Danette Chappell's picture

I'd still have been interested in writing about any equipment that could be considered unconventional for this type of project, in this case it just happened to be an iPhone.

Oh I see.
Elle magazine and iPhone

ESPN and iPhone

Condé Nast and iPhone

Bon Appétit and iPhone

Billboard magazine and iPhone

So not really that unconventional then and by the way, a magazine cover shot with an iPhone 8 or "X" or any mobile phone is still not news.

Ben Deckert's picture

I think her work looks great. I have never been interested in iPhone photography, but with Godox about to release their A1 phone trigger that can control my Godox/Flashpoint strobes I think I will start playing with it more (not as a replacement for my camera of course).

Danette Chappell's picture

The Godox trigger does look very interesting! Let us know about the results when you get a chance to try it out!

The funny thing for me about this whole hubbub is that the simple act of stating that you only shoot with iPhone makes the photo about the equipment. I rarely every talk about my equipment when displaying photos because it shouldn't matter. If you like it, you like it. Does it make you like it more or less because of the equipment/medium? And there is the funny party for me... If it really shouldn't matter, and we should be focused on the output, then why do you need to so prominently display the fact that, "Pictures on my insta feed are 100% iphone made." More than anything it makes me think Apple is paying her... When a professional states that they only use "X" equipment, it more often then not means they are being paid to do so. Not that I have a problem with that either, but don't be shy about it if you are paid to do so...

Robert Nurse's picture

The only people who ask me about my gear are other enthusiasts. People who aren't really into photography never ask about gear of even how I do things. They just either like the photo or they don't.

Robert Nurse's picture

Thanks for making me spit my milk through my nose! LOL! Is that a real camera???

Rodrigo Bertin's picture

I wonder how much Apple pays for this kind of article.

Danette Chappell's picture

Zilch, but if they did I'd write all my articles about Apple. ;)

Great shots for a phone camera - not so much when to compared to a DSLR, ILC, or even M4/3. Just my opinion. Credit to the iphone, equipment, or photographer. Pretty cool project. Wonder if all of our cameras will evolve into camera phones?

Drew Pluta's picture

Identity politics is killing everything. You can or can't do this or that because of INSERT gender, race, age, device of choice, etc... Cue the fanfare for the the next great elitist product dump.

Besides all that, how about the awful wardrobe on Oprah? The pinching between the armpit and breast and the poor fit over the shoulder on the back. Why does shooting on a phone mean that you shoot and edit unprofessionally?

Spy Black's picture

Well that didn't take long after the release of the new iPhone, now did it? So what's the total number of "shot on an iPhone" articles are there here on Fstoppers so far? 50? 100? 1000?...

With the right light it almost doesn't matter what the camera is. In 5 years it will be down to just phones and high end cameras with nothing in the middle.

We should have phones with tiny little interchangeable lens mounts.

Darren Nana's picture

They are nice photos. They have been worked on very well in post if you aske me. All that being said though, that this happens to come about now, just as the latest iphone is about to be released is just a tad suspect... High profile yet Indirect marketing campaign? I suspect Apples hand at work somewhere here...

First of all:
I looked at Luisa Dörr's Instagram account and I think she is extremely talented and I am a fan of her images.
And I think that her talent got her the job. Not the fact that she used an iPhone. But the fact that EVEN THOUGH she used an iPhone she managed to take incredible good images.

That being said I think the only other reason for Time Magazin - and that is an assumption of me - is that it makes good PR. You might even call it a "PR stunt" to generate click bait - I probably would not have read about it otherwise. It is getting old because it has been done before by other publications.
But in the times of increasingly difficult sales of the "old" media I don't blame them for that. And it seems to be for a good cause. And the fact Luisa is a woman makes a general statement about gender equality - which is good. Imagine THIS particular campaign shot by a man. Would not make any sense. Could have been equally good. But would not make sense.

Normally I would say:
The best camera is the one you have with you - which is true oftentimes when you have only your phone on you.

But on job assignments like those the size of the camera does not really matter because you can shoot it at least with a minimum of "professional" equipment without more hassle than the iPhone. Depends if you are addicted to a lot of equipment. So this argument above is not valid to me in this case.
Even the more "intimate" shooting conditions that one might argue with is almost negligible. We had a paid shoot for a big client with someone - albeit not Hillary Clinton - and we used the same amount of equipment. Camera + reflector. Would not made any difference for the subject - because the model knows it is "Time" Magazine (or any other publication) and is - in this case - used to media appearances.

I oftentimes take iPhone photos in RAW/DNG format and edit them in Photoshop and I have to say: with my iPhone 7 it has come to a point when they are quite usable. But when I compare them on a technical level to images to shots taken with a Nikon, Canon, PhaseOne - they just simply suck technically (color, noise, etc...) and I still wish that I would have taken it with a proper camera. Regardless of the aesthetic qualities of the image itself.
Maybe in a few years we might talk highly retouched car campaigns with an iPhone ?!
But as long as there is a camera with a bigger sensor - this camera will also be better in IQ than the "current" iPhone.

Guess the point I am trying to make is:
Imagine Luisa with a Nikon D850 or a PhaseOne/Hasselblad or any other high quality camera that was not invented as a telephone in the first place. I would like to see those images. Because in the end it is talent that counts.
But if you want to make images with complex strobes setups, high end retouching and a crisp high quality end product I'd still prefer a "real" camera.

Still I don't want to dictate Luisa which camera to use. But I would like to see her work on a higher level.
My cents. Thanks for reading. ;)

Danette Chappell's picture

Thank you for the thoughts Peter! I'd love to see the extent of her talent on different equipment as well, but I do love how she likes to challenge herself using just her iPhone, for what its worth. :)

A friend say it best, the creative talent is within the person, not the tools they use. If you can't draw with a pencil why would you think you would do better with a paintbrush.

An iPhone is just another tool. What you do with it is up to your talent as a photographer. Also, the average person is not using a reflector or diffuser to manipulate the natural light when taking a picture. So an amount of skill and knowledge is added to the mix too.

Don't get me wrong. But every time there's a new iPhone coming out, there is always one of these articles saying how a pro used an iPhone to film or photograph a pro shoot. Never fails. But they never tell the extra work that goes into it to make it final and presentable.

joe o sullivan's picture

Are Apple paying people to create these articles? Why is it always iPhone? Why are these types of articles never about any other types of smartphone? It's not as if Apple have the best and only smartphone cameras.
Of course you can take lots of different types of images with a smartphone, and a smartphone will do fine if the image you have in mind can be taken with a smartphone. But if you need to take a particular type of image (or you need the best image quality possible) you need a real camera.
These people are either compromising on quality, or else setting up the shots so that they'll look good when taken on a smartphone while it may not be the 'best' shot available. It's kind of like competing in a formula 1 race with a Tesla, just to prove that it can go fast.

Nico Socha's picture

With the right light it nearly doesnt matter wich gear you use. But to be honest, those image would look better with a professional camera, thats obvious.

Eduardo Francés's picture

With all due respect and meaning no salt to the writer of the article: I'm kinda sick of the "you won't believe what camera the photographer used for this photo", "X person used this (insert smartphone, DSLR or mirrorless camera) to shoot this"

These are all publicity stunts, this one in partcular is since the covers were released just when the new Iphone 8, 8s and X were announced.

And I would have had the same reaction if it was an android phone, or a Sony, Canon, Pentax, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic or a Hello Kitty camera.

Surprise!!! A talented shooter will get nice portraits with any decent camera, what a surprise...

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