Sunday, February 7, 2016

Shot on iPhone 6

I happened to be in San Francisco a few days ago, working on a bit of a career change. Leaving, I found myself in the Montgomery BART station headed to the airport, with 15 minutes to wait.

Apple's bought all the ad display space on the train-level, and put up about 15-20 pictures, all (more or less) informal portraits, two copies of most of them. Hung in pairs.

The message is both clear and convincing: iPhone 6 is all the camera you need.

You can bleat away about low light performance, and Image Quality, and small sensor depth of field and so on. Nobody much cares, though, this camera is fine. It will more than adequately serve the needs of virtually everyone who wants pictures.

This is a really solid campaign. Online, it's simply endless reams of excellent pictures of a certain type, a vaguely artsy snapshot aesthetic.

Nobody here cares about making a statement or expressing an idea. They're recording life, they're making pretty pictures. Sometimes they do a little shadow play, a little juxtaposition of this with that, a little "look at this cool visual thing I saw, look at me being artistic", sometimes they just take a picture of their pretty girlfriend, their cute kid, the dog catching a frisbee. Sometimes the go to Asia and take some of those pictures. The pagodas, the bike filled street, the guy on the scooter with all the baskets, the guy standing out on the end of his skinny little boat silhouetted against the sky.

Practically nobody wants to do any more than that. Practically nobody needs anything more than an iPhone 6 camera.

The message is clear and convincing.


  1. Seems like I am quickly headed in that direction. One format size at a time...

    1. well Kirk, your "format size" seems a little more thought and sophisticated than a mere iPhone 6.

  2. My daughter went to the States for a month last year, and I offered her the pick of my cameras to take with her. How about the little Fuji X20? Or the Panasonic LX3? She looked at me as if I'd offered her my wellington boots... "I've got my phone!" And, sure enough, she documented (and shared) her trip perfectly adequately with her iPhone 4s. She never prints them, of course, though I did print a couple for her and they look ... OK.

    She also doesn't use email (unless you send her a text to say you've sent her an email)...


  3. Good enough. The mantra of all people who purchase photography services these days. I'm often amazed at the level of work that gets paid for these days.

    I shoot for a university in NJ, and sometimes others on campus will hire out to freelancers when I'm not available. Some of them would do better with an iPhone, as some of the working photographers that they hire use their DSLR's like point and shoots anyway. No composition, no thought of light, direct flash on camera, jpegs poorly exposed and color adjusted right out of the camera. Amazing. It doesn't matter that they use a professional camera.

    I wonder why I care so much about making good work when no one else seems to care anymore. Until I come across someone who does, and that makes the effort worth it.

    The other part, and the more important part of what you had to say, is that most of the picture takers out there in iPhone land have nothing to say. And, well, yeah. It's always been that way. The snapshot aesthetic has existed since the first Kodak. That will never change. The only thing thats different now is the volume of images made, and that they can be easily manipulated to look "artsy" and cool.

    A point of view is what separates photographers from picture takers. And in the end, who cares if you use and iPhone or a Phase One, so long as your technique complements your point of view and it all works to communicate what you have to say.

  4. The iphone has been a pretty darn good point and shoot for the last few releases. Better than any point and shoot from the pre-digital days.

    Go take all your photos with an iphone, it might be a neat way to fly your anti-gear flag or to rid yourself of the artistically soul crushing distractions of more complicated gear, sorry, just a hint of sarcasm there..

    When you bump up against the limits of your iphone, you know, when you find yourself with a nice shot but wishing you had had brought just a little more horsepower to the scene, try a Ricoh GR. Zero cool factor. Looks like a film point and shoot from 1983, fixed focal length with about the same field of view as an iphone. Fits in your pocket, I mean it, it really does. Ad your files will have lots of headroom. You'll appear totally tourist to any observers.

    I sense a slight backlash against the fine equipment available today, the sense that only geeks and faux artists would use anything more than "just enough" and only a "pro" has a legitimate "need" for anything more than an iphone. I dont think the type of camera used is really relevant. Does a good picture mean more to me if someone specifies the make and model used to make it? No, of course not. Not even if it was made with an iphone.

    I think an artist should appreciate fine tools and it is natural to want to work with fine tools. It goes without saying that the object produced with the tools is the art.

  5. I did a little book/folio a couple years ago with my moto x which had a very decent camera. All editing done on-phone, natch.

    But sure, I love the fine tools as well. I've got a Sinar F1 with a decent Rodenstock 210 on it. It's lovely.