Recently, I heard someone say, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you.' This statement, both simple and profound, has had a significant impact on how I view my role as a photographer and on the value I place on the tools and equipment in my photography arsenal. Preferences surrounding brand, format, and degree of monetary investment are willingly vocalized in this field, and I also have strong preferences of my own. But, no matter how intensely I may believe that one piece of equipment is the best, no matter how many studies and how many examples I give, there will always be someone who disagrees. These differing opinions are just part of the business and our creative right as photographers.
As a photographer living in today’s technological and digital-savvy society, it’s important to anchor oneself to the realization that photography is about so much more than producing perfect images. We connect to one another through photography and through the moments that are captured with our camera. So let’s dismiss the best camera / best lens argument for now, and focus on the importance of our mindset, and how we can embrace imperfection and the tools we already have in order to improve our own craft.
As a hybrid photographer, I’ve used my fair share of incredibly new, advanced equipment, less expensive point and shoot cameras, and quite a few varieties of 35mm and medium format film cameras. I’ve found that, oftentimes, people assume that the newest camera, or latest edition of a prime lens will solve their problems or vastly improve their skills, but I do not agree. One of my favorite pieces of equipment to use is my 1980’s Polaroid 660 camera purchased at a yard sale for $3! While equipment can certainly play a huge role in allowing you to advance your work, it’s never just the equipment that makes a photographer good.
I am a member of many online communities, and as one, I’ve sensed a sort of defensive fear about the new abilities of the iPhone and other smart phone cameras. Why would someone hire us when they have similarly advanced equipment in the form of a cellphone? As photographers, I believe we should be celebrating these new features, instead of resisting them out of fear. As both a creative mind and business owner, I’ve learned that coming from a mindset of abundance and community rather than greediness and competition is always beneficial for both the community as a whole, and the improvement of the individual and their business. The new phone camera technology can really offer photographers a way to use their skills with a tool they almost always have on them. In addition, I’ve discovered that iPhones can lessen the intimidation that a large “professional” camera can create between you and your subject..
As I reminisce about my recent trip to Iceland, some of my favorite, most share-worthy images were taken from my iPhone. Because of the mobility of my small phone, I was able to capture those moments in-between styled shoots, elopements, and planned travels, to capture something I deemed interesting in a matter of seconds. While I’d love to preach that it’s important to always have your camera on you, in reality, many of the incredible moments that happen are unexpected, unplanned, and occur far away from your DSLR or your film camera. Having your iPhone or another inexpensive, small film camera on you has become habit to combat the “only when I’m doing a photo shoot” mindset.
In order to fully embrace any new piece of equipment, you really have to dive into the specifics of its capabilities. With today's ever-advancing smartphone cameras, we are already able to capture beautiful, high-quality images; but taking the extra step to pair those images with high-quality editing apps can make them look exactly look how we want. The best editing apps (take "Filmborn" from Mastin Labs, for example) are built with photographers in mind, and have the highest caliber of "on the go" editing software available. Filmborn contains Mastin Labs' incredible Lightroom and Photoshop presets inside the app, which gives photographers manual control over images, similar to what you’d have on a camera.
As I see it, technical skills and a full understanding of your camera give you a solid foundation to build upon. That base, whether that is your iPhone camera, your new DSLR, or a $3 polaroid camera from a garage sale, is only one piece of the puzzle. The rest comes with developing an eye for image-worthy moments, learning to react quickly and proficiently to your surroundings, and knowing how to interact with the subjects in your frame.
Personally, I always look for moments in action; surprising moments, a belly laugh, or those precious few minutes after a couple gets married. So often, the best images to capture occur just after you finished that posed image or just after the anticipated moment of action. Being a wedding photographer, I’ve begun to understand when my clients tend to show the most emotion and really anticipate and plan for capturing those images. These are the moments that define your best images, not the equipment you used or didn’t use. Learn your craft, exercise the broad capabilities of the equipment you have, and you will find you have what you need to capture great images.
The next time you find yourself wanting to invest in the newest, latest equipment, ask yourself if there might be an education program that would be more beneficial or if the equipment you have is sufficient. Learning when to save money, when to invest money, and how to allot your money to best benefit you as a creative can be one of the principal factors in determining whether or not your practice flourishes and your business succeeds.
Some of the most talented photographers I know do not carry more than 2-3 cameras and 1-2 lenses with them. Many of them also use iPhones and smart phone cameras to build their arsenal of tools and extend their ability to capture great images at a moment’s notice. Whether you’re shooting with the newest Canon camera and best prime lens or you are using a $200 camera from Ebay, just take a moment to remember to always revert back to the basics, plan ahead on your investments, and find ways to create lasting, impactful images that really speak to the viewer.
An obvious choice for many reasons, Mastin Lab’s Filmborn app allows me to create and replicate film on my iPhone images, and create consistency through every photo that I post. With options that include FujiFilm, Ilford, and Kodak film presets, it’s easy to replicate that real film look on your iPhone imagery.
If you want to get the most amount of control out of your phone camera, this is the app to get. With it’s reference to the 645 series in film cameras, this app mimics the options you have on professional grade cameras including ISO, white balance, automatic focus, portrait mode, and options for a series of various predetermined filters like C-1, F4, H2, and more.
This app is one of my go-to video apps to capture fun moments at a rehearsal dinner, or in- between locations on engagement shoots. Mimicking the 8mm film video camera, this app brings new life to your videos by seamlessly fitting it with the film I shooting during these shoots.