I have been very vocal about phones never being able to replace cameras for professional work. But, as photographers, we also indulge in casual photography of things that simply look good. I looked for a camera for such work for the past two years now, and now I found one. It is the unlikely star: iPhone 14 Pro.
As a fashion and beauty photographer, I take a lot of care about the images I deliver. Cameras that can do that include my trusty DSLR fleet, as well as bodies that I rent for special jobs. Yet, photography is not a 9-5, it is a 24/7. As someone who constantly takes pictures, I need a camera that can come with me everywhere. That camera might be the new iPhone 14 Pro. It has everything I was looking for in a camera to use daily for casual photography: small size, good memory, raw, and much more. As an added benefit, it is always with me, because my camera is also a workhorse of a phone I use for everything from calling family to signing contracts.
The pros of conventional cameras are not enough to outweigh the cons. The biggest one is that conventional cameras take up some space in the bag and are not always easy to bring along. This is especially true when traveling. I used to take my 5D to both work and leisure trips, at one point even having hiked with a 5D and three lenses for three days. It was an adventure, but a rather unnecessary one, as far as picture-taking went. The trip was supposed to be a challenge for my physique. Bringing a full photography setup to do casual photography did not make that easy. If anything, it made it way harder. I couldn’t bear carrying this much gear in my bag, and when the time came to take the camera out, I was too exhausted to even think about it. Just imagine how one feels after a day of hiking with not only hiking equipment but also photography gear. I was not alone. The group I was with had no other photographers. Asking 10 people to stop for me to spend time taking a single frame was uncomfortable. This is not what casual photography is about for me. Causal photography should be easy.
There came a time when the camera became a tool that I did not pick up unless it was for a job or personal project. Perhaps it is a sign of burnout, but I didn’t feel that way. I had the will to take photos, but I did not have the ability to do it with ease. Why is that a problem? Let me explain.
I enjoy working out, and I tried going to a better gym where my gym buddy went. That gym was far away from my office and apartment. That became a problem after the initial rush. I started to slip out of the habit and skipped more and more days. Despite every ingredient being there, it simply required too many actions from me. Humans are naturally lazy, and by increasing the number of steps I had to take to do a good thing, I decreased the number of steps I had to take to do a bad thing. In other words, it requires too much effort.
If you are so remarkably disciplined that these rules don’t apply to you, well done, but for most of us, the fewer steps it takes to do a good habit, the better. Casual photography is a good habit, but if it requires taking a lot of gear, I won’t do it. Even if the production is on location, I will send out a larger estimate. When it comes to casual photography, you can only imagine how much I want to get a 5D Mark IV with a 24-70mm out. This is why I replaced my Canon 5D Mark IV and a 24-70mm with an iPhone 14 Pro.
The iPhone 14 Pro has a fantastic camera. I did not plan on buying this phone, however. The purchase was rather unexpected, but it was a good one. I won’t go into reviewing the phone itself, as that was done before and everyone knows the specs by heart already. What I want to talk about is how easy it is to use this for casual photography. I always have my camera with me, it is always charged, and I can always share the images instantly. As far as casual photography goes, this is the perfect rig. The fact that it takes pictures at 48 megapixels in raw is also incredibly helpful, especially for someone who is used to shooting everything in high resolution. I think I compose more when cropping than when taking the actual photo.
I take all kinds of photos with my phone, from landscape work to street photography, to behind-the-scenes, to random snapshots. I even tried to use the iPhone with Profoto flashes to take fashion images. In fact, there are some photographers, such as Russel Preston Brown, who take images only with iPhones and Profoto flashes. The results he achieves are genuinely incredible, and his work is worth checking out. My personal experience with the Profoto Camera App has been more for causal photography otherwise done with the staple of Gen Z: a disposable camera. I used the C1 Plus flash in combination with the iPhone 12 as well as the 14 Pro to take party pictures, portraits, and even headshots.
So, I replaced my DSLR with an iPhone for casual photography. Instead of spending money on a film camera or a Leica, I simply bought a better phone that will do the job almost as well. Such photography is just for fun. It is not professional or serious. The point is to take a picture of something that looks cool. You really don’t need a separate camera for that. Besides, how many times did you not take a picture because you didn’t have your camera? Just don’t be afraid to use your phone next time.