Pro Photographers Totally Use Camera Phones—and Here’s Why

They love convenience as much as the rest of us

Key Takeaways

  • More than half of pro photographers use phone cameras for personal snaps.
  • Camera phones can do tricks that are impossible for regular cameras.
  • Clients won’t take you seriously if you use a little camera phone.
Someone using a smartphone camera to take an artistic picture.

Redd / Unsplash

We’ll let you into a secret: Professional photographers love their camera phones as much as the rest of us, and for the same reasons. 

Dedicated camera hardware still gets way better results than your iPhone or Pixel camera, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Add in the huge convenience of the pocketable phone camera, plus the computational-photography features that a DSLR can only dream of, and you have a fantastic tool for professionals. In fact, one big reason that they don’t use their phones more for their work is that clients might not take them seriously. 

"There are not really any barriers these days. As a matter of fact, with Profoto lights, you can shoot with a camera phone and use studio flash. Imagine an Annie Leibovitz lighting setup with her huge umbrellas and firing the flash from your phone. We've hit a golden age of photography right now," pro photographer Weldon Brewster told Lifewire via email. 

Convenience

In a survey conducted by Suite48 Analytics, 64% of professional photographers said they take more than half of their personal photos with their smartphones. When it comes to taking snaps for work, that number drops to just 13%, although the survey numbers are a little misleading: The gist is that most photographers use their phones to take at least some photos for their jobs. 

"When compared to a digital camera, capturing images with an iPhone is significantly more discreet."

Why? After all, these are people who know how to use a camera. They are knowledgeable enough to get images so good that people pay them to do it. 

The reason is, of course, convenience. Just like the rest of us, the pros find it easier to pull their phone from their pocket to share a quick snap than to schlep their gear with them on a day off. 

"When compared to a digital camera, taking a photo using your iPhone camera takes far less time. It takes longer to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera since you have to do more with it. You could have already taken a photo with your smartphone and set it down by the time your digital camera is turned on and in focus," Robert Johansson, CEO of AI image processing service Image Kits, told Lifewire via email.

While some photographers make a point of using an iPhone, and at least one used their iPhone for a full shoot when their regular camera died, many use it as a peripheral tool. 

"My camera phone is always with me, and I take thousands of photos with it. From personal photos to scouting shots to rough comps," says Brewster. 

A black and white rendering of a photographer working in a studio using a DSLR camera.

Matthias Blonski / Unsplash

Not all professional photos are taken on big sets with big lighting rigs. Street photographers work out in the real world and may value discretion as much as image quality. You might notice somebody pointing a camera at you, but if you see just another person snapping a picture with a smartphone, you probably don’t care. 

"When compared to a digital camera, capturing images with an iPhone is significantly more discreet. People utilizing cell phones to capture images has grown commonplace in recent years across the world. Nobody is paying attention any longer. When you use a larger DSLR or even a mirrorless camera, you stand out more than when you use your smartphone," says Johansson.

Fancy Features

Another draw of camera phones is that they use computational photography to do things a dedicated camera can’t. Night modes, instant HDR to keep skies looking blue on contrasty days, automatic, perfect panoramas, and more. 

"My camera phone is always with me, and I take thousands of photos with it."

"I think in many ways the computational photography in our camera phones is light years ahead of DSLRs. There is no professional camera at any price that can do what an iPhone can do in portrait mode. Add in LiDAR and Low light, and you can understand how far ahead the camera phones are," says Brewster. 

Seriously?

Phone photos are still not up there in terms of quality, but sometimes it is good enough. But try telling that to your clients. 

"The main barrier to using an iPhone for a professional job is not being taken seriously as a professional. When someone hires a photographer, it is arguable that the last thing they would expect is for that photographer to conduct the photoshoot with an iPhone," professional photographer Rafael Larin told Lifewire via email.

Was this page helpful?