Can you shoot an event with just a phone?

Recently, I’ve been asked a question that’s been bugging me for days. I was having coffee with a friend one morning when he started asking questions about photography. Among the questions he asked, the one he stood out the most was “Can a professional photographer get away with using a smartphone?” Could I as a professional photographer, shoot an event with just a phone?

I’m a believer in expertise. I think that regardless of the toolset you use if you have a deep understanding of the processes and techniques used in photography, you can still create stunning photos. It’s not about how good the camera and lenses are, but how good the eyes behind the viewfinder are.

But, could I shoot an event with just a phone? I decided to give it a try!

Caught without a camera

One late summer evening, my friend let me know that there was a small classic car show happening nearby. This was a few days after our conversation, and just after a major event. My camera was basically out of commission as none of the batteries were charged and I still needed to offload photos. Then I thought, “Wait, this could be a chance to test what my phone can do!” This was a chance to test my hypothesis. I grabbed my phone and ran out of the door.

My phone of choice is the LG V30. Back in 2017, the V30 featured one of the best (if not the best) built-in cameras in a field that included the iPhone X and the Samsung S8. I decided to get the V30 because of the camera and its ability to shoot in RAW format. I was always curious if I could get away with using just my phone, so I was excited to finally put the phone to the test of capturing a local car show, in less than ideal lighting conditions. 

Leveraging the phone’s ability to shoot in both RAW and JPG, as well as the ability to modify the viewscreen to show professional-style tools (view grids, histograms, white balance, etc.), I got to work. I utilized all of my regular techniques; like dropping close to the floor for close up shots, pulling in really close for macro photography, and then using the view grid for shot composition. I used my phone as if it was a DSLR camera to make sure I can accurately compare the photo quality to using a DSLR rig.

The results were pretty surprising:

Is the best camera is the one you always have with you?

After processing the photos and making my regular tweaks in Lightroom, the quality of the photos was very surprising! While some images weren’t quite as sharp as I wanted, the majority of my photos were almost indistinguishable from photos shot with a professional photography rig. I think my phone performed better under certain conditions than my camera! So, you can professionally shoot an event with your phone.

This, however, begs the question: should I rely more on my phone camera than my rig? I think the answer is both yes and no. While your phone is an extremely powerful tool that not only allows you to take photos, edit them, and upload them to a microblogging platform, it shouldn’t outright replace your camera and lenses, because a phone camera is more limited in its capabilities. I can’t take my phone behind the fences at Laguna Seca and expect the photos to look the same, can I?

I think the best approach is to use both your camera and your phone in tandem. I’ve often used my phone to shoot photos for my Instagram and used the photos from my camera for my blog. The most recent example of this was when I went to Laguna Seca for the 30th Anniversary Miata Reunion; where the photos from driving on the track were from my phone whereas the gallery photos were from the camera.

In conclusion

In the end, I think the question of shooting events with your smartphone boils down to your skill. There is nothing wrong in my opinion with using your phone as a professional camera for Instagram or blogging. There are set limitations for what a phone camera could do. This is where a dedicated camera will outperform a phone camera.

Until someone makes a phone with interchangeable lenses, I’ll continue using both my phone and my camera. Though, It’s nice to know that I can sometimes leave my camera at home!

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I really, really want to go back to college…

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Do you ever get the feeling that you made the wrong decision?

Way back in 2009 I got my Associate of Arts degree from my local Community College. I studied design and computer graphics, thinking I wanted to be an industrial designer or something along those lines. But, tuition for some of the better-known design colleges was out of my budget. I mean, we’re talking about $100k+ Bachelor’s Programs. For a family that had two sons planning on going to college, it was hard to justify. I decided to rethink what I wanted to do and take a look at some of the more affordable options in the DC Metro area.

That’s when I found the game design program at the University of Baltimore. I went in, made some really cool stuff, and then I graduated with honors and a really cool thesis project specializing in Augmented Reality Technology! A year after I graduated, I joined a startup in my field when most of my colleagues were still working at Starbucks! And I did it all debt-free! I was on top of the world!

Me and a team of some other really bright people came up with a concept for an Augmented Reality First Person Shooter years before this technology became mainstream! I was really proud of the work we did.

5 years later, I’m broke, I’m constantly working for scraps, and I’m pretty much homeless. I banked on that “revolutionary start-up” being the catalyst for my success in Silicon Valley, but that ended up not happening. Instead, the start-up failed right around the time I got my first apartment, and interviewing with companies doing similar things was next to impossible because my degree didn’t say “Stanford” on it. I was unemployed for two years messing around with a camera and teaching myself photography because it was the skill I had to fall back on, next to graphic design and website building.

Of course, taking photos is one thing, but getting anyone to buy anything is a completely different ball game. Likes and shares don’t pay my bills! And now here I am, writing in my own personal echo chamber pining for the time where I was sitting in my algebra class doodling cars in my notebook, saying “I’m going to be the next Syd Mead!”

The thing is, I never stopped drawing.

I don’t know if it’s a compulsion or maybe just the subconscious desire to return to a time where things were simple, but I still make designs in my notebooks. Maybe something inside of me is telling me that I still want to be the next Syd Mead, Ken Okuyama, Tom Matano, or Luigi Colani. I would love to be the next Chris Bangle or Daniel Simon! Hell, even at that start-up, for a brief moment, I was working on concept designs for a new product! My ideas even made it into an actual product that we shipped! How many people can say that?

These designs were projects I took on at the start-up, hoping to give our product engineer some ideas. Some of my designs even made it into shipped products! I miss doing this.

I could feel it in my bones. That desire to draw and design and create always drove me. I never felt I was alive unless I was creating something from nothing but a pencil and paper. I feel like I was meant to be a designer, and got distracted along the way.

So, now I have a decision to make. Do I try and make things work with what I have now, hoping for something to happen? Or, do I take out a hundred thousand dollar loan and see if I can make my dreams come true, without a safety net? I’m afraid of reaching another dead end, but I feel like I’m at a dead end now.

I never stopped designing!

No one ever gets ahead without taking a risk. And, I’ll need to take a really, really big risk if I’m going to change the way things are going.

I’ve been pretty busy…

Aside from going through thousands of photos from RMMR 2019, going on little adventures here and there, and working on my Miata (more on this later), I’ve been thinking about making a career change.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love photography and I still have plans to expand the Corkscrew’d Store and write on this blog. I’m just kind of at the point in my life where I’m reevaluating some things.

Here are some of the latest happenings on Corkscrew’d!:

  • The Miata Reunion is happening THIS WEEKEND! I’m in the process of prepping the car to show it off. I recently got some new wheels for the car at a great price, but I’m working out the curb rash (that’s why it was a great price lol). The end goal is to have some unique OEM wheels on the Shinsen that makes it just a little more special! I still haven’t worked out that bumper though.
  • I’ve been side-hustling as a freelance product photographer, hence the sparse updates to the blog. I’ve even set up another website just for my photography services! Work is pretty slow though, and the work I did manage to find makes for some pretty interesting stories. And by that, I mean hilariously bad. Maybe I’ll tell those stories later?
  • I haven’t uploaded anything from RMMR 2019 to the store just yet. I’m planning on adding the ability to order prints from the Corkscrew’d Store, but that’s going to require a little bit of cash that I can’t spend at the moment!

And now for the really big news: I’m seriously considering going back to college. I already have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and an Associate of Arts degree in Computer Graphics. So, if I were to go back to school in a related field, I would probably go and get a Master’s, right?

Well, what if I wanted to do something different? Computer Science is fun and all, but my heart just isn’t in it anymore. I keep thinking back to when I was just an art student fresh out of High School working on some car designs in my Algebra 2 notes. Heck, I still doodle sports cars in the margins of my notes! Maybe it’s time for me to revive an old dream and see where that takes me? Maybe I should finally get serious about studying industrial design!

The next couple of months are going to get pretty interesting! We’ll see if I decide to go back to school or not, but the sound of pencils scratching on sketchbooks and the smell of the pencil sharpener is calling me!