In the Hands of a Pro, Cell Phones Can be a Good Choice

Baltimore Ravens players huddling together, photographed with an iPhone by Shawn Hubbard.

by Katelyn Umholtz

Smart phone cameras are improving with every new model and visual journalists are increasingly using them when on the job. Like Shawn Hubbard, a freelance photographer from Baltimore, who took on the challenge of photographing the entire game of the Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Giants with his iPhone 7.

“I knew what I was getting myself into, but everything about [shooting with my phone] was different,” Hubbard said.

A team photographer for the Ravens, Hubbard said he uses his iPhone frequently both personally and professionally, but this was his first time he used one for an NFL game. There were differences between his phone and camera, from the responsiveness to lighting mechanics.

The biggest challenge was capturing any sort of motion, Hubbard said.

“Trying to get any game action was tough because even when things were happening in the end zones close by, it still felt far away,” Hubbard said.

Low lighting in areas like the tunnels or locker rooms were a challenge too, where he would get motion blur with any kind of movement, even simple walking.

You can see more of Hubbard’s photos from the game at his blog here.

The Texas State Fair project as it appeared in print in the Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas Morning News photo staff took a similar approach when they all used cell phone cameras to document the Texas State fair in October. On the newspaper’s photo blog, they write that “The result is a body of work full of quirk and levity, a kind of fun freedom and personal vision not usually afforded during many daily assignments.”

You read more and see their photos here.

And, Scott Strazzanti covered two nights of the World Series at Wrigley Field for which you can see here.

Briana Scroggins, a visual journalist for the Standard-Examiner in Odgen, Utah, also loves the quick and easy of shooting with her phone.

“The best thing about using a cell phone is that you always have it with you,” Scroggins said.

She also likes being able to post quickly to social media. In some cases, like the plane that had an emergency landing in the Hudson River, a cell phone image is the best spot news photo available.

“That ability to quickly capture something and get it on social media in less than a minute is a strong advocate for using a cell phone for work,” Scroggins said.

Scroggins loves using her professional camera because it’s what she was trained to use. However, there have been times when she has pulled out her phone and liked that photograph better than shot on her camera.

When photographing a house fire, she was able to pull out her phone much quicker than getting her camera set up to take a shot.

“The flames were a lot more vivid and ferocious, where by the time I got my camera out and had the lighting adjusted, it was a smaller fire,” Scroggins said.

It is risky to depend entirely on a cell phone for an assignment. At the Ravens game, if there hadn’t been another coworker with a DSLR covering the game, Hubbard said he would have shot with his DSLR camera instead.

Though this was a personal project, he said there are instances where clients might prefer great images from camera phones.

“If you’re shooting for clients who are just using images for social media and small print, I think a phone — in the right hands — can make nice pictures,” Hubbard said. “It just depends on the environment you’re in and if it’s practical.”

Hubbard said an NFL football game may not be the most practical of situations to shoot with an iPhone, but he was pleased with his images and the project was well-received.

“I did sort of worry that people weren’t going to take it seriously just because I was shooting with a phone,” Scroggins said.“I tried not to think about that because I was there to make images and do the best job I could.”