Using An iPhone Over A ‘Real Camera’ & Why

As a photographer I have had what seemed to be a natural biased against using my iPhone over my ‘real cameras’ for a long time.   Naturally when I saw an image I wanted to hold a full size camera in my hand, select my exposure and have a choice of lenses … at worst, I wanted a quality point and shoot that gave me manual control over my images.


Like most people, I snapped photos here and there with my phone, but I typically shied away from Instagram and Hipstamatic. As a teenager I spent a lot of time shooting for a traditional wedding photographer, every image was shot was a square and I learned to hate square images, instead embracing wide angle lenses and falling deeply in love with the 8×12 frame of my 35mm Nikons (now Nikon for film and Canon for digital).


As my work has shifted away from primarily being a shooter into other realms and my body began to ache more (a rebuilt shoulder, obliterated ligament in a foot, more than a few broken bones will do that to you) I found myself lightening my load and exploring my iPhone more and more until a few months ago I decided to start using Instagram as a way to challenge myself.  Instagram is something I started to use while hating it, I hated everything about it. I hated the square format, I hated the loss of exposure control, but I liked that it forced me to start seeing things in a new way.   I liked that Instagram made me work harder for my images, relearn timing and to adapt to my limitations.


Instragram, in short, something I viewed as dumbing down photography, is now something I see as something that has challenged me and rejuvenated my experience as a photographer.  Since early June I found myself holding my ‘real camera’ at times and wondering how I could force myself into making a good image with Instagram, often shooting with both my professional kit and my iPhone as an exercise in making sure I don’t get lazy in finding my shots.


Am I happy with everything I shoot with Instragram and my iPhone?  Far from it. I find myself more frustrated than satisfied … and that is a good thing.  If I am frustrated, it means I need to learn the tool in my hand and use it more effectively.  Photos are everywhere and embracing the challenges of a new format will allow me to see the world in a whole new way around me … just like when I first picked up my 1965 Nikomat FS with Nikkor 50mm non-Ai lens in 1985.


Last week Sports Illustrated ran a six page spread of Instragram images shot by sports photography master Brad Mangin, who’s work I have admired for more than a decade, this is an excellent reminder that it isn’t the camera in your hand, it is how you use the camera in your hand.


Below are 12 photos I’ve shot over the past few months with Instragram.


Happy Flying!




Wish You Were Here, Niantic, CT

words written in the sand


New London, CT

a pink flower with water drops on it

Bristol Temple Meads Station, UK

a bicycle parked in a train station


Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, UK

airplanes at an airport

Midtown Manhattan, New York City

a street sign in a city

Double Rainbow, Niantic, CT

a rainbow over a church

Douglas C-47 (DC-3), Ottawa Municipal Airport, Ottawa, KS

an airplane parked on the tarmac

Ships At The End Of The Beach, Black Point, CT

a ship in the water

Waterford, CT

a sunset over a body of water


A JetBlue Airbus A320 Flies Past A Child’s Flag, Atlantic Beach, N.Y.

a flag flying in the sky

I Grew Up Down There … short final into JFK International Airport, Valley Stream, N.Y.

an airplane wing and city view from an airplane window

Sunset, East Lyme, CT

a cloudy sky over trees




  1. The problem is you are shooting with an iPhone 😉 Try the Htc One X bigger view finder, better software controls and equivalent if not better image sensor.

  2. Very nice photos, perfectly right that it’s about the photographer and not the camera.

    I’ve been using the iPhone 4 & later the 4S after which are great! I had given up bringing my Canon APS-C when iPhone 4 came out. In January however I did go backwards and got into Micro Four Thirds for more control, dynamic range & wider lenses. There are some really outstanding lenses all the way from 14mm equivalent to the new Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 (24-70 equivalent). The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is quite outstanding, in-body stabilization.

    However these days the SONY RX-100 is pretty amazing, you get quite nice shallow DoF with it.

  3. I bought my first DSLR a few months ago and find myself still using my iphone out of convenience. I love the picture with the rainbow above. I have to admit Instagram does add something to pictures. I don’t feel as guilty using my iphone now.

  4. Hold on. Does “Nikon for film and Canon for digital” mean you switched to Canon when you went digital? And maybe you still break out the Nikon gear when you feel like shooting film?

    There are no Switzerland’s in the Nikon vs. Canon war, you know.

  5. I just got back from the Eagle’s summer cruise (the big white ship in the middle of your picture at Black Point), and seeing Eagle on a travel website both surprises me and makes my day.

  6. Ray,

    First off, thank you for your service. Secondly, my boys love going to the Fort in New London and checking out the Eagle. I live less than 10 minutes from the Coastie Academy When I saw the Eagle with the other ships in my bay, I had to find a way to make that photo.

    Happy Sailing!


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