Convenience to quality

Convenience to quality
The transition from phone to camera

It’s no secret that I’ve used an iPhone to shoot toys since I started.
This decision was a conscience one.
It wasn’t based on fear.
It wasn’t based on the fear of having to hand over a big wad of money.
Not a fear of all them dials and settings.

It wasn’t a fear of becoming one of those photographers with their camera hanging around their neck.
I like to blend in, not draw attention to myself, yet with a giant camera around your neck, this is somehow difficult.

It wasn’t a fear of becoming one of those people that talk endlessly of lenses, aperture and juxtaposition.

It wasn’t based on the fear that I’d become one of those toy photographers that constantly fielded questions about what camera I use. This is the question has always baffled me, with it’s backhanded compliment connotations. “Wow! Great shot! You must have a really good camera!” Sure, a good camera can help, but without an understanding of basic techniques, it wont’ dramatically improve a poorly composed photo. I bought my children some rather expensive paintbrushes a while back, and neither of them has become Picasso yet! A good camera doesn’t make a good photographer.

It wasn’t a fear of having to learn something completely new either.

Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-making course and I forgot how to drive?
– Homer Simpson

None of these fears were the reasoning being using an iPhone. But rather it was an embrace of the punk D.I.Y. aspect of shooting toys that using my iPhone encapsulated to perfection. I love pushing my iPhone to its limits, trying to achieve results that others perhaps thought unachievable without a standalone camera.

You only need to spend just a few minutes scrolling through Instagram toy photography and you’ll find that anyone with a smartphone and the ability to frame a shot can produce what, only a few years ago, would have been considered only achievable with a standalone camera. Remember, a good camera doesn’t necessarily make a good photographer.

It was also an embrace of the “Insta” when posting to Instagram. Instant. Instantaneous. It is the immediacy of idea or inspiration to sharing that I like about using my phone. I love the idea that as long as I have some toys and my phone in my pocket, I also have the trappings, a camera and the means of capturing and sharing ideas as they occur.

However, this all changed for me a couple of weeks back. I was offered (the reason for this offer will become apparent in future posts) the loan of a Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 to experiment with.

The realist me hates the punk me. All those years of pushing my iPhone to its limits have been surpassed in just one afternoon of shooting with this camera. All those years of digging my heels in, rejecting the inevitable, seem somewhat wasted; a slightly inferior snapshot of ideas and concepts that never quite hit the lofty expectations I had in mind.

Sure, I still shoot toys with my phone. I always will. But now, with this newly acquired device in my hands, scrolling through the recently captured shots of toys on the memory card, all I can think is “WHY DID I PUT THIS OFF FOR SO LONG?”

Black Tie Function
Black Tie Function


  1. Leila (Brickandmordor)

    Great post Brett, I love reading your perspective! I totally relate to this one. I love the quality of shooting with my “real” DSLR camera but I also love the convenience of shooting with my phone and will continue to mix it up. I often have to decide on how “artsy” I’ll want to execute a certain idea, meaning how much I want to control the DOF, and that will determine which camera I use.

    But still, I agree that it’s all about knowing how to compose, rather than what gear you have, that makes one a good photographer. Your compositions are always top notch! Happy shooting with the new gear!

    • Thanks Leila. I must admit, as you point out, one of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make, is knowing when to use and when not to. Switching from camera to phone, and vice versa, and respecting what both can and cannot achieve is something I’m still coming to terms with. I can still shoot with my phone and appreciate what it does. But I still can’t for the life of me figure out how to make phone calls on my camera?!

  2. Ha, I thought that there was a big bump in the quality (technically, anyway) of your photographs lately! That’s not to say that your old shots weren’t good, or that you didn’t succeed at pushing your camera phone to its limits, but as you said, having better technology *does* in fact help and, with the proper composition and technique, lead to “better” photos. I’ve definitely noticed a shift on your Insta feed lately, and have thought, “Wow, Brett’s really entering a new phase here.”

    I’ve faced similar epitomes with my own photography, either through upgrading my camera, lens, or lighting setup. Technology certainly doesn’t guarantee better quality photographs, but I do agree that it certainly does help, as much as the punk in all of us wants to scream “No, screw the man, stick with doing it all yourself!”

    • Cheers James. Yeah, the recent “real” photos are definitely a step up in quality. I can see that too. There’s no denying my new tool has added to what I can achieve, but I still firmly believe that, as you say, the camera doesn’t make the photographer. And yeah, the realist and the punk in me are at loggerheads over this new acquisition!

  3. It’s interesting you cite convenience as the main reason to shoot with a smartphone. I personally use a DSLR for the same reason. It’s more cumbersome to carry and my back would certainly be more than happy to not have to carry a bag filled with a camera body and three lenses. However I just can’t take photos with a smartphone.

    I’d say the main reason is the viewfinder. Before using a DSLR I would never have imagined I could enjoy taking photos. Even after my composition skills improved, I still have some difficulties framing a photo on a small screen. When it comes to placing my camera in front of what I want to shoot, I need to look through a viewfinder to cut me from any distraction. I also have a few other minor issues with smartphone cameras (battery life, stability) but I think the lack of viewfinder is the main one. When my previous smartphone reached the end of its life, I chose a new one partly based on its camera specifications, thinking I could try to use it for toy photography when I don’t want to carry all my gear. But up to now I still haven’t been able take a good photo with it because I don’t feel comfortable with it.

    Anyway it’s interesting to see a different point of view. I can’t agree more that the camera doesn’t make the photographer and that one shouldn’t decide on a camera based on its “performances”. For me the good camera is the one I own and am comfortable with 😉

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