Gray’s Anatomy – Fear of the unknown, fear of the iPhone – By Richard Gray

Since re-connecting to Flickr after the launch of their mobile app, I’ve been seeing a lot more big-camera images. The photos I see from my contacts on Flickr are both mobile and big-camera, with no distinction between them. Which is a great thing. Sometime soon, no-one will really bother whether an image is produced with a mobile camera.

On Flickr, I’ve reconnected to a lot of big-camera photographers from my past and I’ve realised a lot of them are also on Instagram. I spoke to one recently who had just discovered Instagram and he said it had reignited his passion for photography. I felt the same thing a couple of years ago when I found mobile photography. I looked at some of his photos on Instagram and I could feel the excitement. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Looking at the world with camera-eyes always turned on. But I’ve looked at the Instagram streams of other big-camera photographers and surprisingly many of them are posting almost post-ironic images: images of food, feet, pub scenes, etc. Uninteresting subjects, uncrafted, no filters. They don’t seem to be making any effort with their mobile photos. They seem almost overly amateurish. Why is this?

I’m no pyschologist. But that never stopped anyone airing their half-baked views about people’s motivations, thereby inadvertently revealing their own insecurities. So here goes. Could it possibly be that they are just completely baffled by the huge range of creative possibilities open to them with the iPhone? With a DSLR you set your shutter speed, aperture and ISO and that’s pretty much it. And unless you’ve been commissioned to produce a 10ft billboard, you don’t edit the photo because: 1) you can’t afford Photo Shop; 2) you don’t know how to work Photo Shop; 3) you forget about it when you get home. Or are they scared the iPhone camera will lay bare their real photographic skills? Without a £1,000 lens on their £3,000 DSLR body, the simple iPhone camera strips a photographer naked with only their raw talent to conceal their modesty. Or could it be that they are saying: this iphoneography mallarky is a bit of a laugh, but not the real thing?

I recently became a professional photographer with a big camera and I send lots of images to an agency for sale. And what’s my biggest sale to date? A photo taken with the iPhone bought by someone with no interest in how the image was produced. Some people are already not bothering to check what camera an image is taken with.



© Richard Gray – ‘Do you know how to work Photo Shop?’

Richard's mobile photography has been exhibited around the world and published in various magazines and on many websites. He launched the world's first live course in iPhone photography in early 2012 with Kensington and Chelsea College. He has given workshops with The Photographers' Gallery and British Journal of Photography. Sport England recently commissioned him to cover various of its Sportivate initiatives with the iPhone. A keen observer of this new photographic genre, his writing has been widely published (most notably in The Guardian) and he writes a blog (iphoggy-bloggy). With a big camera, he specialises in music photography ( and syndicates to Press Association (with both big and small cameras).


  • Gerry Coe

    Totally agree with Richard about the use of iphone (or not) but it is always the person behind the camera that makes the picture. I take great delight in producing work from my iPhone4 that I could never do, no matter how much I knew, with Photoshop. And again to me it is a joy to work with different apps and explore what can be done, whereas some people I know who are great image makers with the normal gear seem almost intimidated by the iPhone…..

    • Richard Gray (@rugfoot)

      Totally agree Gerry. The camera maketh not the image. I’ve just launched an advanced iphoneography course in London and I’ll be doing less about the technique and more about the eye (and heart)

  • strongcomet

    I also found out, to my complete surprise, that pros have really boring instagram feeds, and I was wondering the same thing. I was also baffled by pros going over their heads with MY iPhoneography, which made me even more confused.
    I think that Pros who work in their fancy studios with their heavy gear, find themselves at start level with mobile photography, and maybe those who do photo journalism will find themselves in street photography area more welcomed.
    Still, they all need to learn new apps and new possibilities, and they might not be bothered with it, from where they stand as pros in their field.
    I guess, as technology advances, no one will bother how the shot was taken, as long as it can bu used for print and other media.
    That’s where we heading, and pros will have to deal with that 🙂

  • Gerry Coe

    Richard, I am doing courses over here in Northern Ireland on the iphone, the use of apps and showing how they can be used. Not so much about the heart and eye, that is very difficult to impart that sort of knowledge, you need people who are already visually aware , maybe like the pro photographers. I have been asked to give some talks in England so maybe we can meet up Will you be going to “Focus” at all?