Media Generator: Competing with Smartphones


When Stephen Segal approached me to put the Nikon Z6 mirrorless through its paces, I thought that the various requirements of the day to day creation of media for a hotel, spa, bar and restaurant would be the ideal testing ground.

Everything needs to happen fast, from production to publication. All the deadlines are “last week, Tuesday” and it’s a myriad of scenarios with various lighting conditions.

So… this is how we do it.

How do Professional Photographers compete with Smartphones?

The problem all professional photographers face is that we think it is a competition, and if we can eliminate the competition, there will be more work at better rates.

This will never happen!

The same technology that has enabled that camera in your hand to shoot at ridiculous ISO’s and essentially creates impossible shots that weren’t even possible a mere 25 years ago, is the same technology that is driving the smartphone, Internet, dirt cheap AppStore models of today. It will never go away, and more importantly, EVERY generation of Professional photographers sit with exactly the same issue: Advances in Technology.

Forget film advances and darkroom advances, and autofocus controls, If you spent hundreds of thousands on a medium format Hasselblad with a 20mp digital back, you were not halfway paid off on the business loan when canon kicked you in the shin with a 21mp DSLR at a fraction of the price. Every young student and GWC had one and was killing you on pricing because you ran a studio and they lived with their parents and had zero business debt…

My point is… This is not new!

Designers are replaced with apps. DJ’s are replaced with Spotify and Photographers are replaced with smartphones.

How do we fight it?

In short, we don’t. We embrace it!

Key points:
Smartphones are not so smart. They can give perfect exposures and the abilities of computational photography is insane, but what it can’t do yet… is you!

No smartphone can direct the person holding it to take a better photo. It can’t know which part of the image is most important, where to leave copy space and where to reduce focus to highlight something important.

It is hellishly difficult for a camera to interpret “mood” and tone… and the depth and texture in its computer brain… The photographer, however can use a Mobile phone, a Film Camera, a Large Format Digital, or anything inbetween… to sell the mood, to sell the dish, to sell the service…

Your sellable skill is not the “technical”. Rather sell your ability to interpret the client’s needs, into a visual representation of what the customers want to buy!

What you use to achieve that, is a completely different matter, and should be based 100% on what speeds you up and makes production more efficient.

Solution: Sell YOUR abilities, not the equipment’s abilities!

Camera setting was simple. Nikon Z6 set to anything from ISO200 to ISO800 (gotta love the fact that ISO is basically just a setting these days, noise isn’t a factor anymore) and shot wide to tele on the 24-70 f/4 from f/5.6 to f/9.

I shot all the food straight from the kitchen, onto the table and shot fast from different angles to create different “moods” for advertising… who knows what is coming up?

Pro Tip: Change the direction of your light to change the depth of shadows and enhance the texture. Backlight often makes food look “fresher” as it creates more specular highlights… sidelight for the “Woolies Food” look…


Adapt and Overcome!
Pick your equipment well and sell yourself and your time, not your product…. keeping in mind that equipment can upgraded, updated and replaced but time, once used, is gone forever!