I would put money on the chance that right now you have something powerful in your trousers. Of course, I’m talking about that little handheld device, the mobile phone that you keep in your pocket (what did you think I was referring to?). Image and video quality, and storage capacity over the last couple of years means that we are carrying more computing power around with us than NASA’s first space missions. Not to mention the tiny size and portability.
So it’s increasingly tempting to pull out the phone during a photo or video shoot, but will it make us look unprofessional, or is there a time and a place where it’s not only acceptable but actually a great idea? Ty Turner from Flash Film Academy gives us his thoughts on when it actually makes sense to use your phone on a professional shoot.
- (2:00) Behind the Scenes stills and videos for your portfolio. Ty likens it to a luxury car brand like Rolls Royce or Bentley where much of the car is handmade. They don’t just show you the finished product and assume that that will be enough to sell the car, they show you the entire process, and seeing that process adds value. If you are creating individual lighting setups, backdrops or sets for your clients then you need to show that process. Additionally, the way that you work and interact with your subjects will be individual to you, so showing how you work will always be far more effective than telling people how you work. Don’t assume that people understand how much work and creativity goes into creating an image or video. Show before and after images for post-processing, retouching, hair and makeup, and colour grading. There are so many things that go into a shoot, don’t be afraid to show the behind the scenes. Ty says that in his experience, this is why clients resort to asking about what sort of equipment you are using because they know nothing about the process if you haven’t shown them.
- (6:37) Behind the scenes photos of your client for their social media. For you, it’s a gig, but for your clients, it’s not their everyday day activity. A photo or video shoot is a big deal for most people. Sharing behind the scenes images on their social media is hugely popular and can be leveraged by you as an up-sell or a way to add value to what you’re offering the client. If you have a camera that will send images straight to your phone then you can deliver the images immediately to your client. Creating real-time content is a big deal, particularly if you’re shooting any kind of event. Make sure you get the contact number of the main person so you can send these images to them straight away. There is nothing more powerful than the client getting images immediately to share than having to wait for weeks when the excitement has worn off.
- (10:34) Capturing reference images of the set. There are a couple of scenarios when you might need to do this. If you’re going into a location and moving things around then you need a reference image of how things were when you arrived, so that you can put things back exactly how you found them. The second reason might be for insurance purposes. If for example someone trips and injures themselves on a shoot then it’s good to know whether the thing they tripped on was there to start with, or if you moved it there. Another instance where I’ve been really glad I’ve taken photos of the set or my set up is when I’ve been doing a shoot for a particular client knowing that they would have similar things to shoot again in future and I would need to replicate the setup. Having a reference image of where the lights are and exactly what you’ve used is invaluable when months later you are trying to remember what your set looked like.
- (14:54) Use your phone as a teleprompter. This is fairly self-explanatory but there are many apps that will let you use your phone as a teleprompter, particularly if shooting a client video or testimonial. If there isn’t a lot of text to read then the size shouldn’t be too much of an issue and there are some great hacks for setting one of these up.
- (15:24) Shoot B-roll. Now, this does refer mostly to if you’re shooting video, but it could also work for stills as well depending on what kind of photography you’re doing. I could imagine instances when some relaxed grab-shots when no one realises you’re taking photos could work very well, for example during a break in a recording studio when the band is just hanging out and you don’t want to kill the mood by getting your big camera out. Or if something impromptu happens that is just perfect and you need to document it but you don’t have time to swap lenses. The other great thing about using a phone is that you can put them in unique places more easily to get creative shots, such as inside a refrigerator or inside an oven (make sure the oven is switched off!). The image quality of modern phones is staggering and it can be difficult to distinguish between what device was used at times, so don’t be too afraid to mix footage together from different devices, particularly if the final output is for online use.
- Bonus: Use your phone to back up your images and footage on location before you head home. Backing up is always a good idea and if you can do it before you change location using small devices that you already have, then that’s even better.
These are all great instances when it would not only be acceptable to use your phone on a shoot but also a great idea. I’m increasingly using mine to shoot short little reels for social media, which are often bafflingly popular. The most difficult thing I find is taking myself out of the zone long enough to remember to take behind the scenes images. If you’re anything like me, then this is where an assistant can really come in useful.