Should Smartphones be allowed in the photo pit?

“That fuckin guy…” was what the photographer standing next to me in the photo pit said when a young man started pulling a smartphone out of his pocket and squeezed into our tightly packed space. “How can you get a photo pass for a photographer that uses a smartphone?” he continued, “There are no standards anymore”. I smiled and pulled an iPhone out of my pocket and got ready to shoot as his eyes dismissed my very existence.


So I pose this question to you: are smartphones the auto-tune of photography or can they become a viable tool to publicists, bands and brands? The smartphone is becoming what the laptop became to turntable purists at the turn of the millennium: a cruel threat to those who spend an entire lifetime perfecting their craft and sacrificing personal comfort in pursuit of a dream. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but it is my conclusion that the ego is definitely at play here. How could it not be? I would never claim that a smartphone could capture all of the nuance of a properly set aperture. I do however, submit that in the right lighting and proximity, that a smartphone can capture amazing images that most traditional camera’s can’t and vice versa. I’m sure the detractors would point out the limitations of shooting in low light, capturing motion and poor performance when shooting at a distance. These are demerits that are indisputable, but with smart phones like the NOKIA Lumia 1020 and the Sony Xperia Z2, these limitations are quickly being eliminated. With the stiff competition in the smartphone marketplace, it is my prediction that these weaknesses will soon be an afterthought.

Even DSLR cameras have a downside that smartphones do not. As a writer, I’m there to experience an event through my own eyes, not through a lens, but my smartphone photo’s are often used along with my copy. For this reason I purchased a high-end DSLR in an attempt for my images to be taken more seriously. I was really proud of some of the shots I was getting on my phone and wanted to explore taking my photography to the next level. I returned the camera a week later after taking it to one show. To me, the bulky piece of equipment was a fun crusher and in reality, I couldn’t jump in the pit if the music inspired me to do so. I definitely couldn’t snap any shots while on top of a wave of people, crowd surfing my way to the next physically demanding shot. Even if I could, the learning curve would’ve taken me years to get the same quality from the DSLR as I get from my iPhone.


Many might say leave the writing to the writers and the photography to the photographers, but in the DIY world, boundaries and limitations are constantly being challenged and I hope that trend continues. Many of you reading this now are scoffing at the prospect of smartphone photography being accepted in the same way as DSLR images. Probably the same way your grandparents scoffed at The Beatles being real music or that hip hop was just a passing trend.

I do have a greater appreciation for music that’s recorded analog, straight to tape. I have HUGE respect for DJ’s on vinyl. I enjoy the feel of natural breasts over implants. Objectivity is important in life, though. Just because something is GREAT doesn’t mean there is no value in something that is really good. Imagine all the great art and innovation we would’ve missed out on if people stuck to tradition. There might not have been a Basquiat.

Much like traditional photography, there is no expectation that 1,000 exposures will yield 1,000 great shots. We are all looking for that one magical exposure and it’s high time that photographers, publicists and professional appreciators accept the smartphone as an acceptable tool of the trade. I’m not here professing that the end product of a smartphone is identical to that of your high end DSLR. Sometimes, it’s worse — but sometimes it’s better — but it’s ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder.

All the photos in this article were shot with iPhone 4S — iPhone 5S. Just imagine how much better quality they would be with the NOKIA Lumia 1020 or SONY Experia Z2.

Feature by Danny Baraz

So how do you feel about smartphones in the photo pit? Please leave your input in a comment below.



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More features by Danny Baraz:

Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples Open Hip Hop Time Capsule at Greek Theatre

Burger Revue Reviewed: Ronnie Spector takes a fall, King Khan steals the show

Punk Rock Bowling 2014: a chaotic musical playground for punks

5 thoughts on “Should Smartphones be allowed in the photo pit?

  1. Danny Baraz

    Just food for thought, really. Pretty much the type of responses that I expected. The same type of responses that vinyl Dj’s would have toward CD mixing dj’s. Totally understandable. But… Mr/Mrs “Concert Photographer”. Not all the images above are mine. The ones that are mine are The Orwells, Toy Dolls, The Weirdo’s, Gang Green and the skater, Haden Mckenna. I used a watermark on that one so of course everything but the watermark on him is blurry.

    If I were an actual photographer, then I’d probably react the same way many of you are but many amazing shots have been taken with smartphones and I don’t think they should be ruled out completely.

  2. Concert Photographer


    “The learning curve would’ve taken me years to get the same quality from the DSLR as I get from my iPhone.”

    I have so many problems with this. You had the camera for A WEEK?!?!?!?!!? And it didn’t turn out very well. That’s like saying you took a week of calculus and couldn’t do advanced problems.

    Also the sample concert/live music pictures used in this as “iphone” shots are a) not in focus b) blurry c) grainy d)over/underexposed. Heck you should have been able to accomplish the same with any DSLR. It doesn’t matter if you were shooting with a 1d on zeiss primes if you can’t even compose the shot. Also if you don’t have appropriate lens, know shutter speeds, know your iso, or know what f stop to be at that could also present lots of problems.

  3. Ryan McDonald

    Great article. As someone who was a contributing photographer for The Bay Bridged in SF for years I always used both a DSLR and an iPhone while at shows. The iPhone’s capability is limited but so is a DSLR. There will always be inherent limitations in any type of technology.

    It really boils down to what you deem to be the most appropriate camera for the current situation/output of the final project. I would never submit photographs to be published that were used with an iPhone. My reasoning is not because of an inflated ego due to my proficiency with a DSLR but because I want to publish the highest quality image for that type of output. I’m not able to edit or process an iPhone image in photoshop they way I want to because it does not produce a raw file. Conversely, I use my iPhone for snapshots, much like many people over the previous decades have used Polaroids for. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to shoot some polaroids of your favorite band from the pit (if only the price of the film would come down.)

    Hell, if I got back into concert photography I might consider doing an editorial piece on fellow photographer’s reactions to using my high-tech smartphone from the pit. How about it Grimy Goods?

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