• David Chandler

Camera phones: Are they killing the freelance industry?

If you’re a freelance photographer/videographer, you’ve probably heard the phrase from clients at least once; ‘But we have cameras on our phones’, and when the Samsung Galaxy S9 came out with the glorious 960 FPS (Frames Per Second) and low light capabilities, my initial response was “Well… F*ck”. Not because I had an overwhelming urge to film paint dry in super slow motion, or add to the overwhelming masses of Speed Ramps out there (not that I do any of that, of course, *coughs*). No, the main reason being that now, despite spending £2,500 on a camera body alone, my camera is now open to being viewed as less advanced than the average phone.

“Ah, but does your camera have low light capabilities?”, said client may ask.

“Well, yes”, I’ll answer.

“And yet, you’re charging xamount per day when actually I can film this on my phone for 100% less of the price”

“That is true to an extent but-”

“Away with you!” The client says, and that is the last of the hypothetical conversation before they jump in their blimp any fly off into the sunset (it’s my fake scenario, I can make up what I want).

But is it killing the freelance industry? Of course it’s not just the FPS the cameras are gaining, but it’s the overall steady climb of camera capabilities. I’ll never forget when I finally graduated from shooting on a 4:3 camera to having a HD camera for the first time. It was amazing for a couple of weeks, right up until the iPhone 4 came out and HD became standard.

Whether that correlation equates to causation would require some amount of research that I may look into one day, but from experience, myself included, there certainly has been new challenges in finding work according to some of my other lens based colleagues. It hasn’t necessarily been more difficult, but you certainly have to go beyond ‘I own a camera’ in your pitching.

But does it deserve a cynical approach? It has levelled out the competitive playing field and now it’s not enough to simply own a professional camera and amaze everyone with the wizardry of shallow depth of field.

In fact, sometimes, quality isn’t the priority. I’ve spoken to small businesses who tell me that the most views on Social Media they get are of candid material shot on their Smartphones that last literally 10 seconds, whilst others don’t understand why the 3 minute high quality video about the evolution of pine nuts is only getting 100 views and 2 shares.

Filmmaking is, and always has been, an art. It shouldn’t be left exclusively for those who can afford a steady shot gimbal and can blag an Arri Alexa hire for their own personal use because of ‘who they know’.

Having a camera is like having a paint brush, just because you have access to it, doesn’t mean you’re going to be an artist, much like having access to a supermarket doesn’t make you a Michelin star chef, and having access to Medium for free doesn’t mean I’m going to be a world famous writer (I mean… Share this article though).

As freelance filmmakers and photographers, there’s no denying that our industry is changing, but I am now taking a much more positive approach. The best thing we can produce for our client, and indeed ourselves, is a well considered idea communicated through the medium. Not something swanky for the sake of swanky, and not something that does nobody any favours other than to show off great filmmaking skills, but something that film can deliver: unique and engaging ideas.

Quality and features should only factor in to serve the overall idea that you can deliver, and that’s what your client will pay for, 1.46 billion frames per second, or not.

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© 2018 David Chandler