Good Enough

Fast Company ran an article yesterday on how the gourmet food magazine Bon Appetit shot its entire March issue on iPhones. The magazine’s creative director, Alex Grossman, observed:

I’m not going to say we were making fun of ourselves as we did it, but so rarely, in making a magazine, does it mimic real life. I’m not a writer so it always feels like there’s a level of artifice to how we produce reality. We make this beautiful dish with the food stylist. It’s real food, but you have a big rig.

This is not the first time a large media production has gone iPhone only. Last year’s Sundance hit Tangerine was shot entirely on iPhone 5S, using an $8 app called Filmic Pro. What Bon Appetit’s experiment points to is how phone cameras have reached the point of being eminently “good enough.” In my work for the photo-editing app Enlight, I’ve found that many of the iPhone’s shortfalls — in terms of color, saturation, detail, etc — can be rapidly tweaked and embellished in post-production. As I wrote in 2014 (even before the iPhone 6S!):

As long as your iPhone is good enough to print a 4×6 — or even, as my uncle did, screen-printed onto a 24×12 — the usefulness of an SLR is suspect. As a longtime photography enthusiast and SLR user, I often find myself leaving my Sony A65 at home, if only out of convenience. My iPhone 5’s camera is good enough for 70% of what I need: tweeting pictures (where the upload size is limited to 3MB anyway), or uploading them to Facebook or Flickr.

First, it was good enough for you and for me. And now, it’s good enough for magazines. I think that it will be a while before iPhone cameras go head-to-head with SLRs — there are fundamental differences in lens glass and sensor size that are hard to overcome with software — but if the quality is good enough for Bon Appetit, it’s good enough to print at Target. As Benedict Evans wrote, the smartphone has very much become the sun around which all our devices revolve.

Originally published at siliconspatula.com on February 17, 2016.

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