Camera Phone + Instagram = A New Commercial Photography Market? / by Anh Nguyen

My left shoulder has a little more beef than my right, a result of always slinging my camera bag on my left side. I’d show you but I’m not quite ready to go shirtless on my blog at this moment, stay tuned. There was a time when I was more balanced, living a more simplified photography life. I spent 2008 doing all of my editorial assignments with a simplified kit; one camera,  a 35mm 1.4, and a 100mm F2 and it made me a better photographer.  

I diversified my business in 2009 and launched Mott Visuals resulting in more commercial jobs and yes a boatload of new gear which meant more chargers, wires, batteries, thingamabobs, thingamachiggies, and of course thingamawhatnots.

I work relatively simplified compared to most commercial photographers taking only a portable lighting kit (Profotos) and typically one or two assistants max and even they are pretty small(sorry Ngoc). In fact Ngoc(Mott Visuals Producer) weighs only a little more than the Profoto Batpac that she often has to haul around. All that gear takes a toll not just on your body but on your mind as well.

I needed a break from my lighting gear and needed to mix up my kit so my images didn’t get stale. Limiting your kit is a great way to spark creativity in your photography and recently I did the ultimate photography fast on a commercial client. 

My shoulder got a much needed rest on a very interesting project I pitched to Intercontinental Hotels, specifically the pilot project was done at the gorgeous Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Danang, Vietnam.

They already have a beautiful commercial image library but the idea behind this project was I’d spend one full day at the resort capturing the property and services with just my camera phone(Samsung Galaxy S3) and using only Instagram to edit the pictures. I wanted to capture the guest experience and make believable images.

I didn’t pitch the project to balance my body or to go on vacation but rather to balance my shooting style and more importantly offer my client something unique for their image library, reality.  I hear it on every shoot “can you just Photoshop it?” You can do amazing things in post-production but the downside is people don’t believe images anymore, they think everything is artificial and it’s hard to know what to believe is real anymore.

Who knows what will happen in the future but at the moment we still believe in camera phone images and yes Instagram uses filters but we aren’t removing things or adding things that weren’t there so the images have more trust from the viewer. 

The project made me lighter and simplified and my mind could focus on making thoughtful images rather than worrying about the safety of my equipment, where to place lights, is my assistant tipping over from the Batpac, etc. Like the camera phone, I was portable and that made me more patient and energized to experiment with light and compositions. 

Hotels and Resorts (all businesses really) need commercial images with lighting and heavy retouching but I also see potential for projects like this. These images can be used in social media and used properly and creatively can give their customers a view at reality and a sense of what it’s really like to be there. The viewer can feel like they could’ve taken that photo, resulting in trust.

I see an emerging market for this type of work and I now offer it to all my clients as an optional add-on service to my commercial and editorial photography. I work closely with my clients not only on the project concept but also on how the images can be used in creative ways in this social media world we live in. 

I set aside time every month to brainstorm new ideas with my team for our services and I've very excited about the potential for this one. We have to strive for new ideas for a new media market and it's not just about the quality of the work you have to know how to sell your project idea and customize it for your clients.

Here is a link to the Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Danang work. 

Click Here

Here is a picture of all the gear I took on a recent commercial shoot for a resort alongside the gear I brought for the Intercontinental shoot.

Thank you to Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Danang for taking a chance on a project like this, I applaud their courage and creativity.