We know smartphone cameras have become good enough for casual photographers, but what about the pros?
This is basically the final step in bringing smartphone photography into the Condé Nast-owned food magazine. After all, the photos from last year’s Culture issue were shot by iPhones — except for the cover.
Creative Director Alex Grossman said it made sense to finally put an iPhone pic out front with the May travel issue, particularly given the connection between photography and travel. The cover was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus, in the Tlacolula Market of Oaxaca, Mexico, and it combines people and food, with a woman showing off a strawberry Paleta.
(Also worth noting: Apple is a Bon Appétit advertiser. In fact, an ad on the back cover will highlight the fact that the cover photo was taken on an iPhone.)
In Grossman’s view, the iPhone 7 “works really well picking up people and places.” That’s thanks to technical capabilities like the new Portrait mode, but also due to the fact that when you photograph someone with a smartphone, they don’t get nervous or upset, since it’s something that already happens to everyone “15 times a day.”
The cover was shot by photographers Peden + Munk, a.k.a. the husband-and-wife team of Taylor Peden and Jen Munkvold. Like Grossman, Peden praised the iPhone’s portability and the “comfortability not having some humongous lens in your face” — it allowed them to work with a tiny crew, so it felt like a “throwback to the early days” of their career.
“It didn’t feel like a big magazine cover shoot where there were a bunch of assistants and light reflectors,” Peden said. “It felt very comfortable and natural.”
Similarly, they said the VSCO app allowed them to edit photos while at their favorite bar or brunch spot, rather than having to drag out their laptop.
Peden and Munkvold made multiple trips to Oaxaca earlier this year. Munkvold recalled scouting locations on the first visit and creating a mood board of photos to show to Grossman — and since those photos were all taken on an iPhone, they were also geotagged, making it easy to find each spot again.
Moving forward, Grossman said the iPhone can just become another part of Bon Appétit’s toolbox. Sure, it’s not at the point where the photos are completely comparable to “a $25,000 DSLR,” particularly in print — but if you shoot in the right conditions, “99.9 percent of people out there” might not know the difference.
“We always have to be pushing and evolving our aesthetic anyway,” Grossman said. “It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a phone or an illustration or cool type design, we’re always finding new ways, whatever they may be, to push our aesthetic.”
Munkvold added that while some pro photographers might be threatened by the way the iPhone puts a powerful camera in everyone’s hands, “We see it more as: Anything that will elevate the game is welcome.”