Every year now, Apple releases a new iPhone with a slightly better camera and slightly better features. From a year on year perspective, the differences aren’t significant. However, if you compare what the first few iPhone cameras were capable of versus now, the difference is huge.
Every year when a new iPhone comes out many of us talk about how this year it’s going to replace DSLRs for X or Y type of photography. For better or worse, smartphones have already replaced huge camera segments and now it seems it may start to replace photographers too. Just to clarify this is not something I’m hoping will happen nor do I think it’s a good thing; the issue is that there’s a good chance that smartphones will start to reduce the requirement to hire professional photographers for certain genres. The reason why I’m bringing this discussion up is so that I’m hoping my fellow photographers can prepare and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Why this iPhone?
For more than a decade, the standard focal length in the iPhone has been around what we would consider as a 28mm lens on a full-frame camera. This is actually a great focal length for most types of shooting. It’s long enough for it to be effective for street photography and wide enough for some group shots too. It’s also a brilliant focal length for video and coincidently my favorite lens for my YouTube channel is the Sony FE 28mm f/2.0. The problem with this lens was that it just wasn’t wide enough for shooting many interiors and homes. This is especially true for bathrooms and smaller bedrooms. For this reason, although real estate agents would shoot many homes with their smartphones it didn’t really catch on as much as it could now. The iPhone 11 Pro now has a triple camera setup and one of the focal lengths has a similar field of view as a 12mm lens on a full-frame camera. Personally I find that lens too wide for most things but many photographers seem to enjoy shooting with super wide-angle lenses. Firstly I believe this because it allows you to photograph smaller rooms more effectively. Secondly, if you need to crop or straighten the vertical lines you have enough in the scene to allow you to do so.
Now that the iPhone 11 Pro has an ultra-wide-angle lens which is similar looking to a 12mm lens on a full-frame camera, maybe it can be used for some real estate photography.
Real Estate Photography Doesn’t Require the Best in Quality
I understand there are many segments and price points for properties on the market. Some of the really high-end and expensive properties may require incredible quality photography, however, that’s not what the majority of the market is. Most real estate agents have tiny margins when selling properties and due to this their budget for things like photography isn’t huge. The value of most properties also doesn’t require them to have super high-quality photography and for that reason, a few smartphone pictures can be enough. Even when it comes to resolution, 12mp is more than enough for most real estate marketing campaigns. You can print a billboard with a 2mp image due to the viewing distance so 12mp is plenty. The fact that the iPhone 11 Pro now has a super wide-angle could mean that more and more real estate photographers will stop seeing the need to hire a photographer. I don’t think this is going to happen as soon as the iPhone hits the market, but I believe it’s the start of things.
As mentioned above, I don’t think this is going to be an immediate thing; however, over the next few years as more people get their hands on smartphones with wide-angle cameras the real estate market may start drying up. Real estate agencies are constantly looking for more and more ways to save money and right or wrong, they will more than likely take advantage of the wide-angle lens on the iPhone. Although there are several android phones on the market with wide-angle lenses, iPhone is the most popular phone on the market. Due to its popularity, when something appears on the iPhone it effectively becomes mainstream. I highly recommend that photographers take notice of this potential shift and even if it doesn’t happen it still makes sense to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It may be an idea to start pushing for more higher-end clients who aren’t going to settle for images from a smartphone. I personally believe the market for architectural and real estate photography is very strong but it depends on which segment you’re working. I recommend you re-evaluate your clients and work out which of your customers are best for the long term.