Smartphone Photojournalism, with Michael Christopher Brown


Michael Christopher Brown is a Magnum photographer who has shot multiple stories for National Geographic, and was a subject in an HBO documentary about photojournalism. Currently, he’s on an assignment in Africa, but was kind enough to answer a few questions about the benefits and drawbacks of using a smartphone to capture images in the field.

What do you find appealing about shooting with a camera phone: is it the portability, the fact that it’s less intimidating to your subjects, or something else?

It’s a number of things, including what you’ve mentioned. Mostly, I just enjoy the ease of operation, and how it is inconspicuous and makes no noise. That, combined with the way subjects react when photographed with a phone, which is different than their reaction with a camera.

Are there any challenges to shooting images with a phone in dangerous areas?

A phone is slower and is not as strong against the elements. There is also not as much flexibility, though if one has an Internet connection, or say, a 3G connection, images can be sent instantaneously, as opposed to a (DSLR) camera, where one needs to upload to a computer or other connection in order to transmit.

Do you use any special equipment like light attachments or grip attachments, or a special rugged case for your phone?

I like the Lifeproof cases for the iPhone, shockproof/weatherproof—they’re great.

What do you gain personally from using Instagram? Do you find it important to your overall brand and image?

I have gotten assignments and made print sales because of Instagram. It has helped (my) brand/image and is otherwise just a fun way to share images with colleagues, friends, and family.

To check out Michael’s Instagram work, follow him here:

And his website is here: