Photographer Brooks Kraft usually carries two camera bodies and four lenses with him when he covers a presidential campaign. This year, however, as six presidential candidates from parties descended on New Hampshire to campaign on Independence Day, Kraft left his cameras in his hotel room.
Instead, he went out with just an iPhone 6 Plus. “There are instances when I have to run or move quickly, and it was so much easier without the added weight,” he tells TIME, “not to mention trying to protect the gear swinging off my shoulders as I move quickly through crowds.”
It’s not the first time that Kraft has chosen to rely on an iPhone in his work. Last year, he photographed the Christmas decorations at the White House, where the subtler equipment meant he was able to capture more candid shots within the presidential residence.
This past weekend, his reliance on the iPhone proved useful when candidate Jeb Bush start running to keep up with a parade. “I was easily able to keep up with Bush,” says Kraft. “I became more aware of the impact constantly carrying the gear has on my mobility.”
Not only that, but Kraft says he was also able to capture images he wouldn’t otherwise. “With a DSLR, you are instantly recognized as a professional photographer, and sometimes people react quickly to your presence and either smile at the camera or turn away,” he says. “With the iPhone I found it was easier to move inconspicuously through crowds and capture moments, even up close, without impacting what I saw with my presence.”
Even the Secret Service had trouble identifying Kraft as a photographer. “At one point during the Clinton event, a Secret Service agent asked me if I was ‘media’ and asked me to display my credentials,” he says. “Campaign staff and security like to monitor (and control) the movement of media. There is frequently a lot more restriction put on the media then members of the general public in early primary events.”
This means that members of the public, sporting the same camera-equipped phones, have more opportunities to get photos of their favorite candidates. Kraft shares his tips on what to do and what not to do with an iPhone at such events:
Sometimes the most interesting photos do not include a candidate. Early primary scenes are full of colorful characters and iconic visual symbols of democracy in action. Because iPhones are so common, it is sometimes easier to capture natural moments with them than with professional looking cameras.
Shoot outdoors or in well-lit interior environments where the iPhone works best. Do not use the flash if possible.
Set your camera to shoot in the square format. This provides a nice contrast to the 2×3 DSLR format, and works well in some of the formal political environments. It also displays well on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.
Shoot wide views that show the setting, looking for angles that place a clean background behind the candidate. Signs and crowds right behind the candidate are distracting. For the same reason, avoid placing large objects or the backs of heads in the foreground.
Shoot close-ups. The iPhone is able to focus in very close to produce macro views.
Do not use the zoom. Because the iPhone does not have an optical zoom (yet), the image quality is poor when the lens is zoomed, and the aperture is also decreased.
When there is action or a lot of movement, use the burst mode to get as many frames as possible. The iPhone does not always freeze movement unless it is extremely bright, and it’s best to have multiple frames to choose from.
See the White House Christmas Decorations
Brooks Kraft is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Washington D.C. and a regular contributor to TIME. Follow him on Instagram @bkraft.
Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent