Get 6 Months of ShootQ Free With Any Workshop Purchase!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
News & Insight

Sports Illustrated’s First Cover Shot on A Smartphone | The Future of Editorial

By Shivani Reddy on December 8th 2016

We all knew this day was coming, but many of us couldn’t have predicted that it would be this soon. Photographer Mike LeBrecht is no stranger to creating some memorable Sports Illustrated covers, but when pitched the task to photograph A-list celeb Dwanye ‘The Rock’ Johnson using a smartphone, he rose to the challenge.


The tool of choice: Motorola’s new Moto-Z, engineered with the imaging as its focus with a 13MP camera, optical image stabilization & laser auto focus. Although this doesn’t quite compete with industry standard DSLRs, any photographer would be willing to rise to the challenge and create equivalent or exceeding imagery given the chance to play with such technology. Paired with the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod attachment, LeBrecht set out to photograph the world’s ‘sexiest man alive’ for the reputable magazine cover.

He first started with available light and slowly built in continuous light to produce an image with a higher production value and higher overall image quality. You can see in the BTS video the exact shot that LeBrecht clicked which winded up being the final cover image.



The Hasselblad Moto Mod gives the Moto-Z a 12MP 1/2.3″ BSI CMOS sensor with a sensitivity range of up to ISO 3200 with a Hasselblad 10x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-250mm, and an f/3.5-6.5 aperture. In addition, it offers DNG raw shooting along with a Pro mode that offers control over focus, white balance, aperture, ISO, and exposure. Now tell me you don’t want to get your hands on one of these just to test it out? Regardless of your stance on smartphone camera tech, this is exciting simply because of the portability and ease of having such RAW capabilities built-in to an everyday device.

I don’t believe it’s fair to compare Smartphone Cameras to DSLR Cameras, but for everyday use and for aspiring photographers looking to develop photographic knowledge, the Pro settings on the Moto Z allow for the instant understanding of some of the same settings you will find on a DSLR. – Mike  LeBrecht to PetaPixel 

See more BTS images of LeBrecht’s light design and set here.

Source: PetaPixel 

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Jonathan Brady

    So… Who wants to argue semantics? Technically, you could shoot practically anything with a smartphone and get 100% DSLR quality. How? Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC connectivity and just use the phone to control the camera. And that’s exactly what the photographer did here, only he used a point and shoot instead, and a physical connection as opposed to a wireless one. So really, the story here isn’t the smartphone, it’s the smaller sensor. And we’ve all known basically forever that in sufficient light, smaller sensors are quite capable up to about 8×10.

    | | Edited  
  2. James O

    I’m selling my 5D and lenses and getting this phone. Just kidding. :)

    | |
  3. Justin Haugen

    Lighting and process is key here too, but I’m not surprised at all by the results. My LGG4 takes very printable images

    | |
    • Shivani Reddy

      For sure, I would be interested to know what setup he ended up using.

      | |
    • Steven Pellegrino

      Of course lighting and processing is key with a smartphone photograph – just as it would be with a $6,000 Nikon D5.

      | |
    • Justin Haugen

      Honestly, I think lighting and processing is 90% of the work here and the phone is simply a vessel for capture. Not really taking a stance here.

      | |