After a long career in photography and editing, Kevin Kuster found new inspiration in mobile photography. Despite his new assignment to shoot 50 weddings in a day, Kuster is not usually a wedding photographer. Most of his work is commercial or editorial.

Kevin Kuster is a veteran photographer — he has been taking photos for over 20 years and spent 18 years with Playboy magazine, leaving as its Senior Photo Editor. When he was first exposed to the concept of mobile photography, he wasn’t convinced. 

“At first, I didn’t get it,” Kuster told Connect. “I thought it was silly. I was a professional snob – I looked down on it.”

After watching a few instructional videos, Kuster decided to buy an iPhone 4S and has been hooked on shooting with his smartphone ever since. The longtime career photographer says that his iPhone has reinvigorated his passion for photography.

Kuster, who lives in Chicago, was recently approached by the charity Watts of Love to help with an interesting photography project that seemed a perfect opportunity to make use of his newfound love of mobile photography.

Watts of Love raises money to send solar-powered lighting to remote locations around the world. By providing people with safe and sustainable lighting, Watts of Love hopes to reduce the number of deaths caused by dangerous kerosene lamps and boost local economies by enabling children to advance in their studies through being able to do schoolwork at night.

Kuster explained his interest in Watts of Love: “Photographers are all about using light and these people don’t have light.”

Kuster's current portrait subjects tend to be gruff American types. His upcoming trip to the Philippines will give him a chance to capture an entirely different culture.

Watts of Love’s first mission is to the island of Ilin in the Philippines. On top of lacking a reliable, sustainable source of light for the majority of its inhabitants, the remote island has not had a pastor or priest visit the island in quite some time. As a result, there are at least 50 couples that are waiting to tie the knot. 

Watts of Love's partner, Missionaries of Mother Mary of the Poor, asked a pastor to come to the region to preach and perform the ceremonies.

When Kuster discovered that his visit coincided with an upcoming visit from the pastor, he couldn’t turn down the idea of shooting the event. But instead of just photographing the service for Watts of Love, Kuster wanted to give the couples something to hold on to.

“Most of these people have never owned a photo of themselves,” Kuster said. “This will be an amazing wedding gift.”

Kuster will be taking portraits with his iPhone, printing the photos from a Canon Pixma mobile printer and placing them in acrylic frames.

When asked why he will be using his iPhone instead of one of his DSLRs, Kuster explained that a large DSLR camera can build a barrier between the subject and photographer.

“(Subjects) let more personality come out in front of an iPhone,” Kuster said. “Instead of staring into a DSLR lens, they can look at my face. I feel like it’s more personal.”

At recent photo shoot of Civil War reinactors, Kuster primarily used his DSLR but also took some shots with his iPhone just for kicks. At a photo conference, he showed an audience the DSLR/iPhone photos side by side and they overwhelmingly preferred the iPhone images.

According to Kuster, this DSLR photo doesn't reveal as much of the subject's personality as the iPhone portrait (left).
Kuster believes that iPhone photography allows portrait subjects to let their guard down becuase they are not looking at an intimidating DSLR.

"It’s never about the quality/grain structure," Kuster explained. "Technical was out of the way, it was about the aesthetic."

Kuster leaves on Februrary 8th and will try to update his Instagram (@kevinkuster) throughout the trip. Those interested in donating to Watts of Love can do so here: $10 buys a solar-powered light for a person in the dark.

We will be talking to Kevin Kuster again after he returns from the Philippines and can’t wait to hear about his 50-wedding iPhone photo shoot.