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One Change I Made to Improve My Phone Photography

On June 29th, 2007 the first iPhone was released.

Apple’s slogan at the time was,

"Apple reinvents the phone."

And so it did.

It’s now fifteen years since the iPhone first appeared on the market and it is certainly true that it’s release changed the way we would use our phones, and it is probably also true to say that this event marked the true beginning of mobile photography.

Certainly, there were cameras in phones before the advent of the iPhone, from companies such as Sony, Samsung and the popular Nokia, but once the Apple smartphone hit the market, despite not having the best camera, everything changed in terms of phone use, and although the first iPhones didn’t focus on the camera so much as the smartphone aspect, they had the effect of overshadowing the basic camera phones.

It wasn’t long before other companies followed Apple’s lead and smartphones became the norm. However, phone companies soon realised that you could actually have smartphones that were also good camera phones and the seemingly never-ending quest to come up with a more and more advanced camera housed within a smartphone began.

As each latest phone from the major phone companies comes on stream, the cameras on these phones are becoming more and more sophisticated, to the extent that sales of dedicated cameras have dropped.

Despite all this advanced mobile phone camera technology it is still the case that many people don’t take phone photography seriously.

They consider it to be an inferior type of photography, only useful for posting shots on social media or sharing among family and friends.

Mobile photography is often considered to be simply snapshot photography rather than serious photography.

This opinion prevails even though there are dedicated phone photography courses, magazines and websites solely aimed at mobile photography, prestigious prizes given for images taken with a mobile device and sections on many photography websites focusing on mobile photography. (Links)

Sometimes I can be guilty of not taking phone photography as seriously as I might take photography with my camera.

Camera photography by its very nature tends to be slow and intentional, while mobile photography tends to be more immediate. Since there are no real settings, lenses and filters to deal with, and we usually work without a tripod, taking a photograph can happen much more quickly with a phone camera.

Yet this can be a problem with mobile photography.

One of the things I tend to do wrong when doing mobile photography is not spending enough time taking each photo, not using all the lenses my phone camera can offer, not utilising all the features that could enhance my images.

Instead, I get to my chosen location, decide on my subject and where I’ll place it, take the photo and move on to the next one.

If most people do this, it is understandable that mobile photography is not highly rated. Thankfully, this is not always the case and I have learned a lot from those who take mobile photography seriously.

That best lesson I have learned is a simple one - if I spend some more time with each photo, and at each location, I will get better results.

My images will be:

· Better composed

· More interesting

· More unique.

If you want to take your phone photography beyond the level of snapshot my one piece of advice would be - spend time in each location and take your time with each photo.

Treat your phone camera like your big camera and it will reward you with images that may be indistinguishable from those taken with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

So, what does taking time with each photo mean in practice?

I recently did a photo shoot with just my phone camera to help me understand the potential of mobile photography.

While travelling, I stopped at the site of an old church situated in an historic graveyard, with views of the ruins of an ancient abbey.

Normally I might have taken a couple of photos of the church from a regular standing position and moved on, but on this occasion I spent time with my phone camera trying to capture different perspectives, placing my subject in various positions in the frame, getting the right amount of foreground, choosing between prioritizing sky or land, and looking for composition techniques to use by asking myself questions such as,

Is there a leading line?

Is there symmetry in the scene?

Is there a way to use natural framing?

Can I fill the frame?

Can I use different perspectives?

Below are some examples.


I love the feel of a camera in my hand, a feeling that is not matched by holding a phone.

Yet, despite this, I do not want to ignore the benefits of having an ever-present decent phone in my pocket.

For me, the photography experience is about more than the camera.

It is about arriving at a location, observing the surroundings, choosing a subject, deciding on a composition, focusing, framing the picture, capturing the image, bringing it home to examine on a larger screen, and possibly doing some editing.

Photography is a multi-faceted process and one which can work just as well with a phone camera as with a DSLR or mirrorless camera if we have the right intention.

After all, it is the process, not the outcome, which provides the real joy of photography.


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