The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You (Mobile Photography TIPS)

The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You (Mobile Photography TIPS)


All photographers go through a lifecycle; those distinct stages from new photographer through to seasoned shutter bug. It definitely happened to me and, looking back, my one embarrassing stage was the camera kit snob stage. I’m not going to dwell on it, but suffice to say, it was a pretty cringeworthy stage for me personally. Now I am not too proud to miss an opportunity just because I don’t have my main camera on me. 

Years ago I stumbled upon Chase Jarvis who is, I think, a massively creative photographer. He came up with a common sense mantra, the title of this article. The premise is that we should all embrace the camera we have on us and, hopefully a safe punt, that is going to be your cell/mobile phone.

If you are reading this article, chances are you don’t carry around an ageing Ericsson or Nokia from the late 90s. Personally I use iPhone, but I figured out early on with a few must-do tips, you can come up with some impressive images using just the camera in your phone.

All the images in this article were captured, hand held, with a Nokia 808 Pureview. All image editing was performed in Photoshop CS5 and, apart from black and white conversion, very basic – really, 3 minutes load through to save basic.

Shooting: Composition

Always think about the composition and what you are trying to capture. I’m willing to bet, with SLR and tripod, you put a great deal of thought into your shot, so why should it be different with your phone.

  • Rule of Thirds. Except for symmetrical compositions, like shooting down a tunnel, avoid centering subjects and horizons in the frame.
  • Reduce poor skies to the smaller portion of the frame.
  • The eye will follow leading Lines into the frame and distance. This is something you can control, like a winding road that will lead the eyes across the beautiful landscape in the frame.
  • Light is the biggest factor that will make or break a good photo. This is especially true for camera phones and their small sensors – they love the light. Early morning and late afternoon light (golden hour) will enhance everyone’s images! Try and move to compose where the light falls on your subject; faces, buildings, statues, etc.
  • Decisive moments make for strong compositions. See a great scene? Set up for the shot and then wait for something to occur. In Florence, on a recent trip, I waited on a bridge, with a great view into the distance, for… people on Segways! They’re a rare site in the UK, so I thought it would make a great juxtaposition.
  • Check out Christina Dickson’s most useful article, breaking down composition into geometric areas.

    Shooting: Steady

    As with an SLR and tripod, I always try to find a rest or surface to remain steady for the shot. Window frames, lamp posts, benches, trees, girlfriend’s head, etc. It will make such a difference to the resolving power of the pea sized lens on your phone’s camera.

    Shooting: Straight

    I do edit and publish on the move, so getting it right in shot will get the highest quality up front. Each app you use to edit shots will degrade and potentially resize your images all the more. You have a big LCD, so take a moment to line up and level before pressing the shutter.

    Editing: Color and contrast

    I don’t think twice that Photoshop will be editing this image for an SLR shot, so the same usually goes for my camera phone shots. It is rare if I do more than boost color and contrast, but it does make for a significant improvement.

    Editing: Straighten, Crop

    Someone out there always tells me if my images are not meticulously level, so I’ll recheck in Photoshop. If need be, I will crop too – too much sky, half a bird, etc.

    Editing: Sharpen, Resize

    Use your image editor to make the full size image sharp and then resize down for the internet. I will use a High Pass filter technique in Photoshop.

    Camera phone images don’t need to be terrible snaps and with these tips, equally important for compact cameras too, you can definitely open the eyes of those firmly entrenched in the ‘SLR is best’ camp!

    Want to learn more about mobile photography? Check out our iPhone Photography eBook.

    Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

    Michael Walker-Toye is a professional Photographer, based in Essex and just outside of London. You can follow his photo blog, The Stormtroopers Are Coming!, on Facebook, on Twitter as @RealMichaelToye and 'michaeltoye' on Instagram.

    Some Older Comments

    • Dave June 25, 2013 06:07 am

      Great article! I tend to shoot more with my iPhone than DSLR, because it's always in my pocket. I haven't done much editing with iPhone photos because I don't want to take the time, but it sounds simple to do. What are your favorite editing apps for the iPhone?

    • Gary Mc Nutt December 5, 2012 10:40 am

      This was taken using the new Panoramic View on the iPhone 5:

    • Suzy Frame November 28, 2012 10:32 am

      Thanks so much for sharing these photos! I think they are absolutely stunning! I have been looking for the best camera accessories I can find so I can take pictures like this as well! Can you tell me where I can find those accessories to make my photos that much better?

    • Kenneth Waidelich November 22, 2012 08:18 am

      I love this post and will definitely add you to my rss-reader in order to follow you every day. Keep up the great work!

    • JacksonG November 19, 2012 12:09 am

      Phone cameras have come a long way but so haven't point and shoots. When I don't lug around my dslr I carry a Lumix lx-5 or Canon PowerShot, both go right on your belt.

    • Lesley November 16, 2012 03:02 pm

      I will sometimes take a couple of quick shots with my Windows phone (HTC Radar) to email to friends and relatives when I'm travelling. I've got a quite decent collection of these. They often shape up quite OK beside the ones taken with my 60D and are immediately usable.

    • Ross November 16, 2012 02:30 pm

      This was an interesting and educational article as I have always used cameras and was recently
      given a mobile phone with a 5mp camera for my 70th birthday. Now I have to learn to use this
      camera and subsequent photography as a whole new experience.

    • Sol Erwin Diaz November 16, 2012 11:32 am

      Hi, Thanks for the tips. I would always follow these tips as I am now lazy bringing my DSLR. at least I can now take a shoot with my samsung galaxy.

    • Mridula November 16, 2012 03:48 am

      Very true, I have managed to click pictures with my cell phone that later were accepted with stock photography! Also with a child it is easier to shoot with a cell phone!

    • Rafael Marquez November 14, 2012 04:22 am

      I've been saying this for years. Obviously, we'd all like to shoot with fancy DSLRs all the time, but that's not always practical or possible.

    • Julie November 14, 2012 03:39 am

      I agree with Mark. It depends what kind of camera phone you have. I have a Droid 2 Global, and the camera is only 5 mp. I struggle sometimes to get decent shots from it. But I'm upgrading to a 4g phone in February. I don't know if the type of camera phone will be a consideration, though.

    • David Green November 14, 2012 03:32 am

      As an ex-Westcliff lad (living in Israel) , I recognise some of the pics in this article as having been taken near Southend on Sea Pier . and possibly Leigh on Sea , Essex

    • raghavendra November 13, 2012 04:19 pm

      Love the way it is written. I have been taking photographs from a mobile for more than 3 years.

    • Mark November 12, 2012 09:54 pm

      Whilst I agree that the best camera is the one you have with you for me that means I need to get myself a decent pocket camera. Phone cameras, whilst handy, have many issues the chief ones being lack of control over depth of field - alright if you want every photo in sharp focus from front to back - and shutter lag. They're generally rubbish in low light too.

    • Ben Chapman November 11, 2012 10:36 pm

      I personally don't like phone photography that much.

      However the photos in this post do seem to be very good quality for phones.

      I hate how grainy my iPhone is.

    • Scottc November 11, 2012 09:23 am

      Very true.....great article.

    • Jai Catalano November 11, 2012 01:36 am

      That should be a life mantra. Embrace what you have. It's inevitable that mobile devices are the new way in photography. More and more post come up on it everyday. DPS has a bar at the top of their page that says guide to Iphone photography.

      Embrace what you have.