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!

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    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.

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