Mobile Phone Photography

In my last post I mentioned that I was getting lazy about my photography. I wasn’t going out with my camera as much. However, I didn’t consider my smartphone as a way of keeping my hand in when I’m on the go.

Over the past five or so years, mobile photography seems to have taken off thanks to websites like Instagram. Millions of people upload their iPhone snapshots daily, and it has even led to influencing the style of high profile advertising campaigns.

Granted, most of these shots are pictures of people’s breakfast, their cat, or hen party snapshots. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t mobile photographers taking pictures of serious quality. Communities like Grryo show the medium’s potential for storytelling, while IPA features some amazing galleries and even offer a printing service that caters for mobile photography.  Both communities show that mobile photography has potential beyond snapshots of your cat/dog/lunch.

It’s often said that the proliferation of smartphones means that we all have a powerful HD-ready DSLR and video camera in our backpocket.  In my case, it is more like one of those instant point-and-shoot cameras you used to buy from Boots for your holidays.

When I buy a smartphone, I never take the quality of the camera into consideration. I already have two digital cameras, so it’s not an important factor to me.  So I own a Google Nexus 5, which doesn’t have a bad camera, but any entry-level DSLR could beat it.

It’s not a terrible camera, but it lacks some basic functions, like controlling shutter speed, aperture, white balance, etc.  There is some control over the exposure, focus and flash, and the option to create a panorama and HDR images.  These are nice add-ons, but it’s not as good as my DSLR.

The shots work okay in certain conditions, providing the lighting is right.  For example, it doesn’t do too well in low light conditions, as you can tell by the amount of noise in these shots:

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Having said that, I could have improved the above by adjusting the exposure – a function I didn’t even know I had at the time.  The shots I took in shady daylight conditions weren’t great either:

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However, the above could be improved with some simple adjustments in Photoshop, meaning that there is hope of taking some decent shots in these conditions.  The below aren’t the most amazing shots, but demonstrate that these images can be improved in post-production:

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The image on the right is still over-exposed in the sky, but at last the street art can be seen.  Sadly, I couldn’t save the night shots.

I did take some shots that show that my phone camera can take decent shots if the lighting is right.  I think these shots demonstrate that my camera phone has potential, especially for street photography:

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The above shots might not be amazing, but I don’t really expect that from my smartphone camera.  I’ve decided to use it as a visual notebook.  Even the poor quality snapshots that I randomly take could spark new ideas and become the basis of a photography trip, and could benefit my Documenting Plymouth series.


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