Today roughly marks the day that I have been in the smartphone world for one month. Back in december I received one as a gift–and at the least, this gift has opened my eyes. I’ve made it clear through my voiced opinions, in some my video work, that I am partial to smartphones. That mentality hasn’t changed entirely, but it’s changed enough to write about it. That change can be summed up in two words: the camera.
Cameras on smartphones, in the past year, have made an enormous leap–including the technology with editing on smartphones. Apps such as Afterlight, VSCOcam, and many others have allowed pretty much anybody to make their photos look better. I’m not saying photography is dead, or that smartphones have taken over the world of photography–they clearly haven’t. That being said, they have changed the game, and they provide valuable lessons even for pro DSLR shooters.
My work is gradually moving more into the film world, but every now and then I still take on a photo project. Now with a smartphone in my pocket, my eagerness to grab a hefty DSLR and lenses diminishes (depending on whether I have a client or not). Why? Because I have found that a smartphone camera can “re-open” a photographer’s eyes–especially a portrait photographer.
A phone camera comes with a few challenges. First, the resolution is by no means close to DSLR standards, so “zooming in” on a smartphone is a poor choice, because it degrades the quality that you’re fighting for. So, you’re left with an ultra-wide lens without a great capacity for shallow depth-of-field. Second, the dynamic range is pretty weak because of the sensor’s size, meaning you can lose a lot of detail in the shadows and highlights. Lastly, it’s easy to shoot too much with a smartphone–what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is not necessarily relevant to anyone but yourself–but it’s easy to fall into the over-shooting-trap because your phone is your life companion.
How can you shape the structures around your subject to captivate a viewer who’s scrolling through newsfeed after newsfeed? My point is, intriguing images can be taken with a smartphone, but using a limited tool requires adjusting your eye, and becoming even more sensitive to composition and subject matter.
I’m not saying my phone is my favorite camera of all time, and I’m not going to sell my DSLR and shoot exclusively phone photography. I’m just a firm believer in the idea that the best camera is the one with you. Regardless of whether you like images from smartphones, they are great tools for scouting, planning future shoots, and testing shooting situations. If you wish to continue to follow my work with the iPhone, follow my Instagram here, or below.