When it comes to photography there is one universal truth – the best camera you own is the one you are carrying. Too many of us invest a lot in high quality cameras only to find that we don’t have them with us when a good photo opportunity presents itself. Well it is worth remembering that with the arrival of the camera phone there is now no excuse for missing those shots.
A lot of people think that camera phones are simply too limited to deliver good photography. After all most of the basic options we all take for granted are missing – you can’t vary depth of field by changing the aperture, the ISO is often not controllable and the cameras tend to decide their own exposure settings. However with a little time you can learn the characteristics of your phone camera and use these to your advantage (or you can download an app that gives you more control such as 645 Pro).
With a little care and creativity your smartphone is capable of delivering some pretty good images. All of the photos in this post were taken with an iPhone and a couple of them would not have been possible without the unique features that smartphone cameras offer such as the ability to take panoramic shots by simply moving the camera allowing you to create an image similar to that from an ultra wide-angle lens. As the manual options are currently limited the single most important thing to concentrate on when using your phone as a camera is composition.
The photograph below was taken at the GoMA in Glasgow using the panoramic setting on the iPhone – a careful sweep of the camera from left to right allowed for the entire installation to be caught in one image. Things to remember when doing this is that you should practice the sweep first to make sure all will be captured, move the camera at an even pace and keep the arrow in line with the white line that appears in the middle of the screen. There will be distortion in the middle of the shot but this can be used as below to enhance visual impact. Often taking care to ensure clarity between the subject and the background can really help with a shot like this one.
Once you have taken a photo with your phone there are a whole range of options for developing them on the phone to give you the effect you want. The two apps I use most for this are Snapseed (ridiculously cheap and easy to use) and iPhoto (quite limited but has some good options) although the photo below was developed using Colour Efex Pro in Lightroom 5.
Most camera phones use wide angle lenses so remember the characteristics of these when composing a shot. They will tend to have a large depth of focus (i.e. both the foreground and background tend to be sharp) and they will make closer subjects look disproportionately large and far away subjects look tiny. It may be a good idea to put something in the foreground to draw the eye into the shot as you would with any wide-angle lens on your system camera.
Ultimately the thing to remember is that good photography is not about the quality of the camera – all you have to do is look back in history at some of the iconic images from the early days of photography to realise this is the case. The camera in your phone is way better optically than the early cameras used by some of photography’s past masters. Given the choice I would always choose to use my Fuji over the iPhone (that goes without saying) but that is not always an option. So perhaps it is time to stop playing Bubblewitch on your smartphone and start taking some great photos – after all the sky’s the limit…