Teaching photography, a question often arises and is very understandable is “What is the best camera to buy? Canon versus Nikon?
Benefits of Shooting with a Smartphone
How many megapixels etc. etc.?” My reply is always that it is not the equipment that is most important but the heart and voice.
Large format shooters in the past looked down on medium format shooters, and as they looked down on 35mm shooters, and as film shooters looked down on digital photographers, and full frame digital photographers looked down on crop sensor photographers, that looked down on compact cameras, that looked down on smartphones. Everyone can be a snob with cameras, there is no end. Chase Jarvis once wrote: “The best camera is the one you have on you.” To expand on that, I think the best camera is the one you just shoot a photo on. This means, a camera is only important insofar as it is a tool to capture a certain image, feeling, or emotion you have witnessed.
Of course, having manual mode and being able to control your camera is really essential, but what you want to say with your images is fundamental to why we capture them.
Smartphone photography, iPhoneography, mobile photography or whatever you want to call it; it’s clear that taking great pictures with a phone has become a thing now.
What does that mean, exactly? It means that people are creating works of art using their smartphones, and those pieces also go up in galleries or are made into prints. That’s the high end, of course, but there are plenty of Instagram photos out there that look fantastic.
If you own a smartphone made in the last couple of years, chances are it has a pretty good camera on it, too. So what are the benefits of photography with a phone?
- We all have one. It is always at hand – misplaced and a slight anxiety settles in.
You cannot beat the convenience of a mobile phone, always with you, and a great playback display unit in its own right.
- The majority of modern smartphones can easily connect to the internet.
Once connected you can share photographs from your phone within seconds, via text message, by attaching them to an email or by posting them to Facebook.
- Over the last few years, the trend has been for bigger smartphones with five- and six-inch screens – sometimes double the size to the two and three inches found on compact camera. These screens often – in the case of high-end smartphones – have a higher resolution as well.
This makes it easier to compose pictures and see fine detail, and ensures the playback experience with family and friends is more pleasant. Of course a smartphone isn’t going to have the same quality as a full frame, DSLR, or any other “real camera.” But at the end of the day, it isn’t image resolution that makes a good photograph. It is the quality of your images, in terms of the emotion, composition, and feeling that you give your viewers.
- You increase your rate of learning as you are constantly taking images and looking. Your camera is always with you to analyse your images, delete and retake.
- You have to focus on capturing good light.
No matter how expensive your camera is, you can’t fake capturing good light. Even if you have excellent Photoshop skills. Light can truly transform an ordinary image into an extraordinary one. Epic light evokes emotion, awe, suspense and drama. Try to focus on shooting sunrise or sunset, or just photographing people next to windows or open doorways.
- Keep post processing consistent.
The style of your images is important. A common mistake I see photographers make is that they have too much variety in their photos by using too many different presets or post-processing techniques. Would we love Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work as much if he shot with 20 different types of film in his lifetime? Probably not, we love the consistency of his low contrast black and white images (focused on good composition). We also still remember and love the consistency (and beauty) of Kodachrome colour film with Alex Webb and Steve McCurry.
That consistency allows us a better understanding of the concept behind those images, and to better appreciate the subtle shifts and differences that do occur between them.
It’s still fine to experiment with different “looks” in your photography. Just try to do it in different projects (like how a film director uses different equipment and film for different movies).
- If you make a memorable photograph, who gives a damn what camera you shot it on? Do you honestly care? Or are you worried that other people care? Do you feel insecure that if people “found out” you shot a photo on a smartphone, it would somehow devalue your photo?
For me, I actually respect photographers more when I see that they shot a certain photo on a smartphone. Why? They were able to make a beautiful image with such basic equipment.