Cellphone photography – my thoughts and personal experience

Updated on July 8, 2020 in Photography
15 on July 13, 2017

Recently, Eric Kim has shared a post about shooting street photography with a cellphone. As a daily shooter and iPhoneographer since one month, I would like to share my experience and tips about that (emphasis on MY experience, this is very personal and maybe it will not work on you, have it in mind!)

1 – USE A CASE WITH A BATTERY INCORPORATED – I personally use a Mophie one with good results. I dislike power banks, they are clumsy and they add weight/problems in the time you need to draw your phone like a gun in Wild West. One more thing: I don’t know how it works IPhone 6 and beyond, but previous iPhones the batteries got broken after using these batteries all day connected, so, DISTRUSTS when a company says that batteries don’t suffer if they are wired all day, I broke THREE internal batteries like that and my Mophie external one starts to act funny. Just turn on when you have 20% or less and only in emergencies.

2 – I USE THE DEFAULT CAMERA APP – yes, the crappy one. It’s more versatile than meets the eye. You can control the shutter speed easily (drag down your finger across the screen and you will see the image darkens, this is the shutter speed adjusting). Also, it doesn’t eat system reaources (so it will consume less battery), it’s perfectly synced with all the apps of Apple, you have GPS in case you need, in new iPhones you have AUTO HDR, and I think that even RAW files (didn’t have the chance to test them. Any recommendations?). One more thing: you can lock the iPhone for saving batteries/device life, and when need to fast draw it to shoot you can access this app from the lock screen really fast and don’t lose time. With other apps you cannot do that. Also, need sharp and in focus pictures but fast shooting? Lock the AF with press and holding the screen in one point at a desired distance and you have the Ricoh GR “snap mode”. And adjust the brightness/shutter speed dragging your finger throught the screen. Quite fancy huh?

3 – DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THE EFFECTS – they consume more resources and battery life, because it will go live in your screen, and if you import the photos in another app that it’s not the Apple Photos itself (Lightroom, Image Capture, Aperture…) the effects and editing options will disappear, just like if you shoot in raw with a standard camera with effects and import them (Fujifilm X Series anyone?) Just shoot and edit in VSCO or your favourite app/computer software later.

4 – TURN ON THE SILENT MODE – in case you take very candid and discreet photos like me, a la Bresson mode, you don’t want your candid subjects to become aware of you taking pictures really close with a cellphone. In some places this can lead to problems because with a cellphone they can think that you are spying them (here in Barcelona people are quite strange sometimes, and if you go to Morocco be very careful! They can even beat you the shit out if they find you taking a picture of somebody and you are alone in your own, they are very restrictive). Of course, if you do like Mr. Kim, ignore this point.

5 – USE THE VOLUME BUTTONS – they are here for something, in iPhone they are for shooting in “snap mode”, so you can shoot with the minimum shutter lag and AF lag possible. Have in mind that this is optimum only to shoot like the “Japanese Provoke school”, this is, high contrast and somewhat blurry photos, but you can lock the AF pressing in one point of the screen (see point 2).

6 – IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, USE TWO IPHONES – I have two iPhone 4s that I acquired for a bargain. One for communications and the other as a camera/iPod with plane mode on (with no SIM card). In case one fails/gets stolen or broken, you have the other.

7 – NOT MANDATORY BUT RECCOMENDED: LEARN TO REPAIR YOUR IPHONE – if you have an old iPhone and Apple refuses to repair it or it’s too expensive, go to ifixit.com or look for spare parts and tools on eBay and learn to repair it by yourself. The DIY philosophy can save you a lot of money and you will feel more free from consumerism. For example, I know how to disassemble my 4s and change the batteries.

Of course, this is really something personal, and some tips I don’t use myself, for example the AF lock, because I like surreal and blurry photos, but for people that wants sharp in-focus pictures this is the way. And of course, you can use other apps for camera that will fit your needs (I have the Instant App and Camera+ for some works and turnarounds). Use whatever you prefer.

Comments, suggestions, another points of view, anyone? Hope it will help “cellphonographers” here!

Here some examples created with that workflow:

 
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4 on July 13, 2017

I’ve been taking pictures with my smartphones (both iphones and android) for years and so much to literally abandon my reflex,  #truestory. 
I currently shoot with a Huawei P10 and I loooooove the device. Some time ago I was testing a Samsung Galaxy S8 and it works as well (but personally I find its native photocamera app less complete and customizable). Tried also iPhone7 but so far Huawei (and its dual camera of course) is my fave by far.
I have no problems in using an anker and it provides power for my smartphoto raids in town, all day long.
I do carry a selfie stick in my backpack but reach out for it very seldom (though it could be useful in some peculiar situations, i.e. when shooting outdoor events/crowd or just to get some different unsual angle).
Smartphone allows me to shoot on the metro (where the rules clearly forbid any kind of shooting/filming without authorization). It’s less noticeable, 
Actually I joined this community to learn and fall in love with my reflex, but my beloved smartphone is always with me, ready to take pictures. 

on July 13, 2017

Sorry about multiple postings. No feedback on iPad when tapping the Reply post button…

on July 13, 2017

😀 repetita iuvant! 

on July 13, 2017

In what country do you live that its prohibited to shoot on subway? Here in Barcelona I have an extensive body of work there and never have a problem…of course I never shoot with officers near just in case but I haven’t seen anyone prohibiting that…

on July 13, 2017

I live in Milan. The regulations speak clear: no filming or shooting in stations (platforms/wagons…) unless previously authorized. I have a couple of very close friends working for the transportation company and they confrimed (sigh). https://www.atm.it/SiteCollectionDocuments/norme%20di%20comportamento%20metro.pdf (clause no. 18, in Italian). 
Fortunately I was never caught or scolded for taking pictures and I try to be as “invisible” as possible (hence the smartphone, which helps in keeping a low profile, rather than a bigger reflex camera). 
I might just fake and say “Ooops sorry I did not know” and promise to be a good girl. But inside of me I am aware that what I am doing is breaking the rules (which can be fun, I confess!).

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1 on July 13, 2017

There’s a balance I embrace between the native iPhone camera app and 3rd-party camera apps. I can get a 12-second exposure with Camera+ and Lightroom integration with Lr Mobile. The native app offers spontaneity and speed and Apple’s color aesthetic. I usually have three camera apps open and switch between them when a situation calls out for the strength of one app over another. I’m not a professional spending long, intense time shooting; battery life is usually not a factor but for others I see how it’s a big deal. Editing a picture on my phone or Bluetooth-connected tablet enables one thing: fun! I love getting immersed in the light, shadow and colors and messing with them.

on July 13, 2017

My editing is shrinked to the minimum. I’d say, for me, a couple of instagram filters are usually more than enough, otherwise I just crop and get gone. Mine it’s really a very quick editing process. Maybe that’s a good hint for spending more time on editing and learn how to use some extra tools (software), I’ll work on it.
This is a recent pic I edited more intensely (and still I am not convinced of the color splash… it always reminds me hallmark’s greeting cards and vapid FB status)

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0 on July 13, 2017

There’s a balance I embrace between the native iPhone camera app and 3rd-party camera apps. I can get a 12-second exposure with Camera+ and Lightroom integration with Lr Mobile. The native app offers spontaneity and speed and Apple’s color aesthetic. I usually have three camera apps open and switch between them when a situation calls out for the strength of one app over another. I’m not a professional spending long, intense time shooting; battery life is usually not a factor but for others I see how it’s a big deal. Editing a picture on my phone or Bluetooth-connected tablet enables one thing: fun! I love getting immersed in the light, shadow and colors and messing with them.

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0 on July 13, 2017

There’s a balance I embrace between the native iPhone camera app and 3rd-party camera apps. I can get a 12-second exposure with Camera+ and Lightroom integration with Lr Mobile. The native app offers spontaneity and speed and Apple’s color aesthetic. I usually have three camera apps open and switch between them when a situation calls out for the strength of one app over another. I’m not a professional spending long, intense time shooting; battery life is usually not a factor but for others I see how it’s a big deal. Editing a picture on my phone or Bluetooth-connected tablet enables one thing: fun! I love getting immersed in the light, shadow and colors and messing with them.

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0 on July 13, 2017

In my case, speed and longevity matters. I’m all day out of home and I go from home to work, from work to my GF home, an again to work. I usually import the best photos after a purge to VSCO and then edit lightning fast with a BW preset that gives me contrast to subjects and background and then I blow out the contrast/exposure with some cropping. This is done usually in less than 30 sec. each photo. I see that this is like the food tastes, there is a lot of them.

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1 on July 15, 2017

Very good insights and tips. Keep these threads going! Love the gritty black and white feel, and the no bullshit advice! – ERIC KIM

on July 15, 2017

Glad you like it! I was also planning something similar for some type of cameras like with the Hasselblad or Leica M digital, which I have and love too. Hope this can help newbies and not so newbies.

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0 on October 27, 2019

Thank you so much for this. I was into this issue and tired to tinker around to check if its possible but couldnt get it done. Now that i have seen the way you did it, thanks guys
with
regards

https://kodi.software/download/ https://tracktrace.one/usps/ 

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0 on April 23, 2020

Very good article. Articles like these boost up the morale of common people to see and learn something new about uk essays review to find out quality work. Those people who can not buy expensive cameras can learn photography on mobile phones from these above said rules.

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0 on July 8, 2020

Would you ever, let me down?
If I climbed the highest mountain just to hold you tight
If I said that I would love you every day  happy wheels
   super smash flash 2

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