On social networks, forums and other web sources I often read denigrating or sarcastic comments about certain photos saying things like: “it looks like it was taken with a mobile phone” or “I could reproduce this one just by using my iPhone”.
Comments like these ones comes from the misconception that photographs quality depends on the photographic tool, always emphasizing technic matters and explanations and forgetting the fact that a photograph is mainly a message.
Why do you think people like to use their smartphones to take their everyday photos? The answer is obvious: it’s because they always have it with them or, rather, they always have it in their hands!!
What many of them don’t do, or just don’t know they can do it, is raising the quality of their photos by simply starting to consider their smartphone as a complete photographic tool instead of just seeing it as a tool to take mere visual memos.
What are the limits of this technology? Actually, it doesn’t have any, apart from the impossibility to control the depth of field, which actually only limits the range of compositional solutions and only in some photo genres (also, there are some software solutions that can help to simulate, more or less, this effect).
If the shots taken with our smartphones, the ones taken with no much thinking, often come out a little bad or have a low quality, the fault lies with our laziness and lack of interest in taking the correct measures before pushing the button (or tapping the display). Indeed, we tend to consider the image produced with a mobile device as a throwaway image and, consequently, we don’t give to it the particular attention we give to the photos we take with that beautiful and eye-catching “professional” camera that make us feel like we are real photographers.
However, have we ever carefully used our smartphone camera? I’m not talking about the latest released technology or device costing 1,000 euros. Devices costing around 180 euros can also offer a good performance, if used with awareness and the support of the right software.
Montecchio Emilia, 2017
The great charm of the Mobile Photography lies in the fact that we can have the camera, the camera obscura and the tool to publish the final product in just one device: all-in-one.
Even though the shooting options are not always very advanced, they can be upgraded with the help of a great variety of apps (free or chargeable) that can almost limitlessly widen our creative possibilities.
Selfportrait - Parma 2017
For example, in the Street Photography the smartphone, in addition to a good photographic sense (that’s something essential and it’s never included in any monthly plan for your phone or any offer coming with your 10,000 euros worth camera), is a really interesting tool.
Since in this genre the skill of being able to place the subjects in the scene is the basic requirement, the possibility to conveniently frame the subject and the scene with a big screen without being noticed (how many people do we see doing that every day?) is a real blessing.
A smartphone can do what every street photographer does intentionally every time he/she takes a photo, because of the limits of its optical system/sensor’s design and technology: smartphones use hyperfocal, which is a combination of focal, diaphragm and manual focus allowing the photographer to get sharpness in the whole field. For this reason, we can shoot without worrying too much about what subject will be in focus and what subject will not, because the scene will always be well-defined at every level.
Autodromo Varano, 2017
So, what else is to be considered? Everything. The choice of the moment, the choice of the frame, the choice of the light, the choice of the subject... everything you need to take a good photo.
A mobile device is not really different from any other device. It’s actually the user who should understand that he/she has a complete photographic tool in his/her hands and has to use it with more awareness.
As in every product category, of course some products are better than others. If we consider this point of view (which is the leading element in choosing a model or another in the mobile device market too), it looks strange to see how people can’t fully use their device functions, even people who spend lots of money to buy the latest products, especially considering how much they spend for something that costs just as a small photographic set for amateurs.
This first post about the Mobile Photography is just an introduction. In the next week I’ll give more details about this phenomenon and introduce options, authors and useful apps to take good photos with our everyday companion.
The photos included in this article have been taken with a Nexus5x and post-produced with Snapseed.