Not all photographers have a DSLR camera. Some still use traditional cameras, while others are opting for mirrorless. However, every photographer needs a camera that allows you to manage settings such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, right? Perhaps not. Recently we’ve come across a new wave of photographers—the Smartphone Photographer.
Is mobile photography a real thing? Yes. Smartphones, especially new updated versions such as the iPhone 11 Pro, have cameras with professional features. Since you can pair these cameras with good lighting to create a good quality image, this is counted as photography.
We’ll be showing those haters how you can be a photographer, while only using a smartphone and some creativity.
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Where Is Mobile Photography Being Used?
We don’t see professional photographers at shoots such as weddings, concerts, and corporate events using smartphones for their shoots, and we won’t – at least for many years. If a professional photographer in this type of industry were to do this, his peers would be sniggering into their viewfinders.
The rise of smartphone photographers is mainly social media based. Since the invention of Instagram in 2010, people have been sharing photos of their lives – mainly their meals and cats. However, thinking back to the old days of grainy Valencia filtered Instagram selfies taken in a bathroom mirror, photography on social media has come an extremely long way.
We are now in the era of the Social Media Influencer.
A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.
In other words, a Social Media Influencer has mastered the art of taking such aesthetically pleasing images, that thousands or even millions of people will scroll over and press that little heart underneath. A lot of social media influencers start with no knowledge of a camera and begin on that smartphone device that is ceaselessly glued to their hands.
Most mobile phone photographers start here. Whether they take photos of people, landscapes, themselves, streets, nature, they mostly all have one thing in common–using their phones to shoot. When you think of someone doing photography on their phone, you assume that the photos will be average. However, there are some amazing smartphone photographers out there who have completely mastered the skill of shooting, without all the features usually considered in a shoot.
And if they can do it – so can you! If you’ve been absolutely dying to get out there and snap some shots, but you haven’t got the professional equipment for it, all you really need is your thinking cap and your phone.
Some of the best mobile photographers include Charles Reed, who focuses on street photography, Inger van Dyke, who has managed to create stunning portrait photos, and Martin Linder, whose skills in composition will blow your mind. Check you this article for some of their images The Best Instagram Photographers Using Their Smartphone: 10 Top Picks.
In a way, becoming a photographer initially by just using your phone camera gives you more of a challenge. You don’t have everything you should generally need, according to professional photography standards, so you have to think outside the box in order to get the perfect shot.
Maybe DSLR photographers should take a leaf out of the smartphone photographer’s book, mix it up a bit and give themselves a challenge.
After all, it’s not just the knowledge of cameras that counts— creativity matters also. Those who hold the ability to look at their surroundings artistically and create something beautiful that other people may not be able to see are the true artists.
Tips on Mastering Smartphone Photography
The basics of becoming a smartphone photographer are easy:
- Acquire a mobile phone with a great camera
- Search for inspiration
- Give it a go!
However, if you’re looking into trying out a higher level of photography, either as a hobby, for the sake of social media, or even for business reasons, you may need a few extra bits.
The single most important thing a photographer needs is good lighting. Quite often, you can take full advantage of the outdoors and the natural lighting to snap a great shot. Golden hour is the perfect time to capture that gorgeous glowing vibe and translate it into art – generally, golden hour refers to the hour right after sunrise, or the hour right before sunset as the sun is at a low point in the sky. However, the golden hour is not at a set time as it depends on what time of year it is, or how the weather is acting that day.
If you want to know more about using the sunlight to your advantage and shooting during golden hour, give this video by Photographer Manny Ortiz a watch: Take Better GOLDEN HOUR Portraits | Natural Light Photography Tutorial
Quite often, natural light won’t always be enough, and you may need to purchase some extra equipment, such as softboxes, or off-camera flashes. We always recommend using off-camera flashes, instead of on-camera flashes. This is because flashes that sit on top of your camera and flash directly in front of the subject can be harsh, hard to control, and can result in flat and overexposed images.
Softboxes can be used to brighten up the area you’re shooting in, both indoors and outdoors. The same goes for off-camera flashes – don’t assume that just because you are outdoors with natural lighting, that you won’t need extra light in certain areas. Off-camera flashes are great for setting up both front and behind your subject to brighten up these areas, and to add depth to an image.
You can purchase off-camera flashes, specifically designed for smartphones. Here is how they work: Godox A1: An Off-Camera Flash System For Smartphones
We’ve also found this super descriptive video on how to use off-camera flashes in an outdoor environment on a bright day, to get the best out of your shoot. Check it out:
Other things you may need when trying out your hand at being a smartphone photographer, are:
- A reflector – These are great tools to reflect the sun or the light from your flash into different directions. You can bounce light from the sun, or from an off-camera flash or softbox, and create even more light around your subject.
- Editing software – You can get editing software for free on your mobile device. The best tools for post-production are Photoshop and Lightroom CC. The smartphone versions of these don’t have the same number of features as the PC or Mac versions. However, just because you’re using your phone to take photos, nothing is stopping you from using another device to edit.
You can sign up to the creative cloud and purchase a package deal of Photoshop and Lightroom CC for $9.99 a month. There is also the option to try out a free trial version for 30 days. Give it a try here: Lightroom and Photoshop | Adobe Creative Cloud
Phone Accessories to Boost Your Mobile Photography
There are some great add-ons that you can purchase in order to get the most out of your smartphone shots. There has been a recent surge in smartphone lenses, as smartphone photographers search for ulterior ways to capture professional-looking shots.
Brands such as Sony and DxO have created some pretty great quality lenses that you can attach to your mobile device, in order to expand your phone camera’s reach and abilities. This is great news for aspiring smartphone photographers. However, it does mean spending a little extra money–some of these higher brand lenses aren’t cheap.
The Sony QX10 10x zoom lens comes in at around $500, which is more than even some DSLR Sony and Canon lenses! However, if you are looking at this as a profession, most photographers know that equipment is expensive but necessary. If you don’t invest in yourself and your business, you won’t see the growth you’re looking for. So whether you’re planning on capturing some stunning headshots, expanding your knowledge as a hobby, or just brushing up on that Instagram aesthetic, it’s best to weigh up the pros and cons of whether spending hundreds of dollars now will benefit you in the future.
There are some great cheaper alternatives to these fancy high brand lenses if you still want to give it a go at a fraction of the price. You won’t get the same quality, but you will have something a little extra creativity-wise to work with when shooting using your phone. Check out these extra options: Best iPhone lenses 2020: transform your smartphone photos
Some smartphones are now even capable of shooting in RAW as well as JPEG formats, which does give you a lot more control over your images in post-production. RAW format is a setting in cameras that saves all the image data completely uncompressed, which means that the resulting quality is much higher than JPEG files. RAW captures so much more color and allows for increased tones and highlights.
When playing with the images on professional editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop, a RAW file allows for many more possibilities. You can bring back the detail lost in overexposed or underexposed images, and there are many more colors and tones to work with.
On a smartphone, the use of RAW settings is a great feature, as it allows you to be able to take good quality images which will look great on websites and in small prints. However, if you want to print anything in a larger size than 10×8, you may struggle to keep hold of the quality.
Smartphones are getting better and better as they are continuously coming out with editing apps. It is becoming more and more apparent in recent years that you may not even have to upload your images to your PC or Mac anymore in order to edit them effectively.
Many professional editing tools have now become available for both IOS and android devices, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, which allow us to edit from our phone screens. Although these don’t have nearly the same number of features as the PC and Mac versions, they are growing in abilities and features.
If you want to give mobile editing a try check out this article, for the best smartphone editing apps in 2020: The 9 Best Photo Editing Apps For iPhone (2020 Edition)
Smartphone Cameras vs. DSLRs
We’re going to say it, from all the information and all the constant camera upgrades smartphone designers are producing, DSLR cameras could be a threat at some point in the distant future–but we don’t believe it will be any time soon.
Smartphone companies are constantly at each other’s necks, fighting to bring out the newest and best camera software, as the age of the “Social Media Influencer” falls upon us. Instagram has brought a whole new wave of photographers to the scene, some mediocre, but some amazing – and with the rise of the “Wanderluster,” things are only going to carry on escalating at a rapid pace.
Could your smartphone soon be the only camera a photographer needs? DSLRs will always have superior technology to smartphones, due to the large range of features such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed that you are able to control and play around with. DSLR cameras give you so many possibilities and allow you to really zone into your creative space. They give so much versatility in a range of different environments, such as low light, constantly changing light and surroundings, fast-moving subjects, and more. ISO and aperture allow you to adjust the settings based on your surroundings and give you full artistic control.
Smartphones, on the other hand, are limited in this department. If your lighting is not decent, it can be difficult to snap the shot you’re picturing in your mind’s eye, even when using the night mode settings.
Smartphones are small and can only do so much—it is difficult to cram so much technology into such a tiny device, while still allowing it to hold its many other “smart” phone capabilities. If you’re looking to capture that amazing photo in a dimly lit room with no external lighting, we wish you luck. You are always going to get a better result with a DSLR as they are designed with these features in mind, and you can adjust the settings to your exact preferences.
Another thing that limits smartphone cameras is the lack of lenses. Yes, the iPhone 11 Pro has three lenses, which is the most innovative built-in camera technology that the world has seen to date. However, nothing will beat having the ability to purchase limitless amounts of lenses for your DSLR camera for endless possibilities. If you were just planning on purchasing an iPhone 11 Pro on its own, with nothing else, and becoming the world’s most prestigious photographer–then you might want to take a step back. The iPhone gives us fantastic wide, zoom, and great resolution.
However, that’s just about it. If you wanted to zoom further, you can’t, and if you wanted a wider shot, that’s another nope.
Some Smartphone Recommendations
Our very first, go-to example when discussing the fast-improving features of smartphones, is the recent video that was released for the song ‘Lose You to Love me’ by Selena Gomez. I remember seeing a news article stating the entire video was filmed using only great lighting, and Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro. We watched the video, saw the quality and immediately thought – no way. However, after doing a bit of research into the iPhone Pro, it is 100% doable, and amazing to think that mobile phones have come this far!
Although it is very clear from watching the video that professional lighting equipment was used, and including the fact that it was shot by award-winning film director Sophie Miller (who previously shot videos for other famous artists such as Blur and Annie Lenox) – it was still possible, from this tiny Apple device. And the results look stunning – take a look for yourself:
What Are the Latest Features of Smartphone Cameras?
Long gone are the days of playing snake from dusk to dawn, or accidentally hitting the internet button and losing $5 to the worldwide web. The iPhone 11 Pro can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, and the image quality when photographing is its best yet. If you were wondering why the phone has three circles on the back, rather than one, the triple camera on the back of the phone includes the following:
- 12-megapixel “wide” camera
- 12-megapixel 2x telephoto camera
- 12-megapixel “ultra-wide” camera
The size of the aperture is extremely important when using the camera for both photo and video, as the lower the aperture is, the better the camera can handle low light conditions. The iPhone 11 Pro has such a low starting aperture compared to previous iPhone models and other smartphone models, giving it a high advantage over other phones when shooting at night or in dimly lit areas. The lower the aperture can go, the higher the quality your image will be in these situations. When lenses can take in more light, the images will be brighter.
The triple-lens camera really doesn’t let us down:
“If you’ve got an iPhone with a single rear camera, you might be thinking the iPhone 11 Pro’s triple-camera system is a little overkill. But I think once you use it and see how all three cameras work as one, giving you a zoom range from 13mm (ultra-wide) to 26mm (wide) to 52mm (2x telephoto), you won’t be able to go back to a single lens.”
We completely agree, after seeing a bunch of photos taken from an iPhone 11 Pro, compared to ones taken by older models, we can see how modern photographers have adapted to not even needing to purchase a DSLR for their shoots. However, this comes within reason. We could never imagine a couple looking for a wedding photographer choosing a guy with an iPhone over a guy with a backpack full of top of the range camera equipment. However, the future of tech is evolving, and who knows – things might change!
The iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max also boast fingerprint resistance, anti-smudge glass on the lenses of the camera (we’re hoping this is on the front screen too, as those things get extremely grubby!). The battery life has been increased greatly from previous models, and it comes with a fast charger – so you’re not waiting around watching the clock while your phone is connected to the wall.
Take a look at this review by The Verge, for some visual examples of how the iPhone 11 Pro camera works in person: iPhone 11 Pro Review – The BEST Camera on a Phone
iPhone is not the Only Way to Go
Although the iPhone 11 Pro has recently been branded by many with the title of the “Best iPhone Camera,” due to its new night mode updates, versatile triple camera, and amazingly clear screen resolution, there are many phones competing with Apple’s most modern smartphone technology. A lot of companies are coming out with some amazing camera technology, Xiaomi and Huawei, with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and the Huawei P30 Pro are also high contenders. As well as Google Pixel 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 plus
The Huawei P30 Pro is well known for its superzoom qualities. It is fantastic for those looking into landscape shots, nature, and wildlife photography because its camera allows you to zoom from great distances, without sacrificing the quality of the image. This is due to the fantastic ‘periscope’ telephoto lens that has been built in, giving the camera a great range.
If you’re sneaking up on that lion, but don’t want to get to close and risk losing a limb – the Xiaomi Mi is the one for you. It also includes an amazingly versatile quad-camera that could give the iPhone 11 Pro a run for its money in low light conditions when using auto-mode – although night mode is lacking.
Although the iPhone p 11 Pro has been labeled all-round best camera due to its wide range of features and versatile upgrades, according to Tech Radar, the Xiaomi Mi Note has been given the title of “The Highest Resolution Camera Phone in the World.” Its main camera, when in action, has allowed people to capture images with amazing levels of detail, surpassing the iPhone technology.
Check out this fantastic article by Medium, for some more information on which smartphones are best for mobile photography: The Battle of the Phone Camera
We also found this Mashable article useful, as it includes a boatload of comparison photos from multiple different smartphone cameras. Pretty neat stuff! If you want to find out the best camera phone for your project or within your budget – check it out: iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max: The ultimate camera – You may never need a “real” camera again.
In hindsight, it doesn’t matter that DSLRs are currently still superior to smartphone cameras. This is because there are still benefits to using mobile technology to capture your photos. Smartphones are quickly gaining the same features that DSLRs use, such as the ability to shoot in RAW, the software for post-production, and even the lenses and high resolution. They are much cheaper, a lot more portable, easier to use, and everything is compact on your device – there is no need to purchase as many add-ons and equipment, and you can do everything from the one screen.
Due to these reasons, the amount of smartphone photographers is growing by the day, as fewer people are choosing DSLRs over the device they carry around in their pockets 24/7.
Smartphone photographers are increasing by the day. A lot of people will fancy themself as a photographer, and many do give it a go but throw in the towel after a few weeks. We’ve witnessed multiple friends and acquaintances set up ‘Photography’ Instagrams, only to post six pictures and then leave it abandoned and lost in the void of social media for all eternity.
However, there are the few that make it – props to them for sticking at it! Mobile photography is a real thing, and it’s becoming more and more popular by the minute, with the constant development of new technologies. Who knows, 100 years down the line, DSLRs could be a thing of the past, and smartphone photography could become the new norm. Even big-time professional directors who have spent their lives shooting with DSLRs are climbing out of the woodwork to prove that shooting on a phone is something that can be done.
There is so much technology and software out there currently that we can do so much and reach so many people from the palm of our hand – what an amazing thought.