If there is one area of photography that gets mentioned a lot but is often criticised is mobile photography. With the advancement of technology and circuit board sizes, manufacturers can now include amazing abilities in the palm of our hands. Think back to the ’80s and ’90s when digital came on the scene and some people scorned at the thought of it. Now, look where we are, where digital is required to hit deadlines for the constant change of the media.
Yes its easier for us amateurs, we don’t need to follow the trends as much and can make informed decisions easier. However, there is no escaping the ability and power of this little devices. The mobile phone has become a staple piece in our day, we are no longer consumers but slaves to our devices. It’s become so convenient to use this for communication and now it’s coming very close to the power of a standard digital camera.
A few years ago we would take maybe used our phone camera’s for snaps and personal pictures, But with the range of apps available (including those built in) we can perform some of the abilities from a DSLR like long exposure, adjusting ISO, shutter etc.
Not only that but it’s simple to carry out these actions too, as the user experience is improved all the time (swipes, multi figure touch etc).
We can even talk about your workflow, how easy is it now to edit on your phone with mobile versions of those famous editing programs? Even if you use free apps like Snapseed, there are so many standard actions like crop, shadows, colour balance etc.
Now, i’m not suggesting you replace your computer or DSLR and solely use your phone, far from it. I enjoy useful technology more than anything, it doesn’t have to be complicated. As a lover of the printed medium and film cameras, mechanical technology is great for me. However, there are times when digital is really useful, especially for instant feedback.
While out shooting architecture and street on my mirrorless I was able to tether to my mobile using Olympus’s own app. In the example below you will see its easy then to import straight to your mobile, edit and use live view remotely (remote trigger)!
For instance, when I was shooting my architecture work in a few cities I used my mobile. The reason was to record what I could see through my viewfinder, which would provide some EXIF data not available on my film camera. The added reason here is to use apps like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to upload these shots immediately. This allowed me to showcase where I was at a certain time and update those interested in my work.
Another added benefit of mobile photography is the ability to use video too. It’s so easy to shoot a quick recording of what you were doing and upload this immediately to social media too.
Being part of the film and printing world is really fun and it’s really interesting when you can use your phone to embrace this too! I know this sounds a little strange or stupid, but trust me on this. So in the earlier lockdown of 2020, I experimented in the darkroom a lot (you’ve heard me talk a lot about this on my podcast). One example of this using my mobile as both the light and source of the photo! Yes I opened a standard positive image on the phone, turned off screen saver etc and placed this in the enlarger. The image then projects through to your negative paper, albeit it’s quite faint. However, with the right timing you can get unique pictures, so as you can see it created a negative image!
I had never thought about doing this before and loved it, in fact I intend to do a few more. Playing around with this hybrid of digital and analogue helps you understand the photography process and mediums. Using an enlarger forces you to think about how much you have and work out your timing to get a print (just like capturing an image on your camera). So a lot of this work is relevant and about the same thing – its just light! Don’t be afraid of messing around like this.
There are people out there that have shot various genres of photography using thier mobiles – like David Ingraham, Chase Jarvis and many more. In fact Chase put a book together about his iPhone adventures. David’s work is really good too, its work checking out this mono adventure in to street photography.
They are just a few examples, but here is a thought for you, how about a project based on using your mobile? It’s really good to focus on creating something for a purpose rather than just shooting. This happened to me recently, I was just preparing for relaxing on my family break (during 2020 this is a big thing). Some strange thought came to me about loving comics and the next thing I’ve downloaded an app. Within a few hours I playing around with a comic style book app that allowed me to use pictures on my mobile. This got my creative juices flowing and voila i had created something in such a short time.
It may be different for some, but I had hundreds of images on my mobile, cached from Facebook, Instagram etc. I then came up with a story in my head and selected a few promising photos. It wasn’t all plain sailing, after creating text and the page I realised you couldn’t edit it. So there were a few moments of impatience where I had to re-create the comic book page. Some text appeared off the page, so I had to get used to the lack of instructions and limited interface of the app.
The best thing was sending this through to friends and models featured for their approval and thoughts. This went down really well, so within days I had created a total of 3 stories.
Like I say it’s not always plain sailing, after creating these I thought all i have is a collection of small jpegs. Checking the app for upgrades allowed me to export larger jpeg. So my next step was to consider turning this in to some sort of ebook, so I went for the easy option. I downloaded and tried a few different JPEG to PDF.
To be honest in the Android store it’s a total gamble of programs, some are poor, buggy, full of adverts and others are just right. After settling on “JPG to PDF Converter 1.9” I managed to use an easy workflow of creating a folder on my phone and exporting to this. So with a combination of a file manager program (cx file explorer) I was able to move the jpeg files in separate folders to make it easier to create the PDF.s From here you can share like any other program straight to your social media apps etc.
I really enjoyed the process of creating this work, keeping it light hearted but involving the people I care about. You can see links to the comics at the bottom of this article and hope you like them.
As a man who uses technology in his day job, I’m bewildered by poor examples all day long. Despite this passion for technology, it should serve a purpose, it’s just a tool. So when I find good examples I tend to stick with them (I prefer Motorola phones as they are simple and not bloated for instance). After enjoying this comic book app I have even emailed the developers with some positive suggestions (not heard back though).
After communicating with my friends I’m thinking about using the mobile to create another comic book. This time the entire thing should be captured on the phone though. It will allow us to be free flowing and move between locations easily. Since this will mean no additional lighting equipment, triggers or heavy DSLR we will have to think about the light and location carefully. However, I’m always up for a challenge and can’t wait to try this, once this damn COVID goes away!
Remember this is just one example of using your mobile device. I do have another project that involves the mobile but that will wait till another time.
Why not think about using your mobile and come up with an idea. As a member of various Facebook groups, I have seen some wonderful macro and landscape shots. I hope you embrace what’s in front of you and let me know how you get on.
The comic book
So here is the link to the 3 comic books I have created:
Smartphone app links
Application used and featured in this article:
Snapseed image editor – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.niksoftware.snapseed&hl=en_GB&gl=US