A Camera in Every Pocket
Learning smartphone photography can be a wonderful tool for business and art. Smartphones are the camera of choice today for photography. If you’d told me years ago that everyone would have a camera in their pocket at all times, there would have been no way for me to imagine it. Photography is the art form of the planet; everyone takes pictures. 61% of the world, that is 4.78 billion people, have a mobile phone today on planet Earth. With the advent of a computer in every pocket, people are more likely to go to your website via their phone than a desktop. Social media is the public square. If you want to know where everyone is, well they are on Facebook. If you want to connect with folks, whether it’s for work or for play, it’s social media where you’ll find them. And it’s photography that’s become a primary medium of communication in this new digital landscape.
So learning the visual language of photography has become very important in today’s world. Being able to generate lot’s of great shots has a real value to any business owner, nonprofit, or social cause. Just as in writing, the skill of communicating with visuals can be learned.
Quality: Good Enough, Even Excellent
Phone cameras are rapidly improving. I have seen several online comparisons of the latest and greatest phone photos compared side-by-side to professional shots. I saw little to no meaningful difference. The quality has arrived and it’s good enough for most of us for most uses, whether personal or business. Beautiful portraits, product shots, even weddings! I wouldn’t suggest shooting a wedding with a phone, but I’ve seen it done and it worked! Learning just a few principles about how a smartphone works can lift your photography acumen. The learning curve may be smaller than you think.
I do not use my phone to shoot professional jobs. I have a real camera for that and it affords me all sorts of possibilities and quality I demand. But I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I’m particular, and so are my clients. I do think the average person can take fabulous photos for professional, social media use and get the quality they need for the message they want. Check out DXOMark.com for phone camera reviews and DPreview.com for comparisons and how-to articles.
These days, in my opinion, if you are shooting outside, then the phone is a reasonable option as a camera. Inside as well, but that’s a trickier situation. Having the best tool for a job can make a difference, but do you need the best?
Should I Use a Smartphone Camera?
Why should you use a smartphone camera?
-It is good enough, as many people feel the quality is sufficient for most needs.
-Convenience. It is small, portable, and always on you.
-Fast. It is easy to grab and set up to start shooting.
-Cost. You already own it, and who has the budget to hire a photographer?
-Learning curve. You may already be off and running, if not you can be very soon. Learning how your smartphone works are easy and quick.
-We need photos these days. All businesses are now using social media and there is a bottomless need for images.
-The files made by most phones are big enough to blow up to 16×20 and larger. Use a professional lab!
Why should you not use a smartphone camera?
-Not the best at low light photography; may be difficult to get quality images of an indoor event.
-May not be able to freeze action effectively.
-Has a terrible flash!
-Not great for sports; harder to track action and zoom.
-Not the best quality image; professional cameras are far superior!
-A high-end professional camera can end up costing the same as a phone.
It’s So Easy, or is it?
How the camera on a phone works is not rocket science. A lot of the charm of using a phone is how simple it is. There are not a lot of options and controls, and for most of us, that’s a good thing. So technically speaking, there’s not much to learn with smartphone photography. With an iPhone, and most phones, you tap your subject on the screen and the phone adjusts the color and exposure at that spot. You can drag your finger up to lighten and down to darken. Now you have a few seconds to hit the button: done. But wait, my picture isn’t any good! What did I do wrong? It’s so simple, yet not so simple.
But the phone is just a mindless tool. It’s the photographer’s vision that makes the wonderful image and not the phone. Photography is a visual language that is as relevant to smartphone photography as it is to other cameras. We are capturing the light reflecting off of surfaces that have color and textures and shapes and light and shadow. Above all, learning how to see, arrange, create, design, and light is at the heart of the visual language of photography.