by Alex W.
Photography has turned into somewhat of a digital arms race in recent years, with camera manufacturers constantly upping their game and releasing some landmark piece of kit.
But the humble smartphone is by far the most used camera in the world right now, and it's not just tourists and selfie-queens that can take advantage of them.
Now, you might have spent thousands on a top of the range DSLR camera, and splashed out some more money on professional lenses to accompany your 36 megapixel+ beast. I'll forgive you for thinking I'm insane to be recommending the use of a smartphone camera more, but bear with me, there are plenty of compelling reasons.
There's an age old saying in the photography world, and it's one that rings true to this day:
"The best camera is the one you have with you."
The majority of us carry a smartphone around with us all day every day, and while we've been building up a selection of expensive lenses the phone manufacturers have been quietly improving their cameras.
The fact is that most of us have a smartphone with us far more often than we have a DSLR, and it would be foolish and elitist to not take advantage of this. If you're still not convinced, here are some other reasons to take up smartphone photography, or phoneography as I like to call it:
We've covered why to use your smartphone more, but choosing the right one for you can be a rabbit hole that can eat up days of your life. Of course you want an actual device that will work well with your lifestyle as well, but providing all that is covered here is what you should be looking for when purchasing a new smartphone:
There's one mistake I see over and over again with smartphone photography, and it's quickly killing all the potential that your smartphone offers - People get lazy when using a smartphone.
We can take a photograph whenever and wherever we want, going from thought to capture inside ten seconds and requiring absolutely no planning beforehand. After capture we have effectively unlimited cloud storage so are never limited on how many photographs we can save.
Yet this doesn't lead to improved images, it actually decreases the quality of what you capture. The same thing happened when digital cameras were introduced as well. The fact that you weren't limited to a roll of film or a few large format slides turned people into photograph snapping maniacs, who subsequently spent the next month of their life deleting all the pointless shots they took on their shiny new DSLR.
This is a stage all beginner photographers go through, before they eventually slow down and start taking fewer photos but of vastly superior quality. Unfortunately, not many get past that stage with smartphones. They are just so convenient and almost toy-like that even many photographers don't take them seriously. That leads me to my one and only tip for smartphone photography:
When taking a photo with your smartphone, approach it in exactly the same way as if you were using your big, expensive DSLR. Rather than just snapping away mindlessly actually think about your composition, what you want to achieve with this photograph, the available light, and whether it is a moment worth capturing in the first place.
Of course, there are some limitations that smartphones place upon us. For example, the lack of interchangeable lenses means that optical zooming is either limited or non-existent. The way around this? Zoom with your feet - Simply move closer to what you're photographing rather than relying on the digital zoom. Many photographers actually place this limitation on themselves to enhance their creativity, using prime lenses to eliminate optical zooming. So rather than treating it as a disadvantage think of it as a lesson in creativity.
That's all there is to it. Don't get lazy, shoot RAW whenever possible, and approach your smartphone photography with the same dedication as you do with a DSLR in your hands. People are creating beautiful photo books with smartphone images, and there's no reason why you shouldn't either!
When shooting in RAW it's important to follow that commitment up by editing your photographs afterwards, and you may be surprised to know that there are some really high end editing apps available on smartphones now.
I'm not talking about your Instagram filters, but professional grade software from some huge names. Couple that with beautifully designed high resolution displays and you can often take an image from inception to completion all in the palm of your hand.
Of course, if you want to take on some more advanced post processing it's quick and easy to transfer the images onto your computer. For the times that you want to keep it simple, here are my two favourite apps for post processing:
Adobe Lightroom Mobile - For those of you who are Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers (I highly recommend it) you may be surprised to find out that they offer Lightroom Mobile for free, and that it is much more powerful than you would expect.
Lightroom Mobile is basically a very slightly toned down version of Adobe Lightroom Classic (which we have a beginner's guide for here), and it's often more than enough to get the job done. However, if you want access to the full range of Adobe software it's ridiculously easy to synchronise your mobile photos with your PC.
Snapseed - If Lightroom isn't doing it for you, the chances are that Snapseed will. This is a free app available for both Android and iOS that offers aspiring photographers a plethora of useful editing tools. Think of it as a cross between Lightroom and Instagram, with the exposure controls from Lightroom available alongside an array of beautifully designed and customisable filters.
Now you've learned the basics it's time to stop ignoring the camera in your pocket and start taking full advantage of it's convenience!
Far too many photographers these days get bound down in the gear wars, all the while ignoring the potential of the humble smartphone camera. Remember…
"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."Ansel Adams
There are those who say that smartphone photography can never be considered true photography, but to them I say why not?
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.