Why Smartphones Are Stunning As Cameras

Dateline: Colorado…with iPhone in Hand

Prior to being a freelance photographer and having two staff photographer positions, I had six internships as a photojournalist—I love internships, especially photography ones, they deliver experiences like none other. The stories told and moments witnessed—from jubilation to heart-wrenching—allowed me to meet amazing individuals from all walks of life and share their stories, all while being creative.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: iPhone 7

From school to professions, I’ve photographed a lot and will until I’m no longer; it’s who I am. Ever since I’ve been in the game, I’ve used a variety of tools. Film, digital…it’s all good. It doesn’t matter. Every time I’m about to embark on some type of adventure, I’m thinking about which camera I’ll take…so ridiculous. The annual Colorado family rendezvous was approaching and of course, starting a week beforehand, I was contemplating which camera I’d bring to document my epic travels. I don’t even remember what I decided upon, but what I do know is that my convenient smartphone was always in my pocket, ready to deliver.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado
Camera: iPhone 7

I’m here to tell you that the camera phone is a strong and extraordinary photographic tool. In the following text, you’ll see some photos I made with my iPhone. Mostly are from Colorado and a couple were taken elsewhere.

Lose the Gear Envy

Ads for cameras are everywhere and they are constantly vying for our attention. After reading them, you’re wondering how you ever took a picture before with anything else. New cameras are nice, but they can be expensive and they depreciate quickly. A smartphone is something that almost everyone has and if you have one, embrace it for it’s photographic powers.

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”

~Ansel Adams

Immediate benefits of the mighty phone as a camera are:

  • Portability
  • Quality (even in old smartphones)
  • Speed
  • Unobtrusiveness (perfect for street photography)

Portability

Phones are small and slim and therefore portable. it’s ridiculous how easy it is to have a smartphone with you these days. One of the best ways to improve as a photographer is to make lots of pictures and document what’s around you, constantly. Having a smartphone with you makes this so easy it’s silly. If you think that a smartphone photo won’t be good enough…stop! It’s going to be great. Once you get into the habit of making more images, you’ll have a wonderful body of work before you know, and then you’ll have a chance to work on your editing skills also. The best camera is the one you have with you so carry your smartphone, at the very least.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado
Camera: iPhone 7

Quality

When I’m not making images or writing, I’m working at a fine art print shop in my humble and beautiful hometown. Fine art is a term that gets used a lot—too much—these days. The reason why I use it with the print shop I’m at is because it actually is fine art. We strive for high quality with everything we do. This isn’t an ad for the store though. The art that comes in is most often original art—a large oil painting or even a small watercolor piece. Sometimes, we have someone step in who would just like a photo they took with their phone.

The printing of photos is what everyone should be doing. Too often, images are relegated to a life on a hard drive or on their phone. When you print an image it becomes a tangible piece that can be enjoyed and will survive if something happens to the original file.

The thing is, I’ve scrutinized many files from camera phones and it’s incredible how beautiful and large these images can be printed. If the original image is sharp and has enough resolution, it can be printed wonderfully. One photographer came into the shop and we printed her images at least 11″x14″, but it could’ve easily been printed larger.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado
Camera: iPhone 7

Speed

It’s no secret that smartphones are fast. Just type in your password, have the batteries charged, and you’re in for a fun-filled session of photography. Smartphones can have their quirks but once you learn them, you’ll be even faster. I’ve tried applications that allow for RAW image photography but I save that for when I have time. Out in the street, that’s rarely the case. That’s when I photograph in .jpg and enjoy the lightning fast captures.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado
Camera: iPhone 7

Unobtrusiveness

Everyone has their own style when photographing. Some do it sneakily while others do it from a distance. My method involves being up front and open about it. I’m 6 feet 4 inches tall so being inconspicuous isn’t part of my plan when I’m out photographing. This method works for me but what also helps is having a smartphone. Everyone has them so not a lot of people mind. As always, be respectful and kind when taking photos on the street, but having a camera that’s not intimidating will help you blend in to your surroundings and most likely put others at ease.

Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado
Camera: iPhone 7

Be Inspired with Smartphone Photography

Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr has been documenting her country and making cover images for Time with a smartphone. Brilliant and prolific street photographer Gueorgui Pinkhassov—master of light and composition—makes a lot of his street images with a smartphone. There’s an extensive list of photographers and photos. Now, the important takeaway is to go make images. Don’t scoff at the notion that an amazing image can’t be made with a smartphone, it most definitely can.

Grand Rapids, MI
Camera: iPhone 7

You may be familiar with everything I’ve written—if so, that’s fantastic. My objective here is to inspire you to embrace a tool you have with you for the better part of your day. Smartphones are taking over the photography world, and probably the world in general, but the phones they have are the real deal. Sure, there’s a place for finer photographic equipment. But, making images with your smartphone can be beautiful, artistic, can ultimately be printed large and most importantly, can make you a better photographer.

2 thoughts on “Why Smartphones Are Stunning As Cameras

  1. I remember my time as a photojournalist fondly. There was always something exciting about getting called out to an accident or fire. Often it was nothing to write home about, but sometimes the photos captured primordial emotion. Many of these photos were taken on my phone. Though I never much cared for the 28 mm focal length common to iPhones. That said some of my favorite photos were taken on an iPhone 7 Plus. Plus they sure are handy when you want a selfie and don’t feel like dangling a heavy SLR out in front of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s excellent that you were a photojournalist. Such a fulfilling and incredible profession. I completely agree with you about the 28mm focal length, yet still capturing favorite photos with the iPhone. For all the concentration I place on film photos, I tend to shoot much looser and freely with the iPhone, which is what seems to result in some great images. So many photographic tools to play with 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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