Mobile Photography 101: Introduction to Smartphone Photography

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Ever since the original iPhone came out and totally changed the way we take photos, smartphones have been the go-to camera for the vast majority of amateur photographers. Even enthusiasts and pros are turning more to their smartphones to take photos for sharing purposes - and even to sell. Online magazines, blogs, and certainly social media platforms like Instagram celebrate this type of work, and plenty of people are cashing in on the tremendous popularity of mobile photography.

Certainly, not everyone with a smartphone is going to enjoy social media fame and have money rolling in as a result of the images they take. However, as mobile phone cameras become increasingly packed with features and third-party companies continue to create innovative add-on products to increase the functionality of smartphone cameras, everyday people can begin to take better photos, more often.

This 12-part series on mobile photography examines everything from composition to camera settings to creating landscapes and portraits to processing your images and beyond. This first lesson serves as an introduction to mobile photography, particularly the benefits of going mobile.

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You Take More Pictures

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Perhaps the greatest convenience of photography with your mobile phone is that your camera is always with you. Having your camera with you at all times means you have more opportunities to shoot. The more you shoot, the better you become, plain and simple! The more you pull out your phone and take photos, the faster your skills will improve.

This is especially true of one of the fundamentals of photography: composition. Sure, your phone’s camera isn’t as powerful as your Nikon D810, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice the basics of taking a high-quality photo with your phone. In fact, mobile phones are the ideal tool for practicing composition because they are limited (compared to full-sized cameras) in their technical features. That means that you’re forced to rely on your photographer’s eye to compose great photos. You’re more apt to look for elements like light and shadow, colors and contrasts, and lines and textures that enhance the visual appeal of your images. That’s a good thing!

Feedback is Abundant

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A second benefit of using your mobile phone to learn photography is that it’s easy to get feedback. Snap a photo and immediately show it to your friends to see what they think. Do a little post-processing, upload it to Flickr, Twitter, or Instagram, and see what your followers think of your work. Heck, you can even solicit feedback from your photography idols - just tag them in one of your posts and see if they respond with any pointers.

Beyond the ease with which you can get feedback, mobile phones allow you to easily connect with others who are interested in photography. Sure, the feedback, likes, shares, and comments are nice, but that consistent interaction with other photographers makes it easier for you to learn and grow as a photographer, not to mention be more consistent with taking and sharing your photos. Simply put, smartphone photography helps you engage with others and ignites your passion for photography in a way that’s difficult to do with a traditional camera system.

Accessories Enhance Your Phone’s Capabilities

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When mobile photography first became a thing, we were relegated to using low-quality cameras that had little or no functions or features beyond actually recording the image. That’s not the case today.

Now, you can buy just about any accessory you can think of that makes your smartphone more like a big boy camera. You can get cases that make your phone more ergonomic and easy to handle. There are countless tripods and mounting systems that allow you to keep your phone steady for things like time-lapse videos and long exposures. You can even get an external flash for your phone that gets you better low-light performance.

Where smartphone accessories really shine, however, is in the vast array of lenses that are available today. Like any accessory, you get what you pay for. Unsurprisingly, cheap lenses produce cheap results. High-quality smartphone lenses, on the other hand, produce sharp, clear results that give DSLRs a run for their money.

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You might be wondering which manufacturer among the many offers the best lenses for smartphones in terms of quality and price. For us, that’s got to be Sirui. Not only does Sirui offer a range of lenses including wide-angle, portrait, and fish-eye, but they also have a polarized lens that lets you create images with bluer skies, whiter clouds, and with fewer reflections off of shiny surfaces like water.

What’s more, Sirui lenses have SCHOTT spherical lenses with multi-layer AR coating. The lenses are precisely constructed so that they have optimal light transmittance with low optical distortion. The result is images that have high resolution, great sharpness, and outstanding color, all for a price that’s easily affordable. What’s not to like about that?!

( Download this cheat sheet: 9 Step lens cleaning checklist. So you don't screw up your lenses. )

Final Thoughts

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If you’re serious about improving your photography, consider the benefits that shooting with your mobile phone offers you. Not only is it more convenient to take photos, but you will practice your skills more and be able to get feedback on your photos easier and more quickly too. Combined with high-quality accessories like Sirui mobile phone lenses, you’re sure to see improvement in the quality of the photos you create.

In the next article in this series, we take a look at a few photography rules of thumb to keep in mind when shooting with your smartphone.

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