Mobile photography – How and when

How and when to use a mobile phone for taking photos? If you are having a good DSLR camera, you may not like to carry it everywhere with you. It has been written a lot about mobile photos and how to take photos with them. Mostly those tutorials are written for beginners as some think (for no reason), that only beginners are using their phones to capture photos.

Phones seems to really have pushed away small compact cameras. They have about the same photography qualities and you actually can have even lenses for a phone. Also, it is smaller than a compact camera and do way more, than just have a wi-fi and GPS.

Since I’ve my first photographic smartphone, I have never used my compact camera ever again.

So, you have a DSLR and a phone? You may be then asking a question for what I will be using a phone, when pictures from DSLR camera will be waaaay better. Let me introduce you in way and moments when I use it. I am not a professional photographer, that is my granddad, but I have got plenty of advice and also have some experience already including professional experience (landscape architecture photography is totally different thing).

So I am not a professional, just enthusiast. Same as I have never been a professional sportswoman, even though I won some gold medals and I was pretty good.

My neck hurts!

Sometimes is is simply easier to take photos with mobile phone

Even though, you can always use a good camera strap (and you should, as your neck/back will be grateful for that), sometimes it is easier to carry with you just a phone.

“No, no, I need to have my DSLR all the time with me!” Seriously? You want to cary you photography bag when going to bike or just running outside with a dog? You really want to carry all your expensive equipment when going to swim and then lay on the beach?

There are always moments, when you don’t want to, or can’t carry your camera with you. It is quite common for me. It is bulky, quite heavy and pretty expensive.

Light, where are you?

This is hard even for my 10 years old DSLR camera.

When is best to use a phone? Of course, when there is a lot of natural light. When you have a good amount of light, mobile photos are also good. If you don’t have enough light, resist the urge to use a flash. It usually completely destroy the scene and people will hate you, if you will flash directly into their eyes. Rather use a lamp (small object or scene) or use a small tripod – I am using one, which fits even in a pocket!

Good thing is, that modern phones are incredibly great even in low light condition. Normally a DSLR would have way better results, but you still can use your phone, if you don’t mind some noise or grain in the picture (it is possible to get rid of it to a certain level).

When condition worsen, you may rather want to use your DSLR. For example, don’t even try to capture northern lights on your phone…without a tripod… If they are really bright, you will see just a green smudge on your screen. It is not worth it.

Your phone can also help you with the setting for the scene. You can just try to take a photo from different angles (even the auto mode is enough) and then just check metadata of the shot. If you kind of like the result on your phone, you will definitely like the result on your DSLR camera. It is not cheating – it is learning.

Like this, Oh yeah. No, like that

Sometimes it is better to discuss with your model what looks best

Know how to take the right settings? Good. So then phone is easy to use and you can just snap some pictures from different angles and make test photos, show them to your model and you can easily choose which types of pictures are nice.

If you are not taking pictures of people, it is great even for any other scene. Just take pictures from different angles (for example macro) and you may not be even laying in that weird position, with half of your body in a swamp (I know what I am talking about, as I do incredible poses when capturing macro).

Wait, waaait…aaand a moment is gone

If you expect it to happen, it is easy to be prepared

To the speed is also related this point. It may take a lot of time, to set your camera right, take it from a bag, choose a right lenses… And you know what? The moment may be already gone.

Or it may happen, you will have your precious half really angry at you, that your photography consumes too much time.

Do you want to print? – depends on a size etc.

This one is not good for printing.

There may be an issue with printing pictures from mobile phone. If you don’t mind imperfections, then be calm and print it. If you do, be really careful which phone pictures you print, and in which format. It may be okay on a letter size, but it may be a terrible idea for big print.

If you want to print and be safe, use DSLR and hope you made it all right.

Cheating? No, just post processing

I’ve seen these pictures in an orange glow. Burned heavily, but in a calendar…

Yes, some think it is cheating. It is not. Do you know why? Because no camera is that good as a human eye. Also, you may think about the picture as the painting. Not many artist are drawing realistically, as they often think it is boring. It is piece of art and you are presenting what YOU SEE and your angle of view.

I don’t write about heavy post processing in which you make a beautiful woman from a slice of pizza (seriously, it was done). No. Just editing contrast, brightness, shadows, colours if needed – or red eyes and that stupid big pimple just on a top of your nose.

Raw and a phone? Of course!

Go raw. I mean…with a picture format

Nowadays it is possible to do also this. So if you want/can to use only your phone for pictures, go raw. Raw format consist only from data about the picture and it is not the picture format as jpeg, png or others.

It is way easier to edit without damaging and losing data in your original picture. You can play with it way more, than with just a regular picture.

And if you didn’t go raw on your DSLR yet, do it right now. I didn’t do it for so many years as I had no idea what it is, but do it. It is just for your own good. You may experience colours, light and contrast a bit mild at first, but then you will find out how to work with it and you will get most from it.

Zoom? No, thank you.

Just go (or lay) closer

Don’t use zoom. Never. It is optical zoom which is technically just cropping your picture and you will end with a just bad noisy picture which you can delete anyway. It is way better to go closer.

If you can’t go closer, just admit it to yourself and don’t take that picture. Or at least don’t share it. If you want to take good pictures of animals and something far away, get a proper equipment.

Do you want to play?

by Marko Takanen – This picture would be way harder to make with a phone

If you want to play with settings, it is normally way easier with a DSLR, than with a phone. You know – different lenses, filters (I mean physical filters), zoom, settings, long exposure times… This all is easier with a DSLR and sometimes impossible with a phone.

It applies also for night photos or otherwise demanding pictures needing a lot of attention and “play”. You still can have a lot of fun with a phone.

That is a perfect photo! Here is ton of more.

I love the texture. Taken with Nokia PureView 808

Sometimes, more is simply more. Don’t be afraid to take more pictures than just one and perfect. This is not a film camera, where you had 30 shots and that was all (unless you had more rolls in your pocket). With a digital camera goes a lot of freedom in taking more pictures.

For macro, I can take even 50 photos of the same composition and setting, just with a different sharpness – as I wear glasses, manual sharpening is a hell for me. What I see sharp, is totally blurred when I put my glasses on. So I want a room for choosing really sharp picture.

Wait, there is a smudge

This happens, when there is a moisture on your lenses and it is -20°C (really, no filter used)

It applies not just for a phone, but to any camera. Keep your lenses clean. Or a stain or blurred area on a picture may happen. It happened to me too – I just didn’t notice until I came home and I was quite angry, as I had to remove a black hair stain from every picture I wanted to use – with some pictures it wasn’t possible.

Clean it with a soft fabric, preferably made for this purpose. If you don’t have, be careful. Even your merino wool jumper can be too harsh. If the stain is dry, use camera cleaning wipes.

Never use fabric or breathing for “guts” of a camera. If the stain is on mirror, your camera most probably has built in mirror cleaning. If you don’t know how to remove the stain, it is better to go to the camera service center and not do it on your own.

I can be better!

Sometimes I need a lot of luck, as I don’t know, what my camera sees.

I have been told, that with a modern DSLR cameras you can actually see the picture before it is taken (and after), because smartphones or laptops are providing bigger screen. This can also help a lot, because for aurora pictures…I always pray for sharp pictures. Even if I check it carefully, it is not always perfect and it consumes additional time with adjusting.

So if you can do it and see on your phone, what your DSLR camera sees, do it! It is just for your good. You may be even able to do settings and shooting on your phone. Time for creative selfies?




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