Phonetography Phun

I found this interesting juxtaposition of a curved anthill and a red wall in downtown Ada recently, and made this image with my iPhone 7 using Instagram.
I found this interesting juxtaposition of a curved anthill and a red wall in downtown Ada recently, and made this image with my iPhone 7 using Instagram.
The iPhone 7 Plus is one of this year's models that has a dual-lens camera.
The iPhone 7 Plus is one of this year’s models that has a dual-lens camera.

As consumers and the camera industry are well aware, the most common type of photography in the world today is smartphone photography, and the most popular smartphone is the iPhone. My wife Abby and I have iPhones, and their sophisticated, convenient, built-in cameras have all but silenced our point-and-shoot cameras.

As I explore the most recent iteration of these, the iPhone 7 Plus, I am finding both its virtues and its flaws.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses integrated with software to hopefully imitate the powerful selective focus of a large-aperture prime lens, but it has limitations and flaws, including this, a clumsy software implementation that resulted in a "gap" in the out of focus area behind the bush.
The iPhone is equipped with two lenses integrated with software to hopefully imitate the powerful selective focus of a large-aperture prime lens, but it has limitations and flaws, including this, a clumsy software implementation that resulted in a “gap” in the out of focus area behind the bush.

My favorite way to use my iPhone to make pictures is through Instagram, which includes interesting filter looks and makes sharing on social media easy. Instagram’s game changer for me, though, is its square format. It leads to me to compose images differently, since more of my photography involves choose between vertical and horizontal compositions.

The built-in LED flash built into your phone has the same drawbacks as the built-in flash on any camera: it's not very powerful, it blinds the subject, and it produces very unnatural-looking light.
The built-in LED flash built into your phone has the same drawbacks as the built-in flash on any camera: it’s not very powerful, it blinds the subject, and it produces very unnatural-looking light.

Some ideas that might up your phonetography game…

  • Keep your phone clean. In particular, keep that tiny lens free of fingerprints. I see tons of phone photos that are hazy and fog-like, and this is because the lens is covered in schmoogies.
  • Get closer. This has been an essential piece of my teaching for years, and it applies to phonetography as much as any other. The pixels for which you pined and paid over the years are wasted with sky above and floor below in most iPhone images.
  • Unless you are shooting square frames, pay attention to mode: portrait vs landscape. Most people hold their phone vertically out of habit, and it defines both their photographs and their videos, often inappropriately. It’s easy to turn a phone on it’s side, but too often we see horizontal scenes represented by vertical compositions.
  • Steady is better. Even the biggest phones are lightweight, so it becomes very important to hold them steady. If you don’t have a steady hand, consider a mass-based steadycam, tripod or monopod.
  • Don’t bother with the “pinch to zoom” feature. On most phones, it just crops the pixels in the same way you can when editing later.
  • Although trendy, getting a light source in your phone photos can make quite a mess, and this technique calls for more lens that the phone can muster.

All of the basic rules of photography apply to the phonetography. Keeping that in mind, the camera in your phone is another great tool in the photography toolbox.

A tiny, clear surface like the lens of your phone's camera is easy to cover with fingerprint, pocket lint, and dog saliva. Keep it clean.
A tiny, clear surface like the lens of your phone’s camera is easy to cover with fingerprint, pocket lint, and dog saliva. Keep it clean.
0

2 Comments

  1. Most excellent tips. Hate to see phonetography overshadowing the use of DSLRs though. I’m seeing more and more iPhone pix (and even iPad pix) showing up in print journalism these days, though that seems to be more a function of curtailed budgets than an embrace of the technology.

    0
  2. 1. That brick/plant image is a *perfect* example of how software can’t (yet) manage what a simple glass lens can do. (I am not assuming it will always be this way.)

    2. “…the most popular smartphone is the iPhone…”

    Is this true? I know it’s the go-to for newswriters to write “iPhone” when they mean “phone”, but I’m curious about statistics on this. I found several references saying Samsung moved more units in 2016 than any other manufacture, including Apple (20.5% market share for Samsung versus 14.4% for Apple), and of course Android is by *far* the more common operating system for phones — by a 5-to-1 ratio.

    (I did find one blog entry saying the iPhone 6 is the best-selling single model in history, but it didn’t cite a source.)

    3. My own photography trends agree with yours; point-and-shoots just don’t get used any more. On personal outings and family trips, I find that I’m using my phone as often as my SLR — basically any time that the phone can do the trick, I’m using it. (Exceptions: extreme low light, when I want shallow depth of field, when I want/need telephoto or macro.)

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.