Photography and Your Smartphone

Last week I read a couple of articles about using photography apps on smartphones. These articles focused on smartphone photography apps and how they are changing photography… for better and for worse… depending on which article I read. I read the comments both for and against the smartphone apps, but was waiting to fully form a solid opinion of my own before I posted my own thoughts on the subject as well. After much reading, discussion, and consideration, I’ve come to recognize photography apps on my smartphone (Droid Razr) have helped me augment my creativity which in turn has helped my photography as a craft.

I must admit creatively, I really wasn’t spurred on by any smart-phone app with funky filters, frames, or retro settings. As I’m not a big post-production editor, I didn’t really find anything special in any of the photo editing apps either. Knowing the general rules of lighting, timing, and composition, along with a solid understanding of technique are what photographers use to make great photographs. To date, there is no smart-phone app which can replace this fundamental knowledge requirement, and I would hesitate before using an app which claimed it could replicate these skills. I do not think DSLRs will ever be replaced by smart-phone cameras, but I do see how smart-phones can be used as a tool to augment DSLR photography – personally and professionally.

Instagram was officially released only for iPhones so it was a while before I had access to Instagram via Play (Android Apps), and even longer before I realized it was available for me to use, so I am a late fan of the app. Once installed – I truly understood the fascination with the app, and I am not referring to the filters which can be applied to the photographs you take. After only a couple of days of shooting and uploading to Instagram, I realized I was starting to view my surroundings differently. I began to see my surroundings not in the 3:2 aspect ratio of 35mm film I was accustomed to, but in the 1:1 aspect ratio of a square – which Instagram has now made a photograph size standard. I began to compose my photographs specifically for 1:1 and know the “dead space” would be deleted when uploaded into Instagram. There were a few trials and errors – but it did not take long and now I have composing for the 1:1 aspect ratio down pretty well.

For me personally, once I realized I had made the aspect ratio and composition adjustments from 3:2 to 1:1 – I picked up my DSLR again. I hadn’t really photographed much with it in the past few years, choosing to use my compacts and my phone to keep my loads light when traveling. I commonly refer to my DSLRs as “The Big Guns” because they are not only big, but they are heavy and can be cumbersome to travel with once all the accessories have been packed away with them. Once I picked up my “Guns” again, I began to play with ratio and composition and found myself looking at things once again with a fresh set of eyes – this time with a 3:2 aspect ratio.

I also found my smart-phone had some limits. While I love my smart-phone and have taken some wonderful and incredible photographs, there have been a few times I wish I would have had my DSLR with me. My smart-phone can’t touch the 28-300mm zoom of my favorite lens, and after several macro shots, my smart-phone begins to get confused on what I’m trying to keep in focus. So I’ve started taking my DSLR with me on photo-walks each weekend and we have started to become friends again.

As a craft, my photography has no doubt improved with the use of my smart-phone I’m playing more with perspective, angles, orientation, and just trying things I’ve never tried before and being more creative. I tuned into compositions more and finding my voice through my photography. And most of all, I am taking more photographs than I ever took before.