Mobile photography is a completely new genre or style of photography that has arrived with impressive developments in camera phones and is increasingly included in photography cheat sheets. While almost all cameras seem mobile, the term mobile photography’s name comes from that of mobile phones. These days most people use smartphones, so mobile photography is likely the most accessible style of photography for new photographers. While mobile photography may be referred to as a genre, it is more of a choice of tool that you can use in any genre of photography.
Many mobile phones have been equipped with cameras for two decades now. Mobile photography, however, has come a long way since the first mobile phones with cameras. Twenty years ago, mobile phones captured images of a quality that some may refer to as “potato”.
In this day in age, smartphones are both incredibly prevalent and new generations of smartphones are equipped with incredible cameras and camera technology. As mobile cameras continue to improve, alongside computational photography being so present and strong in mobile phones, mobile cameras give traditional cameras a run for their money. While your typical smartphone still couldn’t compete with a high-level DSLR camera, mobile photography means that you don’t have to invest in a separate camera system with the focus of just taking images.
Another benefit here is that mobile photography is both easier to get into and to do since you already likely have a phone and you carry that phone around. A lot of beginner photographers have a hard time bringing their camera around with them, and having your phone on you is considered a necessity in this day and age. Additionally, with a smartphone camera, you always have the ability to capture those special moments that you may miss on your actual camera.
Smartphone cameras have advanced tremendously over the years, and learning the tips and tricks to correct usage can heavily improve your images. Lighting, understanding focus, getting your angles right, there’s a lot to consider. Also, learning general photography and art techniques and styles can improve your mobile photography. In this guide, we will cover the most important points in how you can become a great photographer using your phone.
How can I learn about mobile photography?
Practice always makes perfect. The best way to improve as a photographer no matter your tools is to take as many images as possible and learn from those images. Get out into the world and just take a lot of photos. Then, take some more photos. You may start with landscapes, nature or wildlife, or in other quiet places where you can take your time and focus on your craft. As your skills evolve, you might try taking photos of friends, family, events, and the like. Or, if you have little time in your day, you may just practice photography during your commute. Take images of anything that interests you, and work to make those photos good. Take photos until you’re satisfied with them, but don’t get satisfied.
While learning mobile photography, make sure you read guides and blogs on the Internet, watch YouTube videos, or otherwise consume content that will help you learn and develop photography skills. You don’t and shouldn’t focus on just guides that focus on mobile photography, instead focus on guides that teach you the creative and artistic techniques that go along with photography. Learn about lighting, composition, color theory, black and white image theory, and any other parts of photography that you feel would benefit your own.
Besides free content on the Internet, you can also sign up for paid classes, buy books and tutorials, and use other opportunities to learn from talented, professional photographers. Learning is so available today, and having someone guide you through the first several steps of photography will surely speed your skill up to the point at which you can run.
As you learn new skills, again remember to get out and test them. Hands-on experience is extremely helpful when learning mobile photography. After taking photos, also remember to use filters, apps, and other tools to touch them up. A lot of great photos are the result of not just photography skills but also editing skills. Editing has always been the second thought to many new photographers, but it has also been incredibly important. The best photographers have also been masters of the post process, be it in the darkroom or today on a computer or phone. Learning the basics through applications is a great accompaniment to your mobile photography.
Which mobile phone is best for mobile photography?
There’s not a right answer to which phone is the best for mobile photography. Several phones offer top-notch performance, although some may perform better in different settings than others. That said, several phones simply excel while others offer middling performance.
First, decide which operating system you want. If you prefer Apple’s iOS, then brand-wise, you only have one choice: the iPhone. Of course, there are several iPhone models. Generally speaking, newer models outperform later models. Likewise, premium models typically outperform budget models. That said, the budget iPhone SE outperforms the iPhone 8 (which the SE is based on). That’s because the iPhone SE has a newer Apple Bionic chip and better hardware. Still, the iPhone SE doesn’t perform quite as well as the iPhone 11 line of phones.
As for Android phones, Google’s Pixel lineup is known for sporting really good cameras and industry-leading computational photography. Again, the newer the better (generally speaking). Some consider Google’s cameras to be the best in the market. The recent iterations of the Samsung Galaxy line, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra in particular, are known for their great cameras. The regular Galaxy S20 is a great performer as well. The new Sony Xperia 1ii adopts a lot from Sony’s professional cameras and is one of the best choices for photographers because of all that it allows, but it is also incredibly expensive for a phone.
The phones mentioned above often cost $700 or more. On a tighter budget? Consider the Pixel “A” lineup (e.g. Pixel 3a), Google’s mid-range series. While more affordable, they still offer great performance. The Sony Xperia 5 is also well-regarded and can often be had for less than $500.
And if you’re really trying to save money, consider the Motorola G7 Plus. While not as good as the other cameras on this list (especially recording video), the G7 Plus puts in a respectable camera performance for a phone that you can sometimes find on sale for less than $200.
Another great idea to consider is buying refurbished, especially for iPhones. Many people love having an iPhone, but buying a recent model is expensive, and for some, to a cumbersome level. Refurbished phones are the exact same thing as new phones, but with a heavily cheapened price tag. Get one and save money!
Courses to improve in Mobile Photography
We’ve put this guide together to help you learn how to take great mobile photographs. That said, you may be looking for some extra instruction or would prefer a different learning method. At the end of the day, you need to do what works for you. Fortunately, you can take a variety of photography courses, including excellent courses designed specifically for mobile photography. Additionally, a course is going to offer a lot more experience to learn than any online guide, so find one that focuses on what you want to learn, and stick to it.
There are tons of courses and learning platforms available online. Some courses are free, others are paid. Among paid photography courses, many cost less than $15 or are even free, while others can cost as much as, or in fact, be a college class. In fact, some universities offer online classes.
As far as free classes go, Canon offers a great online library of resources. While designed for their cameras, you can still pick up a lot of great tips for smartphone photograph. Look for guides that focus on photography itself, rather than the gear being used. Those elements of photography do not change depending on your gear. Another great option is “How To Take Amazing Photos With Your iPhone.” While tailored to iPhone users, this class is still useful for Android users. You’ll have to register, but as of now, registration is free.
If you don’t mind shelling out a bit of cash, the “Mobile Phone Photography Masterclass for iPhone and Android” from Udemy offers 5 hours of video content along with supporting materials. This class is highly regarded among students and covers a lot of the important basics of photography as well as briefly covering more advanced concepts in a short amount of time. Spend a weekend with the guide and learn a lot from it!
Alison offers a variety of free photography tutorials (although you have to pay if you want a certificate). While most of the courses focus on digital photography in general, budding smartphone photographers can still learn a lot.
Make sure you check out your local community colleges, universities, and more for classes and learning opportunities. Museums will often offer courses that are a lot of fun, and you can work with a group of other students and receive proper critiques on your work. Also, while we mentioned a few prominent online course platforms, there are plenty of other options out there. So, find the course and education solution that works best for you!
Best Mobile Photograph Apps
Have you accrued a lot of images on your phone from practicing? You’re off to a good start. Now, if you want to get the most out of your photos and your mobile phone, you need to empower your photography with the use of some photography and photo editing applications. Generally speaking, a great app can’t turn a mediocre mobile phone (or photographer) into a pro. That being said, the right app will help you elevate your mobile photos to the next level.
All of the apps mentioned are available on both iOS and Android operating systems. They’re well-regarded for use with both platforms as well. You may find great apps specifically for your platform, but we wanted to make sure all the bases were covered no matter what phone you are going to be using as your camera.
TouchRetouch- Touching Up Photos Made Easy
It used to take a lot of effort and skill to touch up photographs with any degree of success. Touching up a blemish or getting rid of background trash or other unsightly elements was an immense time commitment. While it can still be difficult to get rid of some things, TouchRetouch has made touching up and editing photos much easier.
Best of all, unlike many advanced programs, this app is quite easy to use. TouchRetouch is also available on Android and Mac, so no matter your phone, you’re likely covered. The app costs just $1.99, making it one of the most affordable photo editing solutions available.
FaceTune2 is an industry-standard application for mobile photography and mobile editing, with a focus on selfies. Although selfie photography may not be your area of focus, FaceTune2 is actually a great application if you are focusing on portraits. Learning a lot of other portrait editing techniques like frequency separation, clean blemish removal, correct color for skin, and others can take an incredible amount of time. On the other hand, FaceTune2 has these processes built into the best level of any phone application. If you are going to focus on portrait photography ever or at all, download FaceTune2.
Mylio Photo Organizer
Photo editing software is important for any inspiring mobile photographer. Organizing all those photos is just as important. You could generate hundreds or even thousands of photos on one trip. Some photographers take thousands of photos at a single event, or on a single photo shoot. The free Mylio Photo Organizer, which is available on both Android and iOS makes sorting and storing photos easy. Having a well-sorted library makes your life as a photographer infinitely easier.
Adobe Photoshop Camera
If you’re researching photography, you’ve likely heard about Photoshop. Adobe has offered this immensely popular photo editing platform for many years now and many professional photographers rely on it. With Adobe Photoshop Camera, you can quickly add filters and effects to your photos. AI-powered features can also help you automatically improve the quality of your photos. This is a good camera application for general usage.
While Adobe’s full Photoshop suite for Windows and Mac is rather pricey, Photoshop Camera is free.
With all these applications, you have your bases covered. Learn how to use them, and spend some time playing around with them after you have built up a decent stock of images. Organize your photos as you take them, either by date or subject, so that you always have the ability to work through these images. Try out some different camera applications for your phone, especially if you do not have a higher end phone, as a lot of the improvement in mobile phone cameras is based on computation.