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31 Mac 2022

10 Tips of Using a Mobile Phone for Street Photography


can you use your phone as a proper street photography camera? I do think that it has potential and, in this article, I want to share with you 10 tips to help you get the most out of your phone if you happen to find yourself in a situation where you don't have your camera with you and you want to take some photos.

    Why Use a Phone?

    let's get started with why would you want to use your phone for photography. Well first and foremost it’s a camera that's always with you and as a cheesy saying goes the best camera is the one that you’ve got in your pocket or with you or something along those lines. Basically, you’ve got your phone with you all the time and you can basically photograph the time. That's the main advantage is you don't have the excuse of oh do you want to bring my camera with me or I don't have my camera with me so and so forth. 

    The second-best thing is that you can blend inland and gain access to places you physically couldn't go to before there are locations here in Kuala Lumpur if you go with a DSLR or mirrorless. Doesn't matter how big or small it is. They’ll say you can't bring that in here you turn up with your phone and if you know what you're doing you can let's say get a photo that's just as good and they will let you use your mobile phone in the same sense.

    You go to shopping complexes or the city or places with these tall buildings, you can walk around your phone and take all the pictures in the world. No one cares. You pull up with a DSLR and you've got security around you straight away. With a more traditional street photography sense, people are generally a lot more relaxed around phones taking photos versus cameras. Why? I don't know maybe it's because it’s more of an innocent tourist.  

    The thing is not to suggest that using your camera is not innocent, but like I think people still get a bit freaked out about big cameras and lenses pointing at them. Generally, what I’m saying is with having a phone just gives you that extra layer of invisibility as such and gains you access to places that you otherwise couldn't go to with a camera.

    Why Not Use a Phone?

    Let's not be about the bush there are some obvious glaring issues with using your phone as a camera. The first one for me is ergonomics. They’re just completely rubbish okay rather than having tactile buttons. You have a screen with like small touch buttons which work half the time. If you have like stupid fingers like me, and as soon as you get any water on the screen then that just passes out and goes crazy.

    Everything is slow - opening apps takes freaking long compared to just switching the camera on. Generally speaking, it's a rubbish user experience. If you want to really concentrate on taking photos for quick snapshots it’s great but for proper photography, I think it’s a bit rubbish and I’ve definitely lost many chances because everything was just taking too long.

    Now the obvious one is image quality and there's no point kidding us. It is crap compared to a proper camera. If you have good light, if you have everything to make a photo great then you will have a decent result. However, as soon as that light drops off and you're shooting at night or you’re shooting anywhere in the shade or anywhere where you don't have ample lighting, you will start to see the limitations of a sensor that is relatively small. You can still get fantastic results and results that you can be happy with. 

    You can put it next to a proper camera and not tell a difference but the likelihood and the chance of getting those results versus a camera are a lot less frequent and require a lot more to go into the image to achieve that. So, for the odd chance here and there… yes. In my opinion, for a repeatable and consistent result, it’s difficult to achieve on a phone versus a proper camera. 

    The final downside is the distractions. Imagine this, you're walking around town you see an amazing composition you're about to take a picture because you have a great subject. You're about to press the shutter button and then your mum calls you or your girlfriend calls you or your boyfriend calls you saying they found some new soap and if you want popcorn. Yes, it's very nice of them to do that but you've just lost your chance to take a great picture. In the same sense, you could be walking around taking pictures you get bored for a minute, or let's say nothing interesting happens, then you open Instagram start scrolling through, and behold you've missed 20 amazing photos with a camera you don’t have. With a phone, it’s very easy and only a matter of a few taps to go from taking pictures to ordering some new shampoo. So yeah, it's a bit of a distraction.

    10 Street Photography Tips Using Mobile Phone

    Clean The Lens

    tip number one is to clean your lenses.  I know this sounds like I’m trying to teach you how to suck eggs but I promise this is so basic yet it makes all the difference. The reason for that is because you handle your phone and you just forget the fact that you're touching the lenses and you’ve got your fingerprints on them and all that sort of stuff. Literally, before you start shooting just get your t-shirt to wipe the lenses and that will make more difference than anything else, I think. The reason is that as a first point is because I do it all the time. Take a great picture look at it and think why is it all just like soft and smudgy. Then I look at the back and yeah, fingerprints all over the lens. So just clean your lens 

    Watch Your Fingers

    The second tip is also a very basic one that's just to watch your fingers. If you're using the ultra-wide lens and you hold your phone like most people hold their phone. It doesn't take much for your fingers to slowly creep into the shot and ruin a perfect image. I've ruined many images because my thumb or my index finger was in the picture. So just keep that in mind and you will definitely save a few photos

    Secure Your Phone

    The third tip addresses one of my biggest concerns with mobile phone photography and that's to find a way to secure your phone. The way I do it now is using what’s called a bop socket case where you’ve got this little socket at the back that you put your fingers through and then that just gives you a ridiculous amount of stability and security. For your phone getting something like that just puts your mind at ease. You’re not going to drop and smash your phone. No one's going to come and grab it at your hand and then that will make the whole shooting experience a lot more pleasant and you will focus on taking photos rather than not dropping your phone.

    Airplane Mode

    Tip number four is to put your phone into airplane mode and that is not only to avoid you distracting yourself by going on Instagram or Twitter when you should be taking pictures. It's also there to avoid your aunt calling you telling you that she’s bought some new cheese just as you're about to take a your award-winning photo and missing the opportunity.

    Utilize Multiple Lenses (If any)

    Tip number five is if you are lucky enough to own a phone with multiple lenses, don't forget to utilize all the lenses. I do all the time where I just stick in one lens. I just forget the other ones are there, so do play around with them. 

    However, avoid digital zoom because the digital zoom is the quickest way to destroy your image. If you don't know what it is it's when your phone goes past let's say the longest lens and zooms in further, it does that by just using digital zoom to just crop into the image and then digitally enhance. I guess the details never provide fantastic results. Yeah, sure it might look good on an Instagram story but in reality, that image is almost unusable at least in my experience on an iPhone. On other phones, it might be different so try to avoid it now for 

    Try 3rd Party Apps

    Tip number six, if you are an older iPhone user like me you would know that the default camera app does not shoot RAW and it doesn't give you any of the more advanced features that you might want from a camera if you're doing street photography. What would I suggest in this case is to download a third-party photography app Now last week I downloaded a bunch of them I’ll be honest most of them are gimmicks at best and they are a pain to use certainly if you want to use them in the rush or in a real-world photography environment There are two which stood out, one's called Obscure which I found to be overall very good and the other one is actually the built-in photo app in Lightroom. Now it's a pain to open… well not pain but it takes ages to open.

    You have to open lightroom then you have to open the photo app. If you're taking pictures in a controlled environment and you're not in the rush then that is a good one to use because that saves you the step of importing into lightroom. If you're doing street photography or just walking around town then the obscure app, I found to be very good with the default camera app. It’s definitely the quickest one to open because you do it from the home screen. If it's a case of you not taking the photo because you've missed it or just opening the default app to get a jpeg photo, I’d pick the jpeg but overall downloading the third-party camera app will definitely allow you a lot more options, especially for the next tip.

    Shoot RAW

    Tip number seven is to shoot in raw. Now if you're not sure what that means, basically you've got RAW files and jpeg files. RAW files are effectively everything your sensor sees it saves into a file as data and a jpeg is a processed image of that data. 

    The jpeg has a lot less information in it and it's effectively like the final baked goods. If you want to adjust some aspects of the image like the shadows highlights and the tone or the warmth and the coolness of the image. You can't really do that without destroying the image or getting weird artifacts and just looking a bit strange. Whereas with the raw file, you have a lot more flexibility. Because the sensor and the phone are so small and the files are so thin if you like there's not much depth to them… then using the raw format will definitely give you a lot more flexibility with regards to what you do with that photo later. Overall, in my opinion using RAW format provide a better result

    Watch Your Exposure

    Tip number eight is to watch your highlights and watch your shadows. This is why you want to be shooting RAW as I’ve just mentioned now with modern cameras you have a lot of dynamic range. You have a lot of room for making an error when you're taking a photo and then recovering and rescuing the lost data and the highlights or the shadows. 

    With your phone, you don't have that luxury, because even though in the RAW, you have a bit of movement and certainly enough movement for most scenarios. It’s definitely a lot less which means when you're taking a picture just make sure that you expose what you need to have exposed. If you need to rescue something you're better off rescuing the shadows and underexposing exposing for the highlights because you will be able to get more data. 

    Certainly, in an iPhone from the shadows versus the highlights, the highlights if they’re blown out… they're blown out obviously. if you’re shooting in HDR mode then this doesn’t really apply as much, but if you're not then keep an eye on your highlights and your shadows because that’s the quickest way to ruin a photo 

    Get Creative

    Tip number nine is to find new creative ways of taking pictures because you now have a very small device. What I mean by that is rather than having this big camera maybe you can take your phone, place it inside the plant, place it just above the water surface on a lake or a puddle or somewhere like that.

    Maybe you can put it through a railing and now you can take a much clearer picture. Basically, what I’m saying is don't stick to the traditional way that you would take photos with a camera. Just step back for a minute and think what you can do with this new smaller thinner device that you physically couldn't do previously with a camera.

    Try New Locations

    The final tip is to try new locations and try to get closer to the action. As I’ve said at the start of the article because you now have a phone you have access to new places which you physically couldn't do before.  For example, there's a temple, beautiful temple. You can go there with your phone but you can't go there with your camera. So now you have these new locations which are all of a sudden open to you from a photography point of view. 

    You can take pictures for longer and be more comfortable taking pictures without worrying about getting stopped. With regards to street photography, you can get closer to people, well probably not now but in general, you can get closer to the action because obviously, phones don't attract half as much attention as cameras


    So, does all of this mean that I am now going to sell my Fujifilm gear and I’m going to become a smartphone photographer and I will tell the world that phones are the future, cameras will be obsolete in six months? Absolutely not. 

    There's no way that’s happening I love my camera. I will be using it for 99.99 of the time however what I’m trying to sort of say and certainly for me just as much as for you guys is you have a very powerful tool in your pocket and we all forget about it. We all still associate phones with just like stupid selfies and taking a picture of a shopping list for example. 

    So, keep in mind that you can achieve a lot with your phone and ultimately if you go out and you don’t have your camera with you, you no longer have an excuse not to take pictures. Every picture you take whether it's on your phone or a GoPro or a DSLR, you’re still taking pictures and you're still getting better. So next time you pick up your camera you’re now that much better than you were before because you've taken 50 photos on your phone on the way back from the pub for example. 

    Now another thing is if you don't have a camera and that’s your excuse for why you're not going out taking pictures. You want to take pictures but you don't have a camera. As long as you have a phone from iPhone 7 era and above, you'll be able to get decent photos. Yes, they're not going to be that great from a technical perspective but it's still practical and you're still getting better. When you go out and you buy yourself a camera, guess what you've now had all of this practice on your phone and you're that much better. 

    You'll get that much more from your new camera. I hope I’ve inspired you to get your phone and next time you go into the restaurant, to the pub, to do some shopping, you'll think “What, let me see if I can get a creative or cool photo here in the shopping center.”

    If you have any comments and tips for improving mobile photography, write them down in the comments below. I look forward to reading your messages.

    Thanks for reading!

    3 ulasan:

    1. baca ini sambil nk cuba, tapi selalunya tak menjadi... akak ni kene ada cikgu ajar siap buat contoh baru paham hahahha... dah tua tapi suka ambik2 gambo ni

    2. lense kamera fon memang selalu kotor dengan cap jari!

    3. penah try buat tp tu laa pasrah dgn phone cap ayam je laa ambil gmbr syok sendiri hehehe


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