Cell Phone Photography

Cell Phone Photography

I am a pretty old guy and started imaging a very long time ago (but in the same galaxy). For a long time I was obsessed with the quality of my image, namely because Ansel Adams produced such fine images, both in content and technical quality. Working the darkroom and making great prints was a very hard thing to do. I also shot a lot of slides and always was concerned about the zone system to get properly exposed slides.
Then came digital and with the first Epson pigment printers, my prints looked like I wanted them. After my first DSLR technical concerns became less and I focused on obtaining “fine glass”. A funny thing happened when I went to M43 format – the kit and small primes were very good, and them the “PRO” glass came and while better, they were not light years better.

During that time came the rise of the cell phones as point and shoot alternative imaging devices. At first I must admit that I thought they were ok for personal history images but not for fine art. Recently I had to replace both my wife and my phones. Then I shot some images on a trip where I had a camera but I left it home to enjoy the experience in real time with the folks I was with.
I shot some images with the phone and during some down time I used the android version of Lightroom and photoshop to work with some images. I think I can say this (BTW I bought refurbished phone and both phones combined cost less than $600, so you can pickup a really good cell phone camera refurbished now days for about $300 or less).
Here are the Images:

Edge S7 Android PS lte IR filter


Edge S7 PSlte B&W filter

I believe I could print these 11 x 14 or 16 x 20 and be very happy with the resulting prints. Here is what this means for photography: today it is possible for folks to acquire a imaging device that can produce fine art prints and stock images good enough to sell. Many folks who instruct photography like to see folks start out with a single, none zoom lens. I have always liked semi-wide normal lenses, and most cell phone have an equivalent 35mm field of view to around 28 or 30mm.

There are many free programs to process images on a cell phone. So with a device most of us use for communication if you have the desire you can become a fine art or photo journalistic photographer. There will always be folks who question new things in photographer – just read a photographic history book to see the various conflicts over time in photography.

The most important part of photography is a photographer’s point of view and his/her ability to capture an image the stirs the emotions through that point of view. Cell phones camera’s in my opinion are now a viable photographic tool which can be used to produce fine art images.

The Depth of Focus as a brush

Street Talkers

Using The Depth of Focus as a brush to impart focus of subject matter

As an artistic photographer one has many tools, both software and hardware, to help create the key message of an image use focus. You can use very fast lenses to create shallow focus or you can use what ever lens you have and software to modify the focal plane of your images. Simple things such as the angle in which you hold the camera can critically alter your plane of focus when creating an image. Many software programs allow you work with blur which can be used to simulate fast lenses or go beyond that by changing the actual dimensional plane of your focus.

Get out of your comfort zone

As an Artists you need to get out of your comfort zone to drive your creativity.

To enhance your creativity you may have to go to the dark side.


We all have those things we feel comfortable doing. And doing those things may put the bread and butter on the table. But to grow as an artist you should force yourself to do things that don’t fit into your portfolio, expand your efforts to find creativity.

Black and White for emotion

I find that using Black and White for emotion is one way to create new meaning in your images. I shoot in color and then do HDR (high dynamic range) before I convert to B&W to drive more contrast. The range of light in a B&W photo is what for me drives the image to show emotion, Adam’s zone system as shown in his book “The Range of Light” has been a tool I use to visualize how an image will look in black and white. Try losing color and see what your images say.

The Dark Art

Tonal Range of Light

The Dark Art is not something from Harry Potter, it is something from the old masters. Not every piece of art has to be bright or sharply defined. The tone of an image dark or light often sets the mood before one comprehends the arts message. Don’t let the perfection of form drive the interpretation of your art, give your art a chance to digger deeper into the viewers soul. A palette can be the road map into deeper meanings or messages, seek the tones that deliver your message in a manner that is not hidden in technical perfection. The Dark Art is seeing things that live in the shadows.

Creative Time

Creative Time is why knowing yourself is important. Our nature gives us a living rhythm. I find my most creative time is between sunrise to several hours after. While I am “out in the field” I have a different energy but for working with photographs or digital art, morning is my sweet spot. I find playing my keyboard for 30 minutes gets me in a creative, non-stressed mode. I know this because I have tracked how I think and how I create and I know this is my most productive time. I see my images differently in this time and new ideas flood my mind, after about 4 o 5 hours I can feel the creative energy leaving me – then I do something totally different away from studio. Outside is very good for me (working in the yard, down by the creek, or going somewhere and living). If you find your creative time, defend it from all but emergency intrusions. I often wear studio head phones to keep the outside noise, well, outside.

Treat your creative time as the import gift it is, use it wisely. Don’t let life intrude, if it does address the issue. If you have folks that like to “pop in” put a big sign on your door – “creative time – No Admittance – this means you!”

All time is precious for our journey is short do not squander creative time because you can’t get more of it in the long run.

Are you tripping on photographing when traveling?

I’ve found that my really fine images come when I am photographing things I know in places that I know. I shoot a lot fewer pictures when I am at places I know then when I am traveling. Why, because I don’t the light as well in a strange place, and often my attention is between excitement of being in a new place with friends or family and I shot more knowing that in the editing process I find things I don’t see when I am shooting in a hurry. I often will ride with a window down and shot (I know its a sin to image from a moving car – just kidding if light is good and you can use high shutters speed/ISO then you can get some interesting images from a moving car. What I can’t and won’t do when tripping with friends or family is let the setting turn me into the director of a movie no one wants to be in. However that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn on the electronic shutter and snap-a-way as you walk with out noise. If you are tripping this year and the trips purpose is not photography then act like a photo journalist – keep your intent hidden and when the chance comes shoots as fast as your camera allows. I am one that truly believes that artistic content is more important the pure technical quality of an image. So enjoy your tripping but in brief moments shoot like a mad person. Shoot from the hip, shoot from the dinning table at a sidewalk cafe, and even shoot when you are walking – fast wide angle lens help you here.

The one thing I do know, if you don’t learn to be invisible to the people your are tripping with your photography will be more of a burden than a welcomed guest along your path.

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