Notes on mobile phone photography

It's me, I'm Cathy
It’s me, I’m Cathy

I’ve always been somewhat of a purist where photography is concerned. I’m not a fan of heavy editing, and I’m particularly wary of applying any automated changes made by some random algorithm to my carefully planned out shots.

Call it pride, call it being a dinosaur, hell call it stupidity, or combine all three – but as a result I never really shot anything on my phone other than “memory” photos.

Most phone cameras are incredibly limiting. Even when you get something with an above-average sensor, the lens is so basic that you can hardly control any aspect of your photography. There are exceptions, granted, but they’re usually compromises, either in terms of size or in terms of software. I’m not prepared to lunge around a camera with a phone stuck to its back on a daily basis, and I’m not quite ready to go back to Symbian OS.

And so I was left with a decision. I could either just ignore mobile phone photography and diss it or I could try my hand at it. And, given the old adage in photography is that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you at the time, I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at being more creative with my phone’s camera.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I started off where everybody else seems to dip their toes in: Instagram. Now whereas I was slightly wary of mobile photography, I was actively anti-Instagram for quite a few reasons.

First of all it took ages to come over to Android, and when it did iPhone users felt betrayed. Seriously? Next there was the issue of Facebook buying them out at a time when Facebook was trying to claim it owned the rights to all your life and, finally Instagram itself was claiming it owns the rights to your photos (and thoughts). Thankfully this was sorted out and I was finally ripe for the picking.

I started looking for a few instagrammers, first the ones I already knew and followed on other social media (including my biggest inspiration in mobile photography, Michelle Robinson). Then I tried looking through the most popular photos as suggested by Instagram itself and was pretty disappointed. Most of the popular instagrammers are either famous people who use it to document their lives and are therefore stalked my many (I even chose to stalk a few myself) or hot chicks who take suggestive self-shots in the mirror (erm, I followed a couple of these too).

But the point is that very few people on Instagram are there for the photography. The ones who are more interested in aesthetic qualities of photography are few and far between, and finding them usually proves to be quite a challenge.

As with everything else, I guess it all boils down to whatever floats your boat. If you’re after proper mobile photography then you’ll outgrow Instagram’s severe limitations pretty quickly. There is only so much you can do to fix a photo with a retro filter. And applying funky filters will never help you out with the basics of photography such as lighting and composition.

If you do have the basics right and are ready to accept the limitations of the medium, then I think there is a lot of scope for mobile phone photography. Until we get proper lenses and decent sensors I think we shall have to base most of our skills on post-processing, but till then I believe that there is a lot of fun to be had and beautiful photos to be taken.

I might have joined the party late, but I intend to make the best of it now.

P.S. I post all my mobile phone photography on Instagram, even though you can catch a few on Facebook from time to time.

These shoes
These shoes
Foggy morning
Foggy morning

Sunday morning

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