I got my first smartphone at Christmas, and yes, I know I’m behind about 90% of the population but I got there in the end. I have very little interest in phones themselves, but I was keen to have a go at using the camera function. I’ve seen some interesting work done with phone cameras and I knew there were some fun apps you could use to process afterwards.
What I’m about to say is unlikely to be news to anyone but me, but I’ll say it anyway. I was very pleasantly surprised by its performance in bright light, but its performance in low light is abysmal. And naturally, everything looks much better on the very small screen of the phone, so it’s hard to tell how good/bad they are until you see them on a full-size screen and it’s often disappointing when you do. It’s true that the poor quality is almost a feature of phone images, and also true that when it’s bad it’s so bad it almost has a painterly quality which can sometimes be appealing.
There have been some frustrations apart from lack of quality. I uploaded the Snapseed app as I’d heard it was one of the best all-round apps for editing, and it was wonderfully easy to use with lots of options. However, when I came to upload the pictures to my computer the edited ones loaded in a format that Elements doesn’t recognise, and after a bit of Googling to find out why, it turns out that the only way to get them there is to email them to yourself or upload them to iCloud, which I haven’t set up yet. Grump.
In the end, the easiest thing to do was reprocess the originals using Photoshop on my desktop computer. Obviously you can’t shoot in RAW formaton a phone, but you can open the jpegs in the RAW processor, which is quite useful at times. One thing that impressed me was how the phone dealt with the very bright sun in the puddle reflection. My normal camera would have turned this into a shapeless, burnt-out blob, but the camera phone has retained a nice clean circular shape for the sun. Another thing is that sometimes colours don’t come out very well, so it often repays to convert these to black and white.
Despite the drawbacks, it’s been really, really fun having a half-decent camera on hand at all times and, better still, it’s got me taking photos again. I still seem to be on a tree theme, without really meaning to be. To be honest, there’s not a lot else that appeals at the moment, although colour is coming back to the world again and hopefully I’ll find myself getting inspired by other things as well fairly soon.
I don’t think this is ever going to replace my usual camera, but I wanted to see what was possible using a phone. In about six weeks time I’m going to be interviewed on local radio, and before then am trying to put together some workshops based on using photography as a tool to enhance well-being and develop mindfulness. I want the workshops to be open to anyone, regardless of what sort of camera they have, so it’s been good to prove to myself that you can get some really nice images with phone cameras.