I want to encourage you — use your smartphone more for your photography.
First of all, what is the point of photography? The purpose of photography is to uplift your soul. To make meaning in your life; not photos.
Therefore, I believe that shooting with your smartphone is probably your best tool for photography. Why?
All photos included in this post are photographed on an Android smartphone, processed with VSCO.
1. It is always with you
Honestly, we look at our smartphones 90% of the day. Why not use that to your advantage?
When you’re bored, waiting for the bus, don’t look at your social media streams or check your email. Rather, look around yourself, and let your creativity wander. Let your boredom encourage you to make photos of your surroundings, with your smartphone.
2. Don’t think when shooting
If you see something interesting, don’t think before hitting the shutter on your smartphone. Just point and click.
Don’t censor yourself while you’re making photos. Only decide which photos to choose afterwards — when you go home, and have a time to reflect on your day. Try to let your photos marinate for a day or two before uploading them.
3. VSCO is awesome
I am a huge VSCO fan. I think their presets on the iPhone/Android/Lightroom are some of the best film simulations ever made.
When I shot on my smartphone, I was a big fan of the color preset— the “A6” preset. It looks pretty similar to Kodak Portra 400 to me.
If you have a smartphone with VSCO, you have a full studio. You can process your photos, share them, and keep them backed up online to the cloud for free.
And no; using filters on your photos aren’t cheating. Treat it like marinating a steak — a little bit of salt, olive oil, and black pepper enhances the taste.
I also think aesthetically, having good presets allows your photos to have more emotion. A RAW photograph without any post-processing lacks soul. You need to add some spices to increase the flavor. Who would want to eat their food without salt?
4. No excuses
We all make excuses that we can’t make good photos because we don’t have that one expensive camera. But in reality, the smartphone is the best tool.
We have no excuses with a smartphone. You need to focus on making good compositions with your skill, and your eye. You need to identify what is personally-meaningful to you in photography. A more expensive camera will not make you more creative.
To become more creative in photography is to create more. To make more photos. To make more meaning in your images.
Also, the best way to become a best photographer is to study art. Study great art from the past, like the Renaissance artists (Leonardo da Vinci/Raphael). Study the masters of photography. Study sculpture, study music, study literature, history. Study the Art of Poetry from Horace. Don’t put any limits on your creativity.
5. No genre in photography
Don’t pigeon-hole yourself to a certain genre in photography. Rather, let yourself be promiscuous. Dabble in any and every genre of photography.
For myself, I became pigeon-holed in just street photography. That hurt me, because if I wasn’t in an urban area, I felt like I couldn’t make good or interesting photos.
Now, no more limits. I’ve cut the chains of the genre, and I feel free. Like a dove once in a golden cage— I can now fly free.
Now, I photograph anything that is interesting to me. I photograph my friends, family, strangers, trees, plants, leaves, landscapes, the sky, clouds, or abstract shapes.
There are no longer any “good” or “bad” photos. Only meaningful photos and un-meaningful photos.
6. What if you have an old smartphone?
What if you have an old smartphone or you don’t have an iPhone? My recommendation: shoot monochrome. Colors on older smartphones look ugly. But the grit and grain in monochrome actually makes the photos look nicer.
So shoot with a black and white preview in your camera, or just process them into black and white afterwards with VSCO or Snapseed (both free).
7. 1,000 photos in a day challenge
Ultimately, the only way to become a better photographer is to make more photos.
So as a practical assignment, try to shoot 1,000 photos in a day with your smartphone (if you suffer photographer’s block).
Then at the end of the day, just choose your 1 favorite photograph. Then a day later, share it on social media.
8. Composition tips on the smartphone
Also to make better photos on your smartphone, focus on the edges of your frame. Start off with a simple background (just pure black or white), and then add your subjects afterwards.
Also for more dynamic compositions try to add more diagonals and curves to your photos. Tilt your camera and use a ‘dutch angle.’
Also just focus on details. For example, do a project on just photographing hands, just photographing eyes, or teeth.
9. What if I want to show off?
Okay, if you only shoot with a smartphone, unfortunately you cannot show off. You cannot show off having that huge lens, or having that new exotic camera.
But really— do you want to show off your gear? Is it because you are insecure?
If anything, it is more impressive to show off your photos, shot on just your smartphone— then proving you have a ‘real’ camera.
I know I respect photographers more if I know they shoot with a ‘shitty camera’ — than if they had a $10,000 camera.
10. JUST SHOOT IT.
Don’t overthink photography. If you see something interesting (to you)
Don’t think of composition,
JUST SHOOT IT.
Don’t think about how many likes you will get on social media,
JUST SHOOT IT.
And when in doubt,
JUST SHOOT IT.
About the Author
Eric Kim is a street photographer and photography teacher currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam. His life’s mission is to produce as much “Open Source Photography” to make photography education accessible to all. You can see more of his work on his website, and find him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This article was also published here and shared with permission.